How fashion “solved” its diversity problem

Liz: Twenty years ago the media seemed pretty concerned about diversity in fashion. Announcer: Modeling can be a tough business at the best of times but when you’re black, the situation is compounded. Announcer: Has black beauty finally come of age? Or is it all just an exotic illusion? Liz: Today, all of our sins have been absolved because hashtags. Diversity is trending. Reporter: Diversity is very in this year, let’s hope it’s not a passing trend. Liz: So what does this rainbow utopia really look like? In 2013, Bethann Hardison, a diversity
advocate and former model wrote an open letter calling out specific designers who had featured 1 or 0 women of color in their runway shows around the world Bethann: I think they’re ignorant and they’re arrogant and I think it’s not even about racism I think it’s a sense of laziness, and they’ve told themselves a story. Host: Boy, they were unvarnished. Host: Mhmm, unvarnished and real. Host: And mad. Liz: Yes, what are these unvarnished, mad black women going on about anyways? While some newcomers and younger
brands have embraced diverse casting in their runway shows the data reveals that progress is
relatively stagnant. Some designers are making progress by
including people with disabilities in their shows, but have we lost sight of the race issue
that’s been plaguing the industry for decades? [Music] Liz: Some people are calling this Fashion Week the most diverse Fashion Week ever in history, do you guys agree with that in terms of what you’ve seen on the runway, and what you’ve seen in the shows? Woman: Oh, definitely seeing a lot of diversity in terms of clothes. Some are very playful, whereas others are more transient. Liz: Did you think that it was great that
they were representing Native American culture? Woman: Of course, listen we’re in New York, it’s a great thing Woman: We had one Asian, one red hair, colored, blonde. We had all of them! Liz: OK, even redheads? Woman: Yes! I was like, “Yes! This is beautiful!” Liz: And are you excited that there’s no more racism in the fashion industry? Woman: umm… Yeah, I am happy. Liz: Yeah? Woman: Yeah. Liz: Yeah Liz: Do you feel like we’ve solved like, fashion’s racism problem? Are you glad that it’s done? Woman: No, absolutely yes. Liz: I’m glad we like solved racism. Like, check. Woman: Yes, definitely. Liz: To be fair, this isn’t the only part of
the fashion industry. Maybe people are seeing more diversity in magazines or advertisements so I went and bought a handful of the
most popular fashion magazines and went through them with a model and fellow
journalist, Yomi Abiola. We decided to rip out all of the
advertisements and make 2 piles pile 1: only people who are white pile 2: only people who are… anything else Yomi: Let’s start with Vanity Fair Liz: I love it. Liz: That’s an ad for… Yomi: That’s for you. This is for you. That’s for you. Liz: White ladies. Very white. White person. Double whiteness. White White Yomi: This is an Asian man. Yomi: That’s for you. Liz: Oh there’s a… Nope. White girl, white girl This is a toothbrush. White girl Yomi: [laughing] Liz: white girl on white girl White girl Yomi: Maybe I can have this one, Pharrell’s in the background. [ripping] Liz: OK, so you get the idea Let’s fast forward a bit to when we counted
our piles 89, 90, 91 92, 93, 94 and I didn’t even count the double sides How many do you have? Yomi: Do you really want to know? Liz: We have to know. Yomi: Thirteen and a half Liz: We found similar issues in other high fashion magazines Vogue had 272 ads featuring only white
people versus 38 featuring people of color Yomi: I was definitely hoping that at least
since I started, that things would have changed. It’s not good. I mean, let’s not dress it up. It’s just I really was hoping that things had changed There was a moment in time for me when I
saw a brown women on television… I saw Naomi Campbell and I was mesmerized. But I want every
single woman to be able to have that experience of having your beauty, but beyond your
beauty, what you look like validated. You exist and you’re seen and you’re part of society. It’s time to wake up. Liz: So, how do we solve this? Remember Bethann Hardison? When she wrote that open letter two years ago almost all of the highlighted designers
increased the number of people of color in their shows although the industry’s overall numbers
stayed roughly the same Bethann laid out the framework for how to
incite change by calling out the worst offenders by name. Taking Bethann’s lead, the best thing we
can do is hold designers accountable. The worst thing we can do: become
complacent and stop taking responsibility to make things better. Bethann: I’m so proud of watching what someone can do when they decide let’s take up the cause. The responsibility is all of ours.

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