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Paris Fashion Week: Is Diversity Showing Up on the Runway?

Nina Mascheroni's design illustrations display models of all ethnicities. Photo courtesy of Nina Mascheroni.

During Paris Fashion Week,  March 1st – 9th , several designers showed up with casts full of diversity for the Fall 2016 collection.

According to Vogue, Balmain continued to be leader in casting women from many different ethnic backgrounds with faces such as famous model, Jourdan Dunn, leading the pack. Dunn also walked for another one of the most notably diverse shows of this PFW: H&M 

Women’s Wear Daily noted that H&M’s collection exhibited a cast chalked full of diversity with transgender, plus-size, and aged models. 

Head designers such as Balmain’s, Olivier Rousteing, have stated that having a diverse cast is a priority. Even H&M’s creative director, Ann-Sofie Johansson, noted that their brand has always been about diversity. However, while there has been some progress, a diversity problem still remains in the fashion world.

According to The Fashion Spot, the four big fashion weeks (Paris, Milan, London, & New York) still had less than 25 percent non-white models. So a large looming question still remains: Is the fashion industry really working on its diversity problem?

According Eulanda Sanders, Ph.D – Professor of Textiles and Clothing at Iowa State University – while the fashion industry has made steps forward, it still has a long way to go. Sanders explains that Paris still remains a more traditional, haute-couture, market compared to to New York Fashion Week’s modern feel.

However Sanders believes there are ways the fashion industry can achieve more inclusiveness in the market.

“I believe [the way to more diversity] is having more designers with multicultural backgrounds,” explained Sanders. “The way to add diversity [to fashion] is by starting at the inception of the design.”

Sanders’ statement is epitomized by Nina Mascheroni, a junior Apparel and Merchandising Major at Colorado State University. For Mascheroni, diversity in fashion is important, but she didn’t realized she was the large minority until her Fashion Illustration class.

“Our first project, only two of us drew models who weren’t white,” said Mascheroni. “And I was one of those two, which is crazy in a class of 25 people.”

Mascheroni explained that she hates that fashion tends to omit others due to its main priority of being a business and catering to certain audiences.

“I believe fashion should be more inclusive rather than exclusive,” said Mascheroni. “White-models aren’t the only body type and ethnicity out there. Clothes needs to be shown on a number of different women to see how they move and look on them.”

In the end, Sanders believes that many issues, such as cultural appropriation, will have to be addressed before the industry can take steps forward.
“I believe they are slowly working on it,” said Sanders.

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