September has been a month full of runways – fashion shows began with New York City on September 6 and ended in Paris on October 3. With each show came an unprecedented amount of diversity, ranging in size, age, and ethnicity.
The diversity began in New York City where Rihanna debuted the latest edition of her lingerie collection, Savage x Fenty. In the show were models such as Gigi and Bella Hadid, Slick Woods, who was in labor as she walked the runway and plus size model Paloma Elsesser. Rihanna was not only important for including the most plus size models of New York Fashion Week (a grand total of 13), but of doing so in an authentic manor.
“It’s a celebration of womanhood,” Rihanna said to Vogue. “I think it’s a shame women have to feel insecure or self-conscious about how their bodies look. They’ve been taught by society that only one thing works.”
Chromat was close behind Savage x Fenty with 12 plus size models and has been known to showcase non-binary models. The models were not only varying in size, but in background and orientation. Rising runway stars walked beside activists such as Geena Rocero, a Filipino transgender advocate and model.
The trend of pushing diversity continued in Milan, whose fashion week ran from September 19 to September 25. Body and age diversity were both present in Dolce & Gabbana’s runway. Plus size models Ashley Graham, who opened the show – an honor for any model, and Tess McMillan both walked the runway. The show also featured Maye Musk, who is a Covergirl at age 70.
Prada also made a major step in racial diversity when Anok Yai, who was famously scouted at Howard University’s homecoming celebrations. Yai became the first Black model in two decades to open the show. Jordan Dunn previously broke the fashion house’s lack of diversity in 2008 by being the first Black model to even walk in the show since Naomi Campbell in 1997.
Paris concluded the tour of model diversity during the Spring/Summer fashion month. Cara Delevingne, an outspoken activist for LGBTQ+ rights returned to the runway for Balmain and Anok Yai continued to stun for houses such as Versace. L’Oreal also had prominent models such as new mom Eva Longoria and Winnie Harlow, a model spokesperson for the skin condition vitiligo.
During the past fashion month the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show cast was also released. Despite lacking size or age diversity, Victoria’s Secret made strides in including more ethnicities than in previous years. Duckie Thot, known for her stunning skin tone, is walking in her first VS Show as well as Winnie Harlow, who is the first model with vitiligo to walk. Kelsey Merritt will also walk for the first time and is the first Philippine model to ever grace the Victoria’s Secret Runway. Overall, ethnic diversity has grown in order to better represent the company’s consumer.
The Spring/Summer 2019 runway saw an increase in diversity in every metric, although it may not feel as though the increase is true when looking at the model list for Victoria’s Secret. However, it is important to remember that even small victories in ethnic diversity are valuable, especially in a time when many minorities are not welcome in parts of the world.