The dominance of white models in last week's New York fashion shows wasn't lost on attendees.

Fashion photographer and "America's Next Top Model" judge Nigel Barker said, "Everyone is always talking about the weight issue, I think they should be talking about race."

In the midst of taking in 15 shows, he said he was "somewhat surprised" by the predominantly white casting at many of them. "I understand the idea it's based on. It's almost as though each girl is a clothes hanger. If each is seen as being the same, you're not going to focus on the girl, you're going to be focused on the clothes."

Often it's the celebrity designers, not the ready-to-wear or couture ones, who are willing to use a wider range of models, Barker said. "Showing different girls of different shapes and ethnicities involves taking a risk and some are not willing to take that risk."

More often than not, diverse casting was not the norm. Steven Kolb, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, said the variety of ethnicities in Phillip Lim's and Diane von Furstenberg's shows jumped out at him.

"There were a lot of different types of ethnicities. Is it any different than in past seasons? That's a hard thing to compare. But it has been fairly white. Theirs was more the exception than the rule," said Kolb.

"Is that a reflection of the shows or modeling? Is it intentional? I don't think so. The fashion industry has always been known to have a real mix of people," added Kolb.

Patti LaBelle, who performed after Zang Toi's fashion show, said, "When you go to a fashion show, you may see one black model. It's so sad that it's so one-sided. I thought it was so admirable that Zang had so many types of models. When I go to a fashion show, I want to see me."

After the Luca Luca show, Irina Pantaeva said, "I see an Asian girl here and there, but it seems like it has always been that way. It seems like they can't have more than one or two, and it's the same with African-American models."A greater mix seems rudimentary "especially in New York City, the capital of the word, where all types of cultures and classes come together. Fashion in New York City should naturally represent that," she said.

When casting for her show, Kai Milla said she looks for someone interesting and who fits into her clothes. "I think great models are of all ethnicities. We're living in the real world and the real world exists with a real mixed group of people. What we as fashion designers show in magazines and on the runway is really important to young girls because it affects their self image," she said.

Maybe the borderless business is being interpreted in unusual ways.

One executive at a major design firm noted matter-of-factly, "We use all types of girls: English, Irish, American, Swedish. There is always a mix."

Mark Badgley said, "It's true I see many collections where it's one certain look or the girls are made up to look exactly the same. We like a little variety. I think it's nice to use some of the young girls, some of the more established girls. That's always what our shows are kind of about."

After modeling for Temperley, Rosa Cha and others, Solange Wilvert said she didn't think the casting in Bryant Park was drastically different than in seasons past. "Maybe there aren't many black models," she suggested.

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