Thursday, September 4, 2008
Scene Four: Racism at Fashion Week?
BY PATRICK HUGUENIN
As Fashion Week kicks off Friday, the style set waits to see how much color will hit the catwalk. And we're not just talking about the clothes.
In February, at the end of the last New York Fashion Week, an exclusive Daily News survey revealed the whitewashing of runway shows in the Bryant Park tents and adjacent New York Public Library.
Of 1,584 modeling slots, only 94 went to black models, a mere 6%. Latina models got only 17 slots, about 1%, and Asians got 95, or 6%.
Eighteen designers had no black models in their shows. Six of those - Alexandre Herchcovitch, Cynthia Steffe, Dennis Basso, Jill Stuart, Malo and Temperley London - presented all-white lineups.
The lack of diversity dismayed fashion insiders who had been working to encourage multicultural casting. "The clothes are great," veteran modeling agent Bethann Hardison told the Daily News, "but the vibe of fashion is so dead."
In the six months since, the question of runway diversity has been firmly in the spotlight. In July, Italian Vogue published an issue featuring exclusively black models.
Now, as New York preps for a new season of shows, designers say they have noticed an increase in the number of nonwhite models available. But is it enough to support truly diverse casting?
Designer Tracy Reese, an African-American, is a veteran of Fashion Week known both for her colorful, playful designs and the diversity of her casting.
"I was pleasantly surprised this year," says Reese. "We're always calling up the agencies to say, 'We want to see black girls, Latinas, Asians, everything. ... There were a lot of new faces."
"For me, it's fun to see how different personalities enhance the clothes," says Reese, whose new collection will be unveiled Sunday
Reese has noticed an increase in the variety of models sent to castings by their agencies. The media's focus on runway diversity, she says, may have changed the way agencies operate.
"All the talk about it has made the agencies feel freer to show their whole portfolio," says Reese. "For a while there, it was one-note and now they might show a range that goes beyond what people might ask for, or what they have the impression people want to see."
Designer Pamella Roland agrees.
"Model casting has actually been easier this season," she says. "We're impressed by the sheer number and beauty of all ethnicities this time around. The only difficulty will be in choosing which girls we will ultimately cast."
As she did last season, Diane von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), sent a letter (also signed by the council's executive director, Steven Kolb), to designers, agencies and casting directors, reminding them to seek diversity in terms of race and the models' body types.
Source: daily news