Every season when we put together our famous Diversity Reports, we always expect hope that racial, size, age and gender representation will go up. And for many seasons, that has been the case. Normally known for some of the most diverse castings across all four fashion capitals, New York Fashion Week stumbled for Fall 2020.
We were most surprised to see the percentage of models of color drop this season by over three points from Spring 2020. After reviewing 1,940 model appearances across 61 major shows, New York Fashion Week Fall 2020 saw only 43.6 percent models of color down from 46.8 percent for Spring 2020. In fact, it’s the lowest percentage since Fall 2018 when there were only 37.3 percent models of color in the Big Apple. (To refresh your memory, Fall 2019 saw 45.8 percent and Spring 2019 44.8 percent.)
The disappointing plunge can be partially explained by the mass exodus of designers to other cities. Tom Ford showed in Los Angeles, Tommy Hilfiger opted for London and Jeremy Scott postponed his Fall 2020 show until haute couture week. Then there were the brands that didn’t show at all, like Pyer Moss.
On a positive note, every show featured models of color. A small victory, but still significant. There was also a lot of crossover with the size, age and gender categories all featuring models of color.
Sadly, the top models of Fall 2020 followed the same downward path. Only four of the top 12 models were women of color, amounting to just a little over 33 percent. The good news? Three of those four tied for first place.
South Korean model and street style star Sora Choi, British-Moroccan beauty Nora Attal, the United States’ own Abby Champion, U.K. native Lara Mullen, familiar French face Cyrielle Lalande, Josefine Lynderup from Denmark and Chinese model Yilan Hua all walked in 11 shows. While U.K. beauty Hannah Motler, Texan Sara Grace Wallerstedt, Jamaican stunner Kyla Ramsey, German model Julia Merkelbach and Juliane Grüner from Denmark each had 10 shows under their belts.
As usual, size, age and gender representation was missing from the top models list.
After a truly impressive Spring 2020 season in which a record 68 plus-size models (2.92 percent) walked a total of 19 shows, this season size diversity plummeted to a disappointing 27 appearances across 16 shows, only 1.4 percent. That’s over a 1.5 percent drop off.
Christian Siriano hired the most non-standard-size models. The eight models who walked his runway include Marquita Pring, Precious Lee, Sabina Karlsson, Solange van Doorn, Seynabou Cissé, Candice Huffine, Chloé Véro and Ingrid Medeiros. Several other brands enlisted two plus-size models: Tadashi Shoji (Lorena Duran, Michelle Olson), Dennis Basso (Malia Greiner, Angela Riihiluoma), Area (Tehya Elam, Betsy Teske) and Collina Strada (Theresa Chromati, Alva Claire). Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Eckhaus Latta, Nicole Miller, Christopher John Rogers, Prabal Gurung, LaQuan Smith, Veronica Beard, Michael Kors Collection and Rag & Bone each cast one plus-size model. Alexis Ruby, Tess McMillan, Paloma Elsesser, Karlsson, Elam, McMillan, Claire, Huffine, Jill Kortleve, Kortleve, respectively.
Despite the decline in overall representation, a good portion of the 27 appearances came from plus-size models of color. (Nineteen, to be exact.)
Transgender and non-binary models also saw a decrease in representation. While Spring 2020 saw 36 appearances or 1.55 percent across 19 shows, for Fall 2020 there were only 10 transgender/non-binary castings or a measly 0.52 percent across eight shows. That’s a little over 1 percent difference.
Non-binary model Noah Carlos walked for Self-Portrait, Prabal Gurung and Coach 1941. Transgender model Dara Allen represented Dion Lee and Prabal Gurung. Massima Desire, also transgender, hit the runway for Dion Lee and Eckhaus Latta. Phillipe Blond, who identifies as non-binary, naturally popped up at The Blonds, while transgender model Ariel Nicholson and Richie Moo appeared at Marc Jacobs and Christopher John Rogers, respectively.
While none of these castings went to plus-size or 50-and-over models, it wasn’t a total whitewash. (Allen and Carlos are both of mixed backgrounds.)
Models age 50 and above also saw a decline. After the number of aged models in Spring 2020 (15 models in a total of 10 shows, accounting for 0.65 percent of castings) tied with Fall 2019 (15 models walked in 13 shows for 0.68 percent), a paltry 10 appeared on nine runways for Fall 2020 or 0.52 percent.
Prabal Gurung cast Anh Duong, Collina Strada booked Kathleen McCain Engman, Christopher John Rogers chose Coco Mitchell, The Blonds cast Gloria Trevi, Dennis Basso selected Lisa Rinna. Sylke Golding, the only 50-and-over model to rack up more than one appearance, walked for Nicole Miller and Eckhaus Latta (Eckhaus Latta cast one additional aged model). The other casting came courtesy of Priscavera.
There was some diversity in this category with three women of color (Duong, Mitchell and Trevi) making appearances.
MOST AND LEAST DIVERSE SHOWS
Claudia Li had the most racially diverse show of Fall 2020 with 83 percent models of color, but Area was the big diversity winner this season thanks to 78 percent models of color, two plus-size models and one aged model. Christopher John Rogers also impressed with 76 percent models of color, one aged model, one transgender/non-binary model and one plus-size model. Brandon Maxwell (60 percent models of color), Anna Sui (59 percent models of color), LaQuan Smith (57 percent models of color, one plus-size model) and Prabal Gurung (56 percent models of color, one aged model, one transgender model, one non-binary model and one plus-size model) round out the list of the most diverse shows this season.
Once again, the least diverse show list has several familiar names. Son Jung Wan only had 6 percent models of color, Vivienne Hu 13 percent, Cinq à Sept 24 percent, Badgley Mischka and Naeem Khan each had 29 percent and Nicole Miller had 30 percent. Son Jung Wan, Vivienne Hu and Badgley Mischka are repeat offenders, but at least the latter raised its percentage from last season.
It’s truly disappointing to see the numbers drop in every single category this season. Especially since they’ve been on an upward trajectory for a few seasons now. It’s also distressing because New York Fashion Week tends to be the most diverse of all the fashion capitals so we’re bracing ourselves for the grand Fall 2020 totals to be down as well. We’re hoping, and demanding, that the industry does better for Spring 2021.
Additional reporting by Mark E.
Only women and non-binary models are included in this data. Models of color are categorized as those who are nonwhite or of mixed backgrounds. Spring 2020 collections that showed during the Fall 2020 season are included in this report.