I will never understand why the fashion industry takes such a backwards approach to diversity, with a few token exceptions designers and casting agents pretend that a small portion of the world's ethnic makeup represent the most beautiful and aspirational of personalities. Very few exceptions have broken this iron wall of sameness. Every excuse in the book has been heard. "I asked the agencies to send me ethnic models but there really isn't any" It's a broken record at this point.
Times Online reports that now designers are using the recession as an excuse to cut back on "quirky" models. The explanations are contradictory:
Dr Abigael San, a chartered clinical psychologist, says: “Blonde hair and blue eyes are known for appealing to a lot of tastes, it’s a classically beautiful look. The association with blonde hair goes back to childhood: we associate these characteristics with forces of good, honesty and trust. We’ve recently been deceived by bankers and politicians, so the need to trust is even greater”.Blonde hair and blue eyes = good, honest, truthful. As opposed to the blonde haired blue eyed wall-street guys who look like Ken? Here, from the same article, is another curiously antithetical reasoning from Dr. Gail Brewer:
“We also live in a predominantly brunette society — so we are naturally drawn to this look, which is seemingly exotic.So blondes are both exotic and the most safe. These are two conflicting concepts. I think designers should wrap their head around building a client base that is broad, and has some depth instead of appealing to dull conservative ethnocentrism. Recently some fashion journalists have stepped up to the plate to decry the obvious discrimination against ethnic diversity on runways. This is a problem with a long history. We all remember Italian Vogue's "All Black" Issue from last year. Imagine a world where an issue like that wouldn't be cause for any conversation, where it was unremarkable.
NYmag spoke with model Lisa Kebede in April who sees some positive change for runway diversity. She thinks that first lady Michelle Obama has been making a dent.
"I think there’s a lot more black models working and I think that’s because of having Michelle and Barack out there. I mean there’s been this issue, raised last year — how there wasn’t enough black models on the runways — but I think Barack and Michelle have really helped us, hopefully forever, to get over this hurdle for black models."I hope she's right.