Runways and Givenchy Ad Campaign Show Diversity for Spring 2014

Posted: January 26, 2014 in Fashion
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Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

As a young girl growing up poring over fashion magazines and watching the Style Network for the latest runway collections, I was always confused and a bit frustrated when I didn’t see girls that looked like me in the fashion wells of those glossy magazines or in fashion shows. I love fashion and there are certainly other brown girls and ethnicities that are attracted to it too, but why aren’t we targeted in magazine advertorials or for ad campaigns? Why aren’t more of us cast for fashion shows?

The fashion industry has a long way to go in terms of diversity, both from a racial standpoint and body size, but it has started to come around thanks to the recent improvements on the spring 2014 runways and in ad campaigns. What sparked the change? It could be attributed to the Diversity Coalition and fashion activist Bethann Hardison. The forces united together to pen an open letter to the people behind the major fashion weeks (New York, London, Paris and Milan) in an effort to stop runway racism and put more people of color on the runways. In the letter, Hardison dropped names of designers who failed to feature at least one ethnic model on the runway.

Hardison pictured left with supermodel Iman

Hardison pictured left with supermodel Iman

Hardison wrote about the racial diversity varying between each season:

“Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches fashion design houses consistently use of one or no models of color,” wrote Hardison. “No matter the intention, the result is racism.” Hardison added, “In spring/summer you always include a little bit more [people of color]. Because you’re casting for a girl with a little bit more color. And that’s why I chose this season, it’s a good time to wake people up. ”

Hardison’s bold move seemingly paid off as we saw Calvin Klein, Rag & Bone, Jil Sander, Alberta Ferretti, Antonio Marras, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Phoebe Philo, Dior, Chloé, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Nina Ricci, Valentino and Alexander McQueen cast a few ethnic models. The most-used model of color: newcomer Malaika Firth. Arguably it’s a major improvement for the brands but not great enough, as most of the models cast never opened or closed the show. Considering a total of 30 girls end up strutting down the runway for these designers, five or six ethnic models cast for a show hardly seems comparable.

Philipp Plein Event - Milan Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2014But a few have broken that mold, including designer Philipp Plein who cast only African-American models in his Milan show.

“My message is about breaking down barriers and breaking the rules,” Plein stated in an email to “Doing the unexpected and shaking people from their complacence, forcing people to face the future where old prejudices have no place…”

Plein also went the same route for his spring/summer 2014 ad campaign, casting only African-American models. Following suit is innovator and creative genius Riccardo Tisci, the mastermind behind fashion labels Givenchy and Tom Ford. While some designers are just starting to get it, Tisci is to be commended for being at the forefront of the diversity issue. In addition to featuring more models of color, Tisci’s past ad campaigns and runway shows for Givenchy have featured albino model Stephen Thompson and transsexual model Lea T. The spring 2014 ad campaign was no different in that it featured models Asia Chow, Maria Borges and Eboni Riley. Another highlight: African-American neo-soul singer Erykah Badu who served as Tisci’s muse for this campaign.


So the question begs to be asked why aren’t designers using more models of different ethnicities and sizes, especially when viewing the 2013 Nielsen consumer report  released on purchasing habits. It shows that African-Americans are buying more high-end, luxury goods that designers and magazines often feature. The market research team’s findings were that African-Americans’ buying power is expected to reach $1.7 trillion by 2017. Yet, of the $75 billion dollars spent on advertising, only $2.24 billion dollars were spent on advertising targeting black audiences. Yes, advocates for diversity in fashion should continue to push labels and editors to cast ethnic models for runways, campaigns and fashion editorials. But maybe it’ll be the loss in revenue from left-out racial groups that will be the real game-changer. I certainly wouldn’t want to support a label that doesn’t have me or other minorities in mind when promoting their clothing.

I want to see more color on the runway and not just in the garments. But as with anything in fashion, it usually takes a progressive leader to step out and do something new and then everyone else follows the trend. With the latest offerings of diversity this year on the runways and Plein and Givenchy’s ad campaigns, I hope it will be a trend that continues to stick around season after season.

What do you think about there being a lack of diversity in fashion? With some of the strides that have been made already by designers, do you think more men and women of color will appear in ads and fashion shows?


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