Fashion Week diversity is typically a subject best explored during the postseason. Casts are analyzed, charts are made, numbers are crunched—and time and again the industry comes up short. Designers, casting directors, and agents all provide lip service regarding the importance of runways that mirror the multiculturalism of daily life, but when showtime rolls around, few actually showcase that level of inclusion. Though strides have been made—most notably, during Spring’s campaigns, where brands looked to unconventional muses, eschewing traditional ideas about gender, race, and body size—the catwalks have remained mostly unchanged. It’s time for some follow-through, fellas.
But it’s not all bad news: During the European men’s shows, influential labels like Balmain, Givenchy, Lanvin, and Hermès showcased an international array of male models on their catwalks, providing a much-needed increase in diversity. Even shows like Prada and Jil Sander (which have in the past been criticized for their homogenous casts) upgraded their rosters by embracing global beauty. Compared to a few years prior, the lineups at major shows focused on individuality rather than uniformity. The shift in gears allowed for a new generation of male models to showcase their talents. It boys like Sol Goss, Malik Jalloh, Trè Samuels, Wang Chenming, and Victor Ndigwe led the pack, appearing multiple times throughout the week and drumming up excitement wherever they appeared. And rather than examples of “tokenism,” these models were stars—and an essential component of what made the season great.
Still, several prominent shows failed to create diverse casts, relying instead on those comprised entirely of white male models. Whether an aesthetic choice or merely tone-deaf, few decisions could appear as entirely out of touch. With New York Fashion Week: Men’s beginning today, designers have the opportunity to change the system and underline New York’s reputation as a forward-thinking fashion haven. With beautiful faces flying in from all over the globe, trans models starting their own movements, and an audience eager to see a catwalk that reflects their tastes, there is no reason not to embrace all the diversity the modeling industry has to offer. Here’s hoping that the week rises up to the challenge.
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