GeneralThe Fashion Industry Is Getting More Diverse, But Who...

The Fashion Industry Is Getting More Diverse, But Who Started It All?


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By Tanya Mwamuka.

Featuring diversity seems to be as popular of a trend as pastels are this spring. It’s an occurrence that seems to have transcended from 2017 and is spilling into 2018. Take for example New York fashion week which saw Hijabi wearing model Halima Aden, plus-size model Ashley Graham and 74-year-old Lauren Hutton ruling the runways and magazine covers. This band of women seems to be just the beginning of the growing representation of people from diverse backgrounds in the fashion industry.

Christian Louboutin was perhaps iconic in their launch of nude heeled pumps. Four years on from their original launch, in 2017 they released a wider range of skin tones, catering to women of darker skin tones.

Photo: Courtesy of Christian Louboutin

High street brand Missguided has also jumped on the bandwagon this year with its #KEEPBEINGYOUARMY. The campaign featured mannequins with vitiligo, Hijabs, stretchmarks and freckles as an attempt to promote body confidence.

Photo: Missguided

The talk about Diversity has been around for decades now, but in recent times its definition has seemed to have evolved. No longer is the attention just on race but rather, there’s a need for more representation for age, size, gender which are quickly filling the headlines. It would be stupid for the fashion industry to ignore this demand and economic opportunity. Over 60’s have particularly been an afterthought in the realms of fashion but global business consultancy A.T Kearny would argue in favour of they’re increasing importance. According to them over 60’s are the world’s fastest growing consumers. It’s expected that in 2050 there will be 2 billion people in the over 60’s age bracket.

This sudden burst of inclusivity and revolution of diversity has had me question the true intention of some of these brands, and for some reason I can’t shake off the feeling. Is this just another passing trend which designers are capitalising on? After all, the issue of representation in the fashion industry has been an issue for decades yet it only now seems to be being addressed properly. It’s no doubt that featuring inclusivity is guaranteed to gain mainstream attention because “If you’re not getting into diversity, you’re going to get left behind” – James Scully.

Fashion house Lanvin Paris were accused of this when in the AW17 they suddenly began featuring black models, not because of an evolving mind set but rather as a way of covering their bases after getting a scolding from renowned casting director James Scully. Scully exposed the brand on Instagram for allegedly telling agents not to send black models for consideration. Jennifer Davidson of the Fashion Spot touched on this commenting about the AW 2017 fashion season. She said:

“Anecdotally you think it was a great season; but when you look at the numbers, it wasn’t so good. It’s just that designers who used (a more diverse range of models) got a lot of attention.”

But surely it doesn’t matter right? I’m sure you may think that I’m being petty, at the end of the day what does it matter the reason as long as the fashion industry is moving towards more inclusivity.

While we may be proud to see that the fashion industry is finally evolving, albeit slowly, let’s not forget about those who pioneered and catered to those on the fringes when it wasn’t necessarily fashionable or profitable to do so. Let’s take a look at who they are.

1. Christian Siriano

Siriano studied in London under Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen and went to launch his first collection in 2008. Siriano has since been a spokesman of body positivity and diversity, a notion he has implemented not just in words but also action. In 2016 he cast five plus size models in his shows including Precious Lee and dressed Ashley Graham who sat front row at the show. Perhaps one of his prominent moments was dressing Leslie Jones who couldn’t find a designer to dress her.


Photo: Kevin Tachman

“But whether its Leslie or Gwyneth Paltrow, I don’t think about women’s sizes when I dress her. I ask myself ‘Am I a fan?’”

2. Aerie – American Eagle

Aerie is a lingerie sub-brand. It was founded in 2006, belonging to the parent group of American Eagle. Aerie became iconic with their #aerieREAL campaign centered around body positivity. They achieved this with a promise to stop retouching their models photos as a way to show consumers that they too could be sexy.

Photo: Aerie

3. Nubian Skin

Nubian Skin was established in 2014 by Ade Hassan, from an idea she had been working on since 2011. Her aim was to provide women of deeper complexions with their own nude complexion lingerie and hosiery. When we think of the word nude, it is generally lighter shades which are exclusively catered for.

Photo: Nubian Skin

“Nubian Skin founder, Ade Hassan, decided it was time for ‘a different kind of nude’.”

In 2015 Nubian Skin extended their range to include up to 40” backs and A cups. In 2016 they went one step further and launched their Curve Collection.

4. Smart Glamour

Mallorie Dunn, founder of Smart Glamour, may be one of the most exemplary in promoting inclusivity. She founded her brand in 2007 and relaunched Smart Glamour as it is today in 2014. Dunn used her brand as a platform to discuss the lack of accurate representation of women in the media. She is known for featuring women of varying races, sizes, and also featuring disabled women down New York fashion week runway.

Tanya is currently studying Biomedical Sciences at the University of Manchester and hopes to get into science journalism and media after her degree. She loves fashion and travelling and enjoys learning new languages in her spare time. Right now she is learning French and Swahili.

Common Sense Contributors
Common Sense Contributors
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