New York Fashion Week runways were among the most diverse, but not by much

PLAID PANTSUITS ANYONE? In her Sunday presentation, model Tracy Reese shows women how to give the classic pantsuit a feminine touch.

The change is is so slow it's barely noticeable.

But according to a report released Thursday from the respected online industry watchdog theFashionSpot, last week's fall 2017 New York Fashion Week runways were more diverse than ever.

According to the survey that examined 116 shows that included 2,700 model appearances, the most recent runways comprised 31.5 percent models of color, a slight improvement over September's spring shows that clocked in at 30.3 percent.

The report also concluded it was the first time every runway included at least one model of color.

"We see the numbers creeping up, but the truth is they are creeping," said Jennifer Davidson, editor-in-chief of theFashionSpot.  "We've been doing this for six seasons, and it was an 11 point difference. In six seasons, you would think there would be more change than that." 

Davidson says theFashionSpot started these measurements because of the glaring lack of diversity on the runways. It was clear, she said, that some designers were casting only white models. First the organization tracked race, but its count has since expanded to include the number of models who are plus-size, transgender, and older than 50.  

  

Camera icon the fashion spot 
The best and worst of fall 2017 runway diversity 

The most diverse shows this year were Gypsy Sport, Chromat, Kimora Lee Simmons and Marc Jacobs. The least diverse: Chocheng, A Detacher, The Row, Jill Stuart, Zang Toi and Marchesa. Six out of the top 10 models who walked the New York runways were women of color, and there were 26 plus-size model appearances on nine runways, the best year to date.

Eight transgender models appeared on the catwalk, and six of the models were women older than 50.

With fashion shows more visible than ever, people want to see representations of themselves on the runway.

"When there is not representation, it has a poor effect on self-esteem," Davidson said.

So what does the ideal runway look like?

"Rather than aim for a certain percentage, I think it's more important that we see diversity across the board -- not just in a handful of shows," Davidson said. "When all designers are organically inclusive, we'll no longer need to track statistics."

So why is the fashion industry so slow to include diverse models on its runways? Regional fashion weeks, like Philadelphia's, underway this week, use a plethora of diverse models. 

Davidson says everyone is passing the buck: Designers blame casting directors who don't send models to them. The agencies say casting directors and designers are not booking the more diverse models.

"I've also heard complaints that agencies will hold back the more diverse models and give them exclusives or not send to them as many castings," Davidson said. 

What advice does Davidson give consumers who want designers to know their full figures, and age matter? 

"The power of the pocketbook," Davidson said. "If  consumers are fed up, don't buy the clothes from the designers that aren't representing you, and conversely, do buy the clothes from designers who are making diversity a priority."

The question remains: But how long will we care?