By Arti Panday
Diversity Now!, a lecture presented by the Ryerson School of Fashion, confronted the issue of diversity in the fashion industry last Saturday.
Caryn Franklin, former fashion editor at i-D Magazine, delivered the lecture. Franklin is the co-founder of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, an initiative aimed at celebrating nonuniformity in the fashion industry.
Franklin founded the project three years ago, along with communications specialist Debra Bourne and model Erin O’Connor.
“After thirty years in the industry, I can feel the destabilization that is taking place,” said Franklin. “When I started, I was good enough. I knew I was and I didn’t have a media to undermine me in the way that the media now, including the fashion media, undermines young people.”
Diversity in fashion includes an array of shapes, sizes, ages, races and abilities. But this year at New York Fashion Week, 79 per cent of models were white. In 2008, 87 per cent of models were white.
Franklin said the industry needs to recondition the creative process used to envision the next season’s style, instead of focusing on who will be modeling the designs.
“They’re constantly trying to reinvent something out of nothing when, in fact, the reinvention is the creativity, not the person,” she said.
Although there are no courses specifically designed to teach students about the importance of diversity, professor at the Ryerson School of Fasthion Ben Barry said it’s featured in the courses.
“I think the students are starting to incorporate diversity into everything they do. Definitely in the courses I teach and my colleagues teach, it’s part of the curriculum and part of the focus of their assignments,” said Barry.
Some students disagree.
“I feel like we’re actually not learning a lot about diversity in first year,” said Magdalena Sokoloski.
“The lecture opened our eyes to diversity and how we should be trying to change our perception of how fashion should be displayed and on what kind of models,” she said.
Kristina McMullin, a third-year fashion student, said what she learns in the program mirrors the industry right now, and that includes not always using as many diverse models.
She said you have to sell your ideas more if they promote diversity.
“You’re almost promoted to use the standard because it’s almost easier because that’s what’s expected. If you are going to use an older model…or a plus-size model you’re going to have to work a lot harder to convince people that that’s a good idea,” she said.
Frankin hopes her message of diversity will spread. “It’s new minds that are coming to this that are starting up new businesses that are going to make big changes.”