Fashion industry quenches thirst for diversity

flatlay collage
A collage of  flatlays.

This year could be the end of an era, but also the start of something new for the fashion industry. For many years, the world of modelling has been criticised for the lack of diversity. Not only everyday people but celebrities and industry professionals themselves desire to see something other than the “typical” model.

The industry has been hounded for attempting to satisfy the craving for a diverse runway by casting a “token model”; someone who answers the call for diversity without impacting the designer’s ideal line-up. However, this year, diversity seems to be a major focus and designers are more thoroughly integrating a diverse range of models into catwalks and campaigns. Some of the inclusions are long overdue having been demanded by consumers for years. Other aspects of change may have never occurred to you as something which was lacking.

Culture/ Ethnicity

For a long time, when people cried out for diversity they wanted to see more ethnic women cast. Whilst a previous blog of mine shows a lack of multiculturalism caused some tension in mid 2016, The Fashion Spot’s research shows the variety of cultures on major runways is slowly increasing.


Generally, older models aren’t seen on the runway unless they are showcasing a mature aged line. This Huffington Post article about Simone Rocha’s 2017 autumn/winter collection at London Fashion Week shows age does not limit beauty. The designer cast three older models. Marie-Sophie Wilson, Benedetta Barzini and Jan de Villeneuve have been modelling since the 1960s.

At Paris Fashion Week Dries Van Noten was also eager to show age is but a number in fashion. The Telegraph’s article noted five models aged 37-50 strutted their stuff at his show.


Since breakout Australian, Down syndrome model Madeline Stuart captured audiences’ hearts designers have opened their runways to disabled talent. This Facebook video shows a range of models who don’t let their disabilities get in the way of following their dreams. Seeing these models up on the runway is becoming more frequent.

A Forbes article about fashions progressive milestones acknowledges wheelchair bound Jillian Mercedo. She’s a model with muscular dystrophy who was chosen to model for Beyoncé’s label and is now signed with renowned IMG models.

In other areas of modelling this FirstPost article acknowledges Justine Clarke. She has made history by being the first Australian woman to compete in Miss World Australia in a wheelchair.

This Daily Mail article about Justine Clarke was featured on the missworldaustralia Instagram page.


In Australia a plus size model is considered a woman who is a size 12 or larger. This has slowly become a more and more controversial topic as a size 12 is seen as an average size. Therefore, when plus size models walk for major fashion labels it’s a big deal. Vogues’ report on New York Fashion Week (NYFW) praises Ashley Graham claiming she “cemented her supermodel status” by becoming the first plus size model to walk for Michael Kors. With a record of 27 plus size models showcased in multiple shows during NYFW we can expect a lot more curvy beauties.

Religious dress

The Sydney Morning Herald reported brands, including Burberry and DKNY, decisions to make more modest clothing labelled as “Ramadan collections”. The releases are “timed to coincide with the Muslim holy month” so women can still be fashionable whilst abiding by their morals and values.

BuzzFeed recently announced Nike has also embraced Muslim dress by launching a hijab sport collection they made in collaboration with Muslim athletes. The Nike Pro Hijab is made from lightweight materials and will be released next year.

Nike Hijab
This image from fashion___p’s Instagram page shows the Nike Pro Hijab.


Teen Vogue noticed the inclusion of transgender models in NYFW. Some shows cast as many as five transgender models and they weren’t all professionals. Some models were discovered on Instagram.

Full circle

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana (Dolce & Gabbana) put together what is arguably the most diverse catwalk show ever for their fall ready to wear collection. Vogue reported over 140 people from all walks of life from models and non-models, young and old, Caucasian and Ethnic, plus size and petite took part. Dolce & Gabbana urge a message of self-acceptance reflecting on their first ever show which also consisted entirely of everyday people.

This image from blackstylereport’s Instagram page shows the range of diversity on Dolce & Gabbana’s runway.

I think, in a perfect world, the ideal catwalk would be a well-rounded one with a range of different cultures, sizes, ages and abilities. The industry still has a long way to go, but one step at a time diversity is becoming a norm rather than a rarity.

What change are you most looking forward to seeing?

Is diversity something you are excited to see progress across major fashion labels, or is it too little too late?


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