At its core, the goal of fashion is to present an image meant to be perceived as what society should look like. To reach this goal in a way that pushes positive messaging, the fashion industry has a clear responsibility to represent societal diversity in its advertising. But are all people really represented in fashion, as it currently stands? The answer to this question is more than a simple yes or no; it requires an analysis of the progression of fashion to the present day.
For many years, if we had taken a look at a fashion magazine or runway show in the West, we would always see the same pattern in the models: tall, thin, and overwhelmingly Caucasian. Clearly, this pattern does not accurately reflect the diversity present in today’s world. More recently, some companies in the fashion industry have begun to move towards greater diversity and representation in their messaging, to more accurately present our complex modern-day societies.
Nevertheless, it is essential to highlight that while some companies have made significant progress towards these diversity goals, others have continued to lag behind. A clear example of a company that has not achieved its goal of creating a more diverse atmosphere within the fashion world is Victoria's Secret. After backlash from not representing different body types in their campaigns, the company decided to include the model Barbara Palvin as a ‘plus-size’ model in their campaigns, such as their famous runway show- despite her being of average, healthy stature. The brand was not progressing towards diversity- in fact, they were actively hurting the cause by labeling an average-sized woman as plus-sized, reinforcing skewed beauty standards in the fashion industry.
On the other hand, companies such as Armani and Moschino have made progress towards their goals of bringing more diversity into the fashion world, breaking the pattern of model types. In the face of social justice reckonings such as last year’s global Black Lives Matter protests, while many brands do make empty promises about pushing for diversity, there continue to be those that make real change.
A good example of a company bringing diversity into the fashion industry is the Brazilian brand AMO EMME. In their first marketing campaign, they decided to shoot every piece of clothing with different models with different body types for greater societal representation. Another brand working to change the fashion narrative is the Italian brand Benetton, consistently depicting racial diversity in multiple advertising campaigns.
As the fashion industry continues to face pressure for greater diversity and representation in modeling, many brands agree that they need to be united in this fight and achieve the goal of more diversity in their campaigns and runway shows. Some brands have succeeded, and others are still trying. It’s a meaningful step for them to recognize this lack of diversity in fashion and commit to moving forward and progressing, but there is still a long way left to go.