Traditional Hierarchies of Beauty

By Fyza Shahzad

As progress makes it’s way in every field, we grow to believe that prejudices are left behind. Living in the 21st Century, it is heart breaking to see that the world has made revolutionary progress but Fashion industry known to be the most forward and adaptive industry has failed to make any progress at all when it comes to racism. There is no outright racism but young white-thin models are made the icon of the fashion industry. Women of color or age are only included to portray an ‘expression of creative vision’. They are shown to show to stand out in the normalized white models. These preconceived images and ideals constructed by our society are an outcome of the colonial period or imperial prejudices.

Bethann Hardinson, former model and founder of the diversity Coalition notes that there is a need for more black models. Due to the unbalanced ratio between the number of white and black models they end up sending the black models only if they are demanded and the brand is important enough in the fashion industry. However, this problem can be solved if casting agents hire more black models. For instance, Calvin Klein after being heavily criticized for only hiring white models began to work with one girl of color but made her exclusive to work with their brand. Therefore, regardless of there being a demand for girls of color there is a shortage in the supply.

On the positive side improvements are being made. The Winter 2015 shows staged across the world’s four major fashion capitals in comparison to the Summer 2015 shows showed a great improvement. There was an improvement as 20% of the women on the runway were black but overall the increase was only by 3 percent in points. Though this 20 percent only constitutes of designers like Riccardo Tisci and Tom Ford who aim to use a diverse range of models in their shows. Nevertheless, the problem persists, in 2014, out of the 611 covers published only 18 percent featured non-white models. However, an interesting observation is that the least represented group actually is today’s fastest growing market in the world, particularly, Middle East and Africa. Evidence to back these facts has been provided by world-renowned firms. A consulting firm Bain and Company confirmed in their 2012 report that Middle East aided in the boost of 30 percent of the sales in the fashion industry.

Moreover, in some ways diversity should be appreciated like H&M’s recent campaign, which featured women from different visible diversity. The campaign included a model wearing a Hijab, models of different age and sizes. This is a promising and positive step towards catering to the demands of the industry that are usually ignored.

However, the diversity remains and now it is the responsibility of the industry insiders to promote a more wide range of models and cater to all the ethnicities and religious identities present in our society.