Eric Wilson of The New York Times published an article a couple of weeks ago that caught my attention. The controversy surrounding runway diversity (or the lack of diversity) has become increasingly difficult to ignore. Once you become aware that the major runways are seriously whitewashed, it’s all you start to see. It’s distracting, especially for people who are conscious of the fact that there is a whole screening process involved in casting models for runway shows (an upcoming Fashion 101 post). It’s not an innocent choice made in the spur of the moment, but rather a conscious business decision that brands make to project an identity. Any brand that considers its identity to be solely white should reassess what it means to be part of a worldwide industry in the 21st century.
Francisco Costa, creative director of Calvin Klein’s women’s line, said something that I think needs to be addressed. He said that the company looks for diversity, but that “there are only a handful of top-level, professionally trained models of color at a particular level out there now, and they end up being booked by other fashion houses and can be seen on dozens of runways each season, which is counter to what we are looking for. We try to present a unique and interesting cast with as many exclusives as possible to create and emphasize that season’s aesthetic.”
Firstly, his statement that there are models of colour “being booked by other fashion houses” and walking “dozens of runways each season” is simply untrue. If it were true, Eric Wilson’s article would not have been written, and this issue of racist casting would not exist. Furthermore, what he’s saying is contradictory. Costa suggests that Calvin Klein only looks for “top-level professionally trained models of colour”, but then says that the company casts “as many exclusives as possible”, which is usually NOT top-level modelling at all. In fact, Francisco Costa’s exclusives are usually white doe-eyed 16-year-old girls with blonde hair. That doesn’t sound very “unique and interesting” to me.
I should also add that creamy colours, of which Costa appears to be a huge fan, tend to look better against darker skin anyway. It might be wise to cast some more black models if you want to “emphasise that season’s aesthetic”, Francisco Costa.