Brand Report Card
By Cassidy Marshall
From season to season, fashion trends change - but in recent seasons, the runway itself has been changing as designers and brands strive to create a more inclusive runway atmosphere by casting a wide array of diverse models. However, the industry continues to face issues when it comes to inclusivity, especially in relation to diversity in the sizing, ethnicity, and abilities of their runway models. According to Forbes, of the 327 shows that premiered across all fashion weeks during the Fall/Winter 2023 season, only 30 brands offered styles above a size 20. In 2021, it was reported by InStyle Magazine that only 19% of all women’s apparel sold that year was considered plus-size (Roeloffs, 2023). Beyond this, ethnic diversity in casting and hiring seems to be of least priority for designers, celebrated only with refrain and endlessly tokenized. And for those of us with physical disabilities, representation is practically nowhere to be found save for a few small moments here or there included amongst smaller shows. Major fashion houses with endless budgets, however, seem to be intent on pouring them into hiring choices that rarely break tradition; as prevalently as ever, thin white women dominate the runway scene. Here are a few of the brands that celebrated diverse casts during the Autumn/Winter 2023 season, as well as some of the brands that just, well, did not.
The Best and the Worst of Size Casting:
A+: Karoline Vitto
According to Vogue Business, Karoline Ditto’s Autumn/Winter 2023 show at London Fashion week in February 2023 featured zero standard-sized models; all models seventy-five percent of models were mid-sized, and twenty-five percent were plus-sized (Maguire, et. Al., 2023). What’s further, for her debut show in Spring/Summer 2022, Vitto declared a casting rule: no one under size 10 walks in her shows (Davidson, 2023). However, while the slack is picked up by the up-and-coming designers of the industry, the industry’s biggest houses are increasingly turning their back on size inclusivity in casting.
Nicola Brognano has declared it to be a size-zero season for Blumarine with the Autumn/Winter 2023 collection from the brand. Disappointingly but unsurprisingly, the brand has leaned into its Y2K aesthetic a little too much, and rather than presenting an array of diversely casted models, Blumarine chose to take the Y2K trend quite literally and exclusively casted size zero models. Do better next time Blumarine!
The Best and Worst of Racially Diverse Casting:
A+: Sinéad O’Dwyer
Circumventing the exclusionary practices of the fashion industry can be difficult - but not for Sinéad O’Dwyer. O’Dwyer’s work is nothing short of phenomenal, and her efforts to include endlessly diverse casting for her shows never fall short; of the twenty-two looks in her Autumn/Winter 2023 collection, twenty were modeled on non-white models (Mower, 2023). A range of skin tones graced the runway of O’Dwyer’s work, creating a flawless example of just how possible it is to diversify your casting.
As per usual at Chanel, the number of non-white models featured in their Autumn/Winter 2023 collection were few and far between. What’s further, the few non-white models that were included were grouped together throughout the show, rather than their looks being interlaced amongst their white counterparts. The tokenization of non-white women endlessly continues with Chanel, but considering their historic ties with a particular fascist dictator of the 20th century, maybe it is not so surprising to see. Another disappointment from Chanel, what’s new?
The Best and Worst of Disability Representation:
A+: Sinéad O’Dwyer…Again
Apparently the saving of the fashion world will be left up to one woman! Sinéad O’Dwyer strikes again with her Autumn/Winter 2023 collection, including an array of bodies with different abilities. From pregnant models to wheelchair users, O’Dwyer considered it all with this collection, and highlighted the fact that we, too, should be considering it all when it comes to designing clothes. If they are not designed to be catered to the people who want to wear them, they will not be worn, and O’Dwyer consistently nails this ideal by providing collections that cater specifically towards those who will be wearing them.
Another round lost by the big houses. It is disappointing to realize that even after extensively catering to Linda Evangelista’s discomfort surrounding her body following a disastrous elective medical procedure, they are still so unwilling to represent people who are differently-abled on their runways. Clearly they have an understanding of the concept of accommodation, they are just unwilling to put the effort in for anyone other than their biggest names and faces. Yet again, Fendi leaves us disappointed and less than impressed.