Four months ago, on the eve of New York Fashion Week, prominent fashion activist and former model Bethann Hardison launched the Balanced Diversity campaign with the help of Naomi Campbell and Iman to end racism on the runway. In an open letter to the governing fashion bodies of the four major fashion capitols— New York, London, Milan and Paris— she called out the industry’s white-washed model casts, citing a number of designers who had featured zero or one model of color in seasons past. Designers paid attention, as did the public, and within weeks, it was being hailed as one of the most memorable, if not important, moments of the season.
As today marks not only the home stretch until the start of New York Fashion Week’s Fall 2014 season, but also more importantly, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we sat down with the legendary model and Coalition leader to discuss the effects of last season’s campaign on the fashion industry and the road ahead. See our full interview with the iconic model and inspiring leader below!
1. Since launching the diversity campaign last year, what improvements have you noticed in the industry?
There have been improvements that were both nice and unexpected. The New York shows were featuring three, four, even five models of color, compared to just one or zero the season before. London also made slight improvements, as did Paris. However, the most surprising improvements were in Milan, where Georgia Armani used a model of color to open the show, Prada used five models of color, which is almost unheard of, and Jil Sander incorporated several models of color while they usually use none. There was a noticeable shift in energy last season, and I think people suddenly felt out of their comfort zone, which is a good thing.
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