Blacks will play a significant role during New York Fashion Week, but we’re not just talking about gowns or furs. Black people are poised to make a major splash this season—whether it be on the runway, on the front row or behind the scenes.
“It’s no secret that the world looks to Black culture not just for inspirations on the runway, but for up and coming designer labels,” said Zoey Washington, a celebrity stylist and senior Style Editor at Brit + Co, a San Francisco based digital media and commerce company, who has done stints with Elle, Vogue and People Style Watch. “It’s a time for Black culture to be in the forefront whether people recognize it or not.” It starts with the models, who are responsible for selling the garments.
Bethann Hardison, who has led the charge to diversify the runway, is pleased with what she considers a recent upswing in diverse models. Hardison famously wrote a scathing letter to the fashion industry in 2007 chastising designers and casting directors for failing to include diverse models in fashion shows. She hasn’t stopped the effort and her work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Last year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America sent a letter to the fashion community encouraging diverse model castings. Hardison considered that a major victory and she’s looking for that push to continue.
“There are a lot of nice girls around,” Hardison said of the current crop of diverse models. “The designers are not afraid to take on women of color. They are doing covers of magazines.” Hardison noticed the upswing last year—particularly with designers like Zac Posen who featured more than a half dozen Black models with natural hair and dark complexions walking his show. “We’re in a good place, we’ll see who shows who this season.”
Hardison said she is not looking for a day when runway shows are entirely comprised of Black models. She simply wants representation that mirrors the world.
Washington credits Hardison’s efforts for greater representation on the runway. “It has been very much felt,” she said. “You are seeing a whole new crop of Black models in the fashion world that you haven’t seen in the past four years.”
Another place that has seen growth among people of color is among front row guests, fashion editors and designers. Arienne Thompson, MoKi Media director of PR and former USA Today fashion reporter, is also a veteran of Fashion Week. She remembers when fashion week wasn’t as diverse, which was as recent as a couple of years ago.
“I remember walking into a show and being the only Black person on your row and thinking to myself ‘hmm, one of these things is not like the other,’” she said from her Washington, D.C. office. “Diversity is important because seeing reality is important. You’re in New York, what you are seeing is a cross section of America.
“When you step into those tents you want to get at least a slice of that. I understand that fashion is fantasy, art and aspirational. I feel there is nothing more aspirational then to be surrounded by diversity. What is more aspirational than the feeling that you belong in the room.”
And this season, Black designers will be on everyone’s lips in New York. Washington mentioned “buzzy” designers Tracy Reese, LaQuan Smith and the rumors of Kanye West’s creative director, Virgil Abloh, replacing Riccardo Tisci as creative director at Givenchy. “You’re seeing our faces in every layer of the system,” Washington said. “Obviously it could be more, but it’s definitely changing.”
Not going to New York this season? There’s no better place to follow all the action than on social media. Follow these accounts of influencers, designers and models for first-hand access from the front row to the show room.
Stevie Boi: The Baltimore-based designer known for his eyewear designs and recent ready to wear offerings has celebrity fans like Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Beyonce. This year’s collection, “Noir,” will have a darker, edgier feel, he said. @sbshades
LaQuan Smith: The designer known for his sexy dress designs is a favorite of Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian and Kelly Rowland. @laquan_smith
Dom Streater: The Philadelphia-based designer and “Project Runway” alum has been showing consistently in New York since her 2013 win on the reality show. @domstreater
Tracy Reese: The Detroit-native known for her use of prints and for dressing Michelle Obama, is keeping her tight lip about her collection this season. Last season, she celebrated all women casting models of all shapes, shades and ages. Expect her to follow suit in New York. @tracy_reese
Kanye West: The rapper and producer turned fashion designer also creates buzz in New York. A scheduling conflict with Marchesa solidified that the controversial celebrity would once agin be the talk of the town. @kanyewest
Virgil Abloh: The creative director for Kanye West has also turned heads running the Milan-based fashion label Off-White. Most recently he’s been rumored as the possible next head of Givenchy. @virgilabloh
June Ambrose: The celebrity stylist and costume designer is a front row fixture in New York. You’ll find her impeccably dressed at every show from Jenny Packham to Prabal Gurung. @juneambrose
Claire Sulmers: The founder of Fashion Bomb Daily is at all the shows offering sartorial commentary. @clairesulmers
Pat McGrath: The British make-up artist is arguably the top make-up artist in the world. She’s the current design director for P&G Beauty. @patmcgrathreal
Andre Leon Talley: The famed fashion personality—and former American editor-at-largeat Vogue–will be at all the top shows. @andreltalley
Edward Enninful: The fashion editor at W magazine, Enninful is responsible for some of the most icon fashion spreads of our time. @edward_enninful
Mangue Banzima: The photographer captures all the top trendsetting Fashion Week attendees. @ quistyle
Models To Follow
Whether it be the makeup chair or the runway, models have the best access of anyone during fashion week. Follow these social media accounts for every strut, stitch and sashay.
Adwoa Aboah: The British beauty has walked for the likes of DKNY and Alexander Wang. The freckle-faced model is also on the cover of Vogue’s March issue. @Adwoaaboah
Binx Walton: The American model has landed campaigns with YSL, Rag & Bone and Chanel. @BinxWalton
Lineisy Montero: In 2014, the Dominican model was the first black model to walk for Prada since Naomi Campbell did in 1994. Since then, she’s walked for top designers like Moschino and J.W. Anderson. She’s also appeared in campaigns for Chanel and Givenchy. @LineisyMontero
Londone Myers: Signed to The Lions Model Management, the Washington, D.C.-native has landed campaigns with Ralph Lauren, Express and H&M. She’s also walked for Coach, Marc Jacobs and Saint Laurent. @LondoneMyers
Joan Smalls: The Puerto Rican model is considered one of the best in the world. When she’s not paling around with the likes of Beyonce, she’s burning the runway for Givenchy, Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci and Oscar de la Renta. @joansmalls
Jourdan Dunn: Since making her debut in 2007 for Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren, the British model has been in campaigns for Burberry, Balmain and DKNY. She’s also a fixture on the runway walking for Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. @jourdandunn
Liris Crosse: Considered the Naomi Campbell of plus size models, Crosse has walked for Byron Lars and during the “Project Runway” finale show. @lirisc
Maria Borges: The Angolan model made waves when she rocked a short natural hairdo at the Victoria’s Secret show last year. @iammariaborges
Jasmine Tookes: The American supermodel wore the $3 million Fantasy Bra at the recent Victoria’s Secret show. She usually walks for big names like Ralph Lauren each season. @jastookes
Naomi Campbell: The legendary supermodel of all times continues to slay the runway for everyone from Diane Von Furstenberg to La Perla . She also announced that she will be conducting her own model diversity audit of this year’s shows. @iamnaomicampbell
Chanel Iman: The American supermodel, who recently added acting to her resume with the film “Dope,” appeared in a spread in Vogue Italia’s November issue. On the runway, she’s a regular for Jeremy Scott. @chaneliman