There are more black models on NYFW this season which begs the question posed: Is NYFW becoming more diverse? Janelle Okwodu of Vogue thinks so and has the follow to say: “Industry activists have been lobbying for the inclusion of catwalkers from varied backgrounds, and it would seem that’s increasingly becoming the case: This season has found several designers and casting directors utilizing established models of color or introducing their audiences to promising new faces, from Brother Vellies’s stylish presentation featuring an array of international faces, including Nigerian-Chinese star Adesuwa Aighewi and the doe-eyed Brazilian Marina Nery to Evelien Joos and Walter Pearce‘s mix of street-casting discoveries and established models on Hood By Air’s runway. Creatures of the Wind’s lineup of striking young women showcased the collection’s universality, while at Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci continued his commitment to displaying diversity during his New York presentation, tapping favorites like Joan Smalls, Liu Wen, Paolo Roldan, and Lakshmi Menon, alongside promising newcomers like Kailey Hsu. Opening looks—often the space reserved for favorites of the house—are also being given to models of color with greater frequency: Lineisy Montero, last season’s Prada standout, opened both Jason Wu and Derek Lam.
While these moments have been promising, according to Balance Diversity founder Bethann Hardison, who spoke at a panel event yesterday at NYFW headquarters, there is still plenty of work to be done, especially during these last days of New York Fashion Week. “We know that racism is systemic, and we know that the racial divide is everywhere within our culture, but a creative industry like fashion should really reflect our society,” said Hardison, “Have we made a difference? Yes, but in order to be an activist you have to stay active,” said Hardison, “Have things improved? I’m concerned about the runways because that’s where the ideas are introduced, from the silhouettes, the colors, the textiles, and the girls and the guys—it all happens there first.”