As the fashion industry gradually embraces diversity, Fifi Coughlan examines what still needs to be done
In the October issue of Vogue, actress/singer/model Zoe Kravitz takes centre stage on the cover with her sultry pout and grungy aesthetic as “This year’s renegade star.” Kravitz’s appearance on British Vogue marks one of few magazine covers fronted by a person of colour. As I flick to the next page, I see the Dior autumn/winter campaign, featuring models of various nationalities including model-of-the-moment Adwoa Aboah and the pastel pink-haired Fernanda Ly. The next page, Gucci, with models of various colours and nationalities; the next, Prada with a woman of colour; then Louis Vuitton with yet another diverse group of models. When I finish devouring Vogue, I can’t help but notice the range of diversity compared to previous issues over the years, and not just in this one magazine.
No doubt there’s still nowhere near enough diversity from cover to cover for everyone to pick up the magazine and identify with all of the models, especially as we’re all aware that the average person does not resemble the human form printed in this magazine – but are we beginning to see an improvement?
Breakthrough model, Somali-American Halima Aden fronted various covers this year such as Glamour and Allure displaying her proud Muslim heritage with her Hijab intact, breaking traditional model stereotypes and depicting innate beauty. Mega popstar Rihanna just released her soon-to-be makeup empire to the world, offering 40 shades of foundation, which is ground-breaking in the beauty world as most makeup brands on average create around 12. Rihanna stated herself that she wanted to create a shade that suits every skin tone, and that she didn’t want anyone to think that a type of makeup only looks good on the proverbial “her”.
No doubt the underbelly of racism, ageism and sizeism still exists, although some magazines and fashion houses are starting to drip elements of diversity into their campaigns.
Fashion whistle-blower and casting director James Scully publicly shamed the House of Lanvin for their casting directors, as they issued a ‘mandate’ asserting that they “do not want to be presented with women of colour”, according to Vogue.
It is also hard to think of well-known plus-size models featured in runway shows and on the cover of popular publications other than Ashley Graham, who has many covers under her belt. Other than her, is it possible to name any model in the fashion industry who depicts the average-sized woman, who is a size 14-16 UK?
I can’t help but question whether it is us who are at fault? Do we want to see the ‘ideal’ shape of a size 4-6 on our screens? Is it a form of escapism for us to open a magazine such as Vogue and gaze at unattainable ‘beauty’? obviously as I am writing this, I am questioning what exactly is ‘beauty’: I don’t have the answer, but I am definitely open to searching for it. The annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show garners much hype and discussion as supermodels with lean, svelte figures strut down the runway with the eyes of the world upon them. These elite few represent the true unattainable, creating the depressive notions in young women that this is a normal way to look. But as we get up everyday to go to work and so on, for these select few girls, their day-to-day jobs are to possess extremely sculpted frames. We must remind ourselves of this as we scroll through Instagram and gape at the many influencers and bloggers etc. with their image of ‘perfection’.