Are We Entering the Era of Inclusive and Ethical Fashion?

By: Iman Taouil

Could we be in the era of a more inclusive fashion industry? The facts initially suggested otherwise. In 2013, Jezebel published that only 6% of models on the catwalks were black that year, dropping from 8.2% in 2012. Supermodel Iman claimed that the industry was less inclusive than when she started her career in the 70's, and that things were going backwards. That same year, she and Naomi Campbell joined Bethann Hardison, former model, and her Diversity Coalition, to publish an open letter calling out big names in fashion for not using enough models of color. It turned out that, afraid of seeing their sales drop, the brands complied. In 2016, models of color accounted for about 25% of castings on the runways of New York, Paris, London and Milan. The American fashion's governing body now sends designers guidelines on how to make their runways more diverse.

Christian Dior, Chromat, Wendy Nichol 

Fashion is a lucrative business, so it will always pay attention to what the people want. Therefore, it makes sense that in the era of the rise of social awareness through online platforms, the fashion industry follows and adapts. Is it genuine? Not necessarily. Yves Saint Laurent didn't wait for a protest to be the first designer to hire several models of color and change the status quo in many other ways. But is it necessary? Likely. As Iman said, "Photography and the runways are such powerful tools, and say such a lot about our society, it is so much bigger than the catwalk." 

2017 is the year that saw the rise of Halima Aden, first model to ever grace a Vogue cover with a hijab. But this was not the only change noted this year in the fashion world. In February, Wendy Nichol revealed her Fall 2017 campaign, which took a political stand by featuring models holding up signs with inclusive messages. In September, during New York fashion week, people witnessed a way more inclusive runway when compared to years past. While Christian Soriano has been hiring curvy and plus-size models for a while now, Chromat decided to join the club with their Spring 2018 show.

Another relevant example is the famous Dior "We should all be feminists"t-shirt, following the rise of feminism on social media and inspired by a TED talk of the same name. Dior even gave a percentage of proceeds to the Clara Lionel Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Rihanna to support efforts for education, health and emergency response around the world.

It's worth mentioning Desigual's efforts as well. This year, the brand chose Charli Howard, plus-size model and founder of the "All Woman Project," and went even further by publishing their campaign pictures completely unretouched. The way fashion's diktats and their unrealistic beauty standards project unhealthy and pressuring expectations onto women has been a hot topic for decades, and it seems like the process of inclusivity has finally begun.

Charli Howard for Desigual 

High fashion could also be changing, ethically speaking. The last big shift in date might be Gucci's decision to go fur-free. The announcement followed online outrage after posts claiming that the brand was using overbred foxes from fur farms went viral. It represents a big step, as Gucci is one of the most popular luxury brands among millennials, and it could influence other brands to follow suit. 

However, another field that still seems to be lacking progress is that of fast versus sustainable fashion. While social media has helped the fashion industry improve on certain ethical points, it's also fueling fashion, especially with the Instagram trends phenomenon. The rise of fast fashion has environmental as well as social negative impacts that can't be ignored. While the fashion world has come a long way and might indeed be on the right path, it still has a long way to go before reaching a state of complete fairness.