The evolution of diversity and inclusion in the modelling and fashion industry and its never ending journey

The fashion industry has a lot of issues when it comes to size, color, ethnicity or religion. Every now and then we hear news regarding designers having released an outfit with anti-religion slogans or an international brand not taking any transgenders or plus-size models for their show.
The evolution of diversity and inclusion in the modelling and fashion industry and its never ending journeyThe evolution of diversity and inclusion in the modelling and fashion industry and its never ending journey
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Pinkvilla reader Priyadarshi Shastri has this to say about diversity and inclusivity in the fashion and modelling industries: 

The Fashion Spot, a renowned fashion forum released seasonal diversity reports for every fashion week catwalks. In March 2019 it documented a milestone with 45% non-white models on New York Fashion Week and typically least non-white models 31.8% in London and Milan.

The road to success for non-white models is always hard. They always pitted against each other. As Tyra Banks says- the Industry has an unwritten rule that there is only one spot for a black model in supermodel league, there can be 'n' number of white models in supermodel league but only one black model can reach there. She was rejected by the 6-7 modelling agency before being signed by L.A Models. They told her, “You are not that photogenic so we are gonna put you on the runway and runway will be your career”

Naomi Campbell, former model and a strong advocate on diversity on the runway said, “We are not accusing them (designers) but the act of not choosing black models is racist.”

It’s not the designers who choose the models, they hire casting directors to do for them but in the end, it does affect their brand. Designers must check the models before putting them on the runway.

If a designer chooses all-white models and only one black model out of a dozen then is it artistic expression or simply racism?

In 2013 Naomi Campbell along with Iman and Bethann Hardison wrote an open letter to the governing body of the fashion industry -revealing major high profile brands such as Armani, Donna Karren, and many more, for hiring just one or no black models.
Thankfully now we have social media – where we can express what issues we are dealing with and how we feel about them. The Internet is the most powerful tool nowadays. A platform where anyone can articulate their struggle. New York-based model Olivia Anakwe took to Instagram to discuss issues she faces while working with a nonblack hairstylist. They are not trained or have no idea on how to take care of afro hair, she said. She aims to spread awareness in the hair field to enhance their skills and also encouraging designers to hire stylists with skills in styling Afro hair.

Naomi Campbell on the runway 

Recently Lingerie Brand Victoria Secret said they don’t cater transgenders and was accused of not hiring transgender models in their Annual Fashion Show. We get it, every brand has its target market and the transgender community is not one of them. But don’t you think an international brand with a large customer base all over the world should expand their reach and cater to everyone who desires their product?

Nikita Dragun a transgender model/beauty influencer made a video of herself in lingerie to prove that transgenders too have what it takes to sell their product to their customers.

Dolce & Gabbana made a highly insensitive ad for the Chinese audience in 2018 which resulted in closing all stores of the brand in China. Lack of awareness and having less information regarding culture and religion is the reason behind this nonsense.

In the past, there have been numerous incidents where designers have used only white models while promoting fair skin.

As an Indian, I haven’t seen any brown or Indian models on the international fashion circle. Ujjwala Raut was the first and only Indian model to walk for high fashion brands such as Victoria secret fashion show in 2003, Yves Saint Laurent, and many more. After her, maybe only one or zero Indian/ Brown models were showcased on the runway. Recently 2 Indian faces are really in demand right now – Bhumika Arora and Pooja Mor, walked for major fashion brands such as Balmain, Alexandra Wang Hermes, Chanel, Fendi, Versace, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Kenzo, Dries Van Noten, Missoni, DSquared2, Manish Arora, Ferragamo, Etro, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Viktor & Rolf, Anna Sui. They are a source of inspiration for many young Asian teens who want to rule the runway nowadays.

Ujjwala Raut on the runway

When it comes to diversity or acceptability, Indian culture has an obsession with fair skin. According to a survey conducted by, 70% of women and men want to date or marry light skin tone partners. This is the reason everyone in India wants to have fair skin. Anyone who has dusky skin is either bullied or told to use a face scrub, mask to lighten the complexion of their skin. We can’t blame the fashion industry for everything, they are just selling what customers want, if they want to be all white and fair so be it we’re gonna give it to them. Brands sell a fantasy, how the person wants to be, how the person will feel or look when they use our product. Brands don't sell acceptability or being confident in your skin.

Many celebrities who have recently started to dive into this business know what brands lack and how to promote their brand to stand out from their competitors.

Rihanna’s makeup line Fenty Beauty and lingerie SavageXFenty are all about body positivity and colour acceptability. She has got 42 shades of skin foundation in her makeup line and a variety of sizes for all body types in her clothing line which is something no high brand has done in the past.

Indian Actress Katrina Kaif's makeup line Kay-Beauty is breaking all stereotypes in India. Her video campaign shot by Zoya Akhtar is something no other Indian brand has done. Filled with inspirational messages such as acceptability or being confident in your skin. Katrina herself during her press meet said you don’t need makeup to look good and we surely are not selling that idea. Makeup can only help to enhance your look

Now, the industry is more diverse than it was 24 years ago. Earlier if the show had 25 models then it would have around 6 black girls 3 Latina girls 2 Asian girls. Now times have changed we can see Calvin Klein showcased 6 black models in 2013 New York Fashion Week with none previous years. The industry as of now has become more diverse than before but still has a long way to go.

ALSO READ: Dakota Johnson, Alia Bhatt to Selena Gomez: 8 Red pantsuits we can't get enough of

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