May 25, 2016,
What is beauty? How should beauty be defined?
These questions continue to be a hot topic in the fashion industry. While there has been more companies and brands trying to include a wider range of models into their campaigns, there is still much to do before the industry as a whole can truly progress into a diverse and inclusive space.
Selfridges best illustrated how delicate this issue can be during the recent launch of their everyBODY campaign, as well as their new Body Studio, in an attempt to celebrate women of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities. Public reaction towards Selfridges has been mixed – some have praised their efforts at inclusiveness, while others have taken to social media to lament how certain types of models are still being left out.
As we discussed earlier this year, Model Students has always been committed to embracing models of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities, and we have always endeavoured to find work for all of our models.
Previously, we noticed a worrying trend that only a handful of our models would get the majority of the bookings. In recent times, it is comforting to see a wider range of our models receiving more bookings. We are pleased with this encouraging development towards a more diverse fashion landscape. We are glad to see more designers – from fashion students to big brands – increasingly open to models of different sizes and backgrounds.
Of course, no one factor can be attributed to this apparent change in industry perspective. It could be due to the latest fashion trends, or more ideally, there could have been a true shift in industry outlook. If it is really down to the latter, much still has to be done within the industry as a whole.
A recent report on Style.Mic highlighted how the industry might have seen an increase in different ethnicities represented in fashion ad campaigns; however the proportion of non-white models still remains very low. The Fashion Spot also picked up on this contradictory trend, mentioning how the industry remains divisive on the issues of inclusiveness and diversity.
Even with recent efforts towards inclusivity in this industry, it is not difficult to argue that white models that are reasonably tall and of a single digit dress size are still heavily favoured over models of a different ethnicity or shape.
On our end, we are glad more of our models of different ethnicities are enjoying greater success in the local fashion scene, yet there are still many others – those who might not necessarily fit into the ‘typical beauty standards’ of the industry – struggling to find work.
This can be very difficult for our models, especially those who have not been receiving work for an extended period of time. Most of our models – of different ethnicities, shapes and sizes – certainly do not lack the desire, nor can anyone fault their commitment and drive to succeed in this industry. One fine example of this is how just today, one of our newer models took the time to meet with us to practice her catwalk, as she was soon to participate in her first ever catwalk show and had little prior experience in this area.
She demonstrates a common trait among many of our models – a strong determination to make the most of every opportunity to do well in the industry. Most of our models put so much effort into their trade, yet knowing they might not be getting jobs, not based on their level of skill or experience but based purely on their different ethnicity or size, can have a negative effect on their self-esteem – especially at a young age. Sure, the industry is known to be a harsh one, but failing to secure jobs because of factors entirely out of their own control cannot be good for current as well as aspiring models.
The industry needs to do away with tags like ‘plus-sized’, ‘petit’, as well as categorizing models based on their ethnicities, if they are to truly shift towards true inclusivity and diversity. We do hope designers, brands and the industry as a whole can continue to question and further redefine stereotypical standards of ‘beauty’, and evaluate models on their talent and experience, rather than their ethnicity or size.