When you look at magazines, catwalk shows and fashion campaigns, are you represented?
That’s the question Models of Diversity (MoD) – a charity that campaigns for inclusivity and diversity in fashion – asked at their recent fundraising fashion show, which celebrated people of every shape, size, age, ability, race and gender ident.
Passionate disability speaker and Founder and CEO of adaptive fashion brand Unhidden Victoria Jenkins organised the event in support of MoD, leading a team of diverse models wearing a number of empowering fashion brands, including sustainable labels Lora Gene and FiitMe, as well as her own adaptive fashion brand Unhidden.
The result was an exciting and uplifting show that acted a stark reminder of how far the industry has to go to become truly inclusive – despite its attempts to appear more diverse in recent years.
While representation in fashion has no doubt improved, brands still continue to miss the mark.
In 2018, H&M released a campaign featuring a Black boy wearing the brand’s ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’ jumper, while Gucci was forced to apologise in 2019 for its balaclava design that was comparible to blackface.
Models with disabilities are being featured in more campaigns for brands such as Primark and ASOS, but their clothes aren’t actually catered to those with disabilities in the same way adaptive fashion is, making them difficult and sometimes painful to wear for some people with disabilities.
It’s also rare to see models over a certain age appearing in brand campaigns, further perpetuating the narrative that growing older is undesirable and should be avoided at all costs.
One area we’ve seen great representation over the past decade is size inclusivity, with more and more plus-size women being featured on magazine covers, in brand campaigns and on the runway.
Model Tess Holliday starred on the cover of Cosmpolitan in 2018 (and received criticism from Piers Morgan for promoting unhealthy body image) and more curve models than ever before walked in the spring summer 2021 shows, with Precious Lee for Versace and Ashley Graham for Fendi.
Unfortunately there was significantly less representation on the autumn winter 2021 runways and despite plus-size women being given more representation than ever before, there’s still a lack of plus size body shapes in the media.
The lack of diversity has led to people within the industry taking matters into their own hands.
In 2013, models Naomi Campbell and Iman joined forces with fashion activist Bethann Hardison to form the Diversity Coalition. They named and shamed the designers who only cast white models and penned an open letter to fashion houses, such as Chanel and Saint Laurent demanding change.
Despite their combined influence, the campaign received little media coverage and little has been heard about it since.
That’s not to say the issue isn’t still pervasive. A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion (T&F APPG) found that almost 90% of people surveyed said that the fashion industry failed to represent a spectrum of different bodies and identities.
87.5% said they didn’t feel represented in fashion campaigns, shoots and on the catwalk, while 68% had experienced or witnessed discrimination based on their appearance or beliefs.