Modelling is more racially diverse than ever – but is this just a fleeting trend?


According to The Fashion Spot South Sudanese model, Shanelle Nyasiase was the most booked model of the Autumn/Winter 2018 runways with a whopping 43 shows. 

Image: Getty

And when it comes to fashion ads, the report gathered that of the 500-plus female models featured in Spring 2018 campaigns, more than one in three were women of colour.

Great news, right?

Not necessarily. 

READ MORE: How many of these black models' names do you know? 

The report also found that on all other counts, i.e. size, age and transgender representation, diversity was down. Like embarrassingly low. It found that plus-size models made up only 0.4 % of the season’s 7,608 total castings. That is dismal. 

In terms of featuring gender non-conforming faces, there is some representation. But as the report notes, these are almost exclusively white faces. 

Locally, we are seeing racial inclusivity in fashion, with brands like MRP and Woolworths offering ads that better represent South African demographics. 

And over the past few years there's been a definitive increase in retailers showcasing women of all sizes. 

But is this just a trend? 

The body positive movement - who benefits? 

The body positivity movement has gotten a lot of flack, The Greatist recently wrote that it has even gone too far, saying it, in fact at times discounts scientific research about weightloss to fit its agenda. Whereas others have called it out for 'promoting' and even 'glorifying' obesity.

But I find it problematic that most fashion ads that feature curvy women, do so for a very specific purpose, like a focused campaign. Usually punting body positivity or sizes for all, I'd actually really like to just see women of all sizes featured, just because. Because they are models and were cast to model in a campaign. A 'normal' fashion campaign, instead of being bound to star in 'special priojects'. I am not slamming the existence of these special projects, I'm just saying it is limiting. 

READ MORE: Clothing sizes in SA are ridiculous’ say W24 readers – and they’re not just women!

Over the past few years a lot of companies have jumped on the body positivity bandwagon - surely knowing it to be a surefire way to get media attention. It became a trend, one that we all lapped up as we finally hoped for an adjustment in unattainable and discriminatory beauty standards. And it needed to happen, but now it shouldn't stop happening. To me the fact that these numbers are decreasing means that a lot of those curvy model placements were done purely for the purpose of benefiting from this movement. 

Similarly with race, we are seeing more inclusivity now, but what about next year? Will these numbers decline next year like all the rest? We really hope not.

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