Bethann Hardison has seen change during her decades of championing diversity, but knows she has to keep at it.
The activist spoke about “Balancing Diversity in the Fashion Industry” Monday afternoon at HQ NYFW at The Shows. Hardison has been honored with the CFDA’s Founders award for her activism. All too familiar with how the issue of race is a systematic problem throughout the country, Hardison emphasized the importance of keeping the dialogue open.
She said she cares foremost about reaching designers because they tend to be the most influential in the whole equation that their respective ads and runways shows are often the most impressionable with consumers. “The more designers use people of color, any color, not just African-American, Negro or black models, the better,” Hardison said.
Céline’s Phoebe Philo earned high marks from Hardison for featuring Karly Loyce in her fall advertising, after the designer had been “called out” for not using a diverse range of models.
But apparently there is more work to be done, according to a recent survey by the FashionSpot, which crunched the numbers after taking into account 460 fall 2015 print ads. Based on that study, nearly 85 percent of the models featured are white, which is approximately the same percentage that the site reported in previous seasons. Asian models represented about 6.2 percent, black models accounted for 4.4 percent and Latina models comprised 1.7 percent. Compared to tallies based on the spring 2015 campaigns, both black and Latina models were cast in fewer campaigns. However, Asian models saw a slight uptick of 5.7 percent for fall ad placement compared to the spring season.
TheFashionSpot report also referenced the fact that Roberto Cavalli, Sandro, Dior Secret Garden, Sam Edelman, Lucky Brand Jeans, Kimora Lee Simmons and Alexis Bittar exclusively cast models of color. The description of models of color refers to those who appear to be nonwhite or of mixed backgrounds. In analyzing the fall ads, theFashionSpot included celebrities who were featured in fall campaigns.
Many of the 75 or so attendees at Monday’s talk asked Hardison how they might individually start to make a difference. Her advice was to first make a friend of a different color than your own. She also told them, “You can do me a favor: learn to travel, get out of your borough, get out of your state, get out of your country — travel. That way you won’t feel so compelled to do what’s around you.”
Reached Monday night, Hardison said her activism isn’t about to simmer down any time soon. “It’s definitely not over.” she said.