At LFW YahooStyleUK discussion about diversity on 15th September
Fashion has woken up to diversity and the industry is desperately trying to prove that the concept of a fashion for all has been taken on board. Thus designers at NewYork Fashion Week, as also London Fashion Week 2018, which ended on 19th September, have been trying to include disabled, curvy and older models, in an attempt to tick boxes. There have been talks and TV programmes in which people have asked the question 'Is fashion embracing diversity?'
Well, is it?
Not quite. As LFW unfolded a model as famous as Leonie Anderson took to Twitter to say that she had been dropped of a LFW show for being black - she was later interviewed for BBC4 Woman's Hour, where she repeated her accusations of racism within the industry. We have heard this before, Naomi Campbell has also famously spoken about it.
One cannot help thinking that the current endorsement of diversity is all about making token gestures. Diversity is an uncomfortable notion, one which cannot be taken on without a complete overhaul of entrenched beliefs.
It would seem that the idea of diversity is not aspirational enough. Designers claim that clothes fall better on long, slim frames (and should those frames belong to Caucasian women?). It's the only way to showcase clothes, we are told. Curvier bodies detract attention to the workmanship of clothes making. Older body frames are simply not attractive enough. And so on. But in fact those who wear the clothes come in all shapes and sizes. Brands are not generally known for selling clothes to just one type of customers, to an extent - some self selection does occur in terms of prices and range of sizes available but by and large if you can pay for the item you can have it, no matter what you look like.
Modelling for Johanne Hynes at LFW on 15th September
It is most unfortunate that diversity is understood to be a way of pigeon holing people. Ticking boxes is not about promoting diversity, it's about making sure that minimum requirements are met so that one is not seen as being on the wrong side of the law - for it is unlawful to discriminate, even though subtle discrimination goes on all the time, as Anderson avows.
Fashion weeks are changing, now the format is see it now, buy it now. The shows are spectacles. So I do not buy this idea that changes are not possible because they are occurring all the time. Diversity can become the norm and it should. The future is truly in the hands of the next generation.
As Edward Enninful, the new Chief Editor of British Vogue has often said it is all about education. People need to be brought up appreciating and embracing diversity. There is far too much discrimination going on in society, we do not need fashion to be discriminatory.
At the Models of Diversity show in Old Spitalfields Market, during LFW.
Let's hope that when the next fashion week comes we shall not be frantically be discussing diversity and take part in TV programmes and round tables - as I did - asking the same questions all over again.