What can we do about the fashion industry’s diversity problem?
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Although we may hear about diversity now more than ever in the media, the fashion industry is lagging behind in embracing the public conversation. The Fashion Spot’s study on diversity in modelling has led to a disturbing suggestion that society is perhaps moving backwards in celebrating diverse advertisements in fashion. The study of 236 different advertising campaigns is clear in its suggestion that the industry still has a long way to go. A further comparison, of its most recent study with past research, notes that in individual categories diversity seems to in fact be decreasing. Transgender models dropped from 0.4% representation in autumn 2015 to 0% in spring 2016. Plus-sized models featured fell from 1.5% to 1.4%. Older models went from 3.1% to 1.2%. Models of colour, the only category in which diversity increased, are still underrepresented, having gone from 15.3% representation to 21.8%. These numbers represent one study over one sampling of data, but they reflect a much larger issue in the industry. Models simply do not represent today’s society. According to a Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) study, the number of transgendered people in the UK in 2008 (the last time this sort of study has been done) could be as many as 300,000—about 0.46% of the total population (64.1 million in 2013). By this standard, the autumn 2015 representation of 0.4% is nearly reflective of reality; the spring 2016 standard of 0% is certainly not. According to The Guardian, the average woman in the UK is 5ft 3 in tall and a size 16. The minimum height for models, however, according to the British Association of Model Agents, is 5ft 8in. Despite this clear dissonance between image and reality, the infamous “size zero” is still treated as the coveted golden standard of model sizes. Based on an Office for National Statistics study in 2014, 19% of the UK’s population is aged 0-15. 64% is aged 16-64, and 18% is aged 65 and over. The percentage of “young people”— the first two columns, including both people aged 0-15 and 16-64, is projected to decrease over the next three decades, as the third column of people aged 65 and over is projected to increase. It seems more logical than ever to include older models in advertisements.
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