For a painstakingly long time, the most diverse thing in the fashion industry was the rise of Naomi Campbell. It’s a sad, but well known fact that this industry is selective and exclusive when it comes to skin tone, clothing size, culture, shape and even personality. As a fashion obsessed female, but also a self-proclaimed advocate for “different” people everywhere, this issue has been a constant struggle for me.
I find diversity beautiful, and furthermore, absolutely necessary. Especially in such a creative and artistic industry, we cannot afford to turn away anyone based on characteristics as trivial as their skin color, weight, or ethnicity.
The Huffington Post style section released a frank, but amazing video after the end of NYFW titled ‘New York Fashion Week Isn’t Just for Skinny White Girls Anymore.’ They even included a campaign hashtag, “NYFW4All” demanding and challenging the industry to step up and diversify its runways, front rows, and even target consumer.
I’m not going to lie- the fashion industry’s got a long way to go. But I’ve found that we’ve made progress. Really great progress, in fact. But the real concern is, the staying power of making these decisions. Diversity should be incorporated into fashion ALL of the time. Not just during a highly publicized time period, like Fashion Week. What inspired me to write this post was the amazing stories and articles I stumbled across while researching this topic, and the tremendous impact these people and organizations have had on others and the industry as a whole.
Here are their stories.
1) Ashley Graham
Graham, a size 16, is famous for appearing in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition as a plus-size model and for speaking up about the body issues women and girls face — and why curves aren’t a bad thing. Her fierce attitude towards diversity in modeling and the fashion industry has set this 27 year old apart from others in a way that can only be described as inspiring. She brought her boldness and curvaceous figure to the runways of NYFW, not only to model, but to introduce her own line of lingerie with Canadian retailer Addition Elle.
Her glowing body positive approach is reaching girls of all shapes and sizes across the globe. To me, this is a HUGE step forward in changing the standards of women in the fashion industry, and I find Ashley’s presence absolutely inspiring and needed in fashion. For other information about amazing plus size models who walked in NYFW, check this link out here.
2) Winnie Harlow
Although I am not an avid viewer of “America’s Next Top Model” I did read an article about one of the show’s contestants, Winnie Harlow. Living with a skin condition called vitiligo, Winnie has made waves in the industry for challenging fashion’s “one-size-fits-all” beauty ideal. She was tapped by spanish brand Desigual and Diesel for their upcoming ad campaigns (shown below).
Harlow, whose real name is Chantelle Brown-Young, shared that she was bullied as a child (I swear kids can be crueler than adults) and called ‘zebra’ and ‘cow’ by her peers because of her vitiligo – which causes de-pigmentation of the skin in patches. Winnie’s amazing perseverance and confidence in the fashion industry is sharing the message that you can be different and follow your dreams. Hats off to the beautiful Miss Harlow, and to the brands supporting her.
3) Madeline Stuart
For those who don’t know, Madeline is a 18 year old Australian model with down-syndrome who isn’t letting anything get in the way of her dreams. In fact, she just walked in New York Fashion week for designer Hendrik Vermeulen’s Spring 2016 collection.
Madeline is the second model with Down Syndrome to walk in New York Fashion week, Jamie Brewer, a well known actress and Down Syndrome activist being the first woman to do so. I just love everything about this, I love seeing people follow their dreams and getting the results they deserve. Congratulations Madeline, I hope your career continues to be successful and serve as a model of strength and inspiration for others.
4) Bethann Hardison
Founder of the Diversity Coalition in 2013, Bethann Hardison has been and continues to be an integral component in bringing racial diversity into the fashion industry. Dedicated to promoting diversity among fashion models, Hardison goes a step further. She realizes that while designers are incorporating a growing amount of colored models in their shows, there is still a significant gap in balance in the industry as a whole. “I’m trying to educate the minds of others that it’s a diverse environment we want to see, not a diverse situation.” And she’s absolutely right. Diversity in fashion should go beyond just the media campaigns and runways. Hopefully, with her continued dedication and work towards this cause, permanent diversified environment for fashion will blossom.
To follow Bethann and the Diversity Coalition, check out this link here.
5) Designer Gogo Graham
The transgender community has been getting a lot of attention lately (primarily due to Caitlyn Jenner). You don’t have to like Caitlyn to agree on one thing- she’s bringing trans women issues into the spotlight. But let’s not forget the hundreds of people before Caitlyn that have been fighting for the same cause. One of these people being trans gender fashion designerGogo Graham. This 24 year old’s latest collection was designed “by the trans community and for the trans community.” By adapting this powerful tagline and even more powerful collection, Graham is letting the trans community shine and letting others know, it’s okay to be who you are in the fashion industry. Featuring only trans women models, “Graham’s collection was not about the creation of clothes or even the fun frivolity of making big one-off fashion statements. Rather it represented a moment in which everyone involved came together to celebrate the importance of every trans girl’s unique story, beauty and individuality” – DazedDigital.com
While these are only a few inspiring stories of diversity, there are many many more. I could go on for days about all the amazing lengths being taken to increase change in the fashion industry, but for time’s sake, I won’t. I hope you all enjoyed learning about these amazing people as much as I did. I challenge YOU to try and find diversity in fashion from now on. Take a closer look at the ad campaigns you see, the magazines you read. The fashion world is changing, and hopefully for the better.