Is The Fashion World Really Bargaining On Diversity?

the fashion industry is bargaining on diversity

The fashion industry has always been paramount in setting new “trends”(pun intended) and whatever that prevails there reflects a general notion of the society’s preferences and, if not, becomes a preference. If we talk about the brand promoters i.e. the models, we’re always awestruck by their fitness, hairstyle, flawless skin and mostly ‘white skin tone’. Yeah, white is what amuses the brands when it comes to promoting a style. But what about the other races? How many times have we seen all-black models or all Asian models walking the ramp in couture? Chances are slim. 

According to reports of 2016, there were nearly 73 per cent white models in the global fashion industry. Further breakdown of statistics showed that only 8.3 per cent of people featured in ads were black and a meagre of 4 per cent were Asians. Although, in 2020 the figures have changed to 41.3 per cent being people of colour and the rest 58.7 per cent being white. “We hardly see any popular fashion brands marketing their products with Indians, Asians or blacks are their mainstream models, which is actually disheartening”, explains Shubhi Garg, fashion blogger based in Lucknow, owner of Farzi Café, Lucknow.  

However, a certain level of body-shaming does exist in the fashion world. The same has been criticised by Karen Elson, a famous British model who rose to fame in the 90s, walking runways for Marc Jacobs and others. She mentions that the fashion world tolerates a level of meanness and body shaming that wouldn’t be acceptable in the outside world. “There have been instances where Indian, blacks have been paid much lesser than their white counterparts. This is even done by world-famous fashion brands”, adds Garg. Atim Ojera, a London based influencer brought this to light with her own experience. She said that a ‘fast fashion brand’ refused to pay £10,000 as it was “impossible” for them while her white influencer friend was offered £20,000 for the same job.

Fashion brands have always been a source of inspiration and influence for people globally and with their perspective of glorifying white as “beautiful and superior”, it has become extremely troublesome for Asians, blacks, Indians and Hispanics to find a mark in the fashion industry. “Society’s preferences also affect the way fashion companies market their products. 

The ongoing hate against Asians and Asian Americans has definitely affected the fashion industry. Now you won’t see the major fashion lines using Asian or Asian American models”, remarks Raghav Maheshwari, a fashion designer based in Lucknow, owner of TheElegantMen boutique. This is true up to a certain level. 

However, there are brands that have used black models to display their collections. Rihana’s Savage x Fenty lingerie brand promotes black models and recently made news by hiring a little black person as a lingerie model.  Victoria’s Secret also refurbished their runaways by showcasing black fashion models. “That’s a good move. However, fashion brands still don’t consider them (blacks and Asians) as their mainstream models.”, says Maheshwari. Models of Indian origin like Neelam Gill, Kelly Gale, Rishi Robin are taking the international world by storm.

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