It’s an interesting time for fashion right now. After years of promoting white models on the runways as the “norm,” the industry’s homogeneity is slowly beginning to change due to a shift in consumer markets. CNN reports that China is gaining momentum to become the next fashion capital, thanks to the newly emerging upper-class that is interested in upgrading its image with luxury brands. Ermenegildo Zegna, Italian fashion powerhouse, chose to celebrate its 100th anniversary in Shanghai instead of Milan. Increasingly, brands like Prada and Hermes are concentrating efforts by launching brands and marketing campaigns specifically geared towards the growing Chinese market.
Liu Wen, a former tour guide-turned-supermodel from the Hunan Province in China, is one of the most sought-out Asian models. She was the second most booked model during Fashion Weeks in 2010. Her high-fashion ubiquity is also translating into commercial appeal – she became the newest and the only Asian Victoria’s Secret Angel in 2009, as well as the first Asian face to represent the cosmetics conglomerate Estee Lauder.
All this new activity and interest in China as the new fashion capital is indeed exciting, but it remains to be seen whether this would actually have an impact on the overall diversity of fashion. According to Jezebel’s report “Fashion Week Diversity by the Numbers,” the percentage of Asian models used on the runway did increase to 7.1% – however, this hardly qualifies as breaking “records” as CNN reports, as it is a mere 0.7% jump from Fall/Winter 2010, and an overall 1.7% jump from Fall/Winter 2008 season.This increase is relatively minimal, considering that the number of black models used on the runway almost doubled from Fall/Winter 2008 (from 4.9% to 8.4%).
Even more telling is the fact that six shows during Fashion Week had zero representation from models of colour, and many included – among them well-known brands such as Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Narciso Rodriguez – only one or two models of colour among a sea of white faces. While it is nice to see localized efforts to attract a diverse consumer crowd, it would be great to see more efforts from the creative sides that represent the “ideal” consumer to reflect such diverse consumer identity better on a global scale.