It looks like the fashion and advertising tide could be turning in favour of women who are not blonde, white, skinny and young.
A number of major brands have released fashion ads featuring real-sized women, older women and Asian stars.
THE CASE FOR MORE DIVERSITY IN FASHION
Renowned American novelist Joan Didion became the face of Celine’s Spring 2015 ads at 80, Canadian singer Joni Mitchell appeared in portraits for Saint Laurent at 71. American fashion icon Iris Apfel is starring in Kate Spade ads at the grand old age of 93, and the world’s oldest supermodel, Carmen Dell’Orefice, at 83 walked the Digital Fashion Week runway in Singapore and was just featured on the special edition cover of New You magazine.
(Above) Renowned Americna novellist Joan Didion and (below) singer Joni Mitchell in Saint Laurent's Music Project campaign | Images: AFP RELAXNEWS
SUPERMODELS ARE REAL WOMEN TOO
It seems that supermodel Cindy Crawford had the bravery to be not 100 per cent perfect after an un-retouched image of her was leaked showing the real ravages of having two children and being 48 years old. Yes, her stomach looks a little stretched and flabby, but as the overwhelming number of positive social media posts say: “Still Fab”.
— Charlene White (@CharleneWhite) February 13, 2015
WOMEN OF ALL SIZES
Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue 2015 was subtitled “style has no size” and featured US size-12 model Robyn Lawley in an editorial spread modeling bikinis from her own line and also a swimsuit ad by Swimsuits for All starring plus-size model Ashley Graham.
(Above) Robyn Lawley and (below) Ashley Graham took a star turn in the hallowed pages of this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue | Images: Ashley Graham's Instagram/theashleygraham and Robyn Lawley's Instagram/robynlawley1
ASIAN WOMEN & WOMEN OF COLOUR
Korean superstar Gianna Jun, 33, is modeling accessories in an ad for Gucci; former America’s Next Top Model contestant Chantelle Brown-Young who suffers from vitiligo, a skin pigment disorder that leaves her body covered in patches of white and brown skin is the new face of Desigual and let’s not forget Nadia Rahmat – the Singaporean girl selected for the Marc by Marc Jacobs Spring 2015 ad.
(Above) Gianna Jun in Gucci's latest accessories ad, and (below) Singaporean girl Nadia Rahmat stars in Marc by Marc Jacobs' Spring ad | Images: Gucci, Club 21
On top of these campaigns, New York Fashion Week Fall Winter 2015 featured designer Carrie Hammer’s runway show “Role Models Not Runway Models” starring female CEOs, writers, (non-traditional looking) actresses and other female entrepreneurs and included actress Jamie Brewer who has Down Syndrome ‒ making her the first woman with it to walk in New York Fashion Week.
THE CASE AGAINST MORE DIVERSITY IN FASHION
While all of the above points are great, the cynic in me can’t help but dismiss these campaigns as publicity moves by big companies looking to make more money, but the optimistic part of me wants to believe that this is a sign of changing times.
Still, it’s not the first time that fashion has done an about face when it comes to using unique models; and it’s almost always been done in the name of getting attention.
Unfortunately there are people being hired as models who may come across as only being chosen for their “novelty factor” like former America’s Next Top Model contestant Chantelle Brown-Young who suffers from vitiligo, a skin pigment disorder that leaves her body covered in patches of white and brown skin.
While she’s been championed by designers and is the new face of Desigual, plus the muse of famed photographer Nick Knight and London designer Ashish, even Brown-Young admits that it’s her skin tone they are interested in. “When a photographer says: ‘I don’t know what it is, but that’s just not it’ – I know. They like the different colours of my skin. They’re not getting them with a particular outfit,” she said in a recent interview with The Guardian.
So, is it just the novelty factor that sees people like Brown-Young, Alex Minsky (the former marine and amputee) or Jillian Mercado (who has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair) being used in advertising campaigns? Or has the industry really changed?
Unfortunately not. A report by The Fashion Spot on the Spring Summer 2015 season found that in 151 major shows in New York (48), London (31), Milan (30) and Paris (42), 83 percent of the models were white. Not great considering that in a similar survey by Style.com reported on by Jezebel in February 2013, found that 82.7 percent of the models that walked in 151 New York show were white.
So while someone a little bit famous who isn’t a “typical” model might get one or two advertising campaigns, at the end of the day it seems that young, skinny, white models are still ruling the runways and correspondingly the fashion industry.
But that’s no reason to give up the fight! There might be some way to go when it comes to a truly diverse fashion world, but at least we have hope that generations of girls to come will know they don’t have to look young to be regarded worthy, that the length of their thigh gap does not determine their self-esteem, and that they don’t need a butt like Kim Kardashian or lips like Kylie Jenner to achieve their #bodygoals.