If you find yourself anywhere remotely close to the streets of New York City, you may have noticed a distinct change in the social atmosphere. A sudden influx of particularly well-dressed individuals crowding SoHo. A sudden spark of pop-up shops with expensive names. Extra long lines at your closest Opening Ceremony. Your local influencer flexing a little harder than normal. Or perhaps you’re a local and have failed to differentiate this buzz from the rest of the inner city excitement that surrounds your everyday life. Nevertheless, all of these signs point to only one rational explanation: New York Fashion Week is almost here.
We love the NYFW spectacles here at Teen Eye. It's Em's 10th season (where's her birthday cake!) and we're more than familiar with the change in the air. Or did you forget our High Fashion Bingo Game from last season? We're more than prepared for the Insta-Hype, the streetwear, the afterparty lines, and, sure, though we're a little jaded, we're also excited. It's one of the most glamorous weeks of the year: there’s surely something for everyone.
Well, at least, there should be.
Though increasing representation seems pretty simple, brands are still falling markedly behind.
Last year’s Fashion Week wasn't terrible in terms of providing everyone a seat at the table, at least for an industry that has so often failed in the past. The Fashion Spot found that racial diversity increased by 0.4%, creeping slowly up to 37.3%; 1.2% of castings went to fat/plus-size models; Teddy Quinlivan's 11-show-streak meant the number of Trans/GNC/NB models on the runway doubled. Indie brands like Chromat and Gypsy Sport excelled at representation, and larger names like Alexander Wang and the oft offensive Marc Jacobs bounded forward as well. It's not exactly a whopping increase though. It feels noticeable given the unfortunate circumstances, but there is so much room to grow, especially considering that only a select group of diverse models made it through the casting process (nine of the eighteen models who appeared the most were WOC, which means that agents may be fetishizing a few choice figures instead of expanding their searches). I fear that, as this year’s extravaganza approaches, brands will rest on their laurels and grow stagnant or, even worse, start to regress. Instead of adding more diversity to the runways, casting agents and the houses they work for may very well cap off their very unimpressive 'diversity quota 'where it currently stands, or even shave off a few darker faces here and there in hopes that the public will simply forget we had a problem with their beauty standards in the first place. Spoiler alert: we won’t.
Fashion is such a beautiful art because of how eclectic it is by nature. Not everyone has the same taste, and therefore, no one company has a single archetype for its consumer. Is it so much to ask for the opportunity to see the wide range of clothing showcased during Fashion Week displayed on body types even remotely similar to someone other than a tall, white skinny model? There is more diversity than you can even imagine when it comes to fashion consumers, so the least brands can do is show them a little consideration.
This fashion week, it’s important to call shows out on their blatant tokenism. One plus-sized model or person a color squeezed into the lineup at the last minute isn’t going to cut it anymore. We’re talking packing the runway with so many colorful models, it resembles a rainbow from a distance. This means tall models and short models and skinny models and fat models and young models and old models and white models and brown models. The more we see figures like Aaron Phillips, Chella Man, Ariel Nicholson, Halima Aden, Hunter Schafer, and Paloma Essinger, the more interesting and exciting our industry will be.
Fashion week is not like your racist cousin. Having one black friend is simply not enough. Yes, something is better than nothing, but quite frankly, we deserve more than this.