We’re not really a fashion site, we don’t dedicate any articles to the hottest fall trends, and we certainly aren’t about to start selling merchandise on our homepage at all. But we don’t hate fashion, in fact we love what a powerful platform it is and how there are people within this billion dollar industry making strategic moves in the name of diversity and change.
One of those people is designer Carrie Hammer who over the past few years during New York Fashion Week has single-handedly given us a reason to tune into this bi-annual event in the big apple. First she made history in February 2014 when her show that season featured the first model in a wheelchair to go down the famed NYFW runway. Then later that year during the fall season, she did it again with her signature show ‘Role Models not Runway Models’ by featuring a quadruple amputee in her lineup, another first for the fashion event.
But she wasn’t done yet. Earlier this year during the Spring NYFW, her now-famous show featured actress Jamie Brewer from ‘American Horror Story’ who also happened to be the first down syndrome to walk during a NYFW show. Needless to say she has firmly cemented her mark on the elite fashion crowd of New York who are more used to seeing gaunt, Caucasian women with zero personality on the runway.
Carrie’s mission to bring a diverse range of women in society to this industry stage is hitting home in a powerful way. Now we have come to expect something exciting and ground-breaking from every show she does! During the Fall NYFW, once again she brought her signature theme of real life female role models to the stage, and shunned the use of industry-standard fashion models.
She made sure to include different races, ages, body types as well as career choices. Some of the women in the lineup included comedian and disability advocate Maysoon Zayid, Olympic Figure Skater Meryl Davis, LaNeice Collins, communications advisor at the United Nations, Teri Whitcraft, ABC News senior producer, Michelle Herrera Mulligan, editor in chief of Cosmo For Latinas, Deb Curtis, vice president of American Express, Lauren Levinson, beauty editor at Popsugar, June Cohen the director of TED Media, Chanel Cathey, Viacom director of corporate communications, and many more badass women killing it in their respective careers.
In an interview with Refinery29, Carrie shares the heart of her mission, which she hopes to eventually take further than the United States.
“I would love to see us really expand the definition of beauty. Right now, it’s extremely narrow and one-dimensional. It’s time to expand the definition of beauty beyond skin-deep to include our passion, our purpose, and our accomplishments so that it encompasses all of our dynamism,” she said.
As each woman walked down the runway, a projector screen behind them identified who she was and what her job was. Finally a show that put a personality behind what are normally seen as anonymous clothes horses.
This season’s show was held at a Mercedes Benz dealership and was also sponsored by Dove. Carrie says she eventually wants to take her Role Models Not Runway Models concept around the world to every major fashion week, and that is something we hope will happen soon. Let’s face it, we aren’t in danger of having TOO much diversity in fashion and entertainment any time soon.
A recent study conducted by The Fashion Spot examined just how diversity was faring in women’s fashion print ads for Fall 2015, and just a heads up, things don’t look good right now. 84.7% of the models cast were white, 6.2% were Asian, 4.4% were black, and only 1.7% were Latina.
Furthermore, the top 10 most booked models for the Fall 2015 print campaigns were 90 percent white, out of the 707 model appearances, plus-size women were only cast 11 times, and transgender models were the least represented.
So why is Carrie Hammer’s show so important? Because she is the leader in a very, very small group. Her diverse showcases are the exception, not the rule, and we need more designers and industry leaders to start thinking like her.
Another designer who did exhibit signs of changing the status quo was Rachel Comey who also shunned the regular round of agency-booked models and went with a lineup of unique, extraordinary and diverse women for her Spring 2016 collection. They included yoga teachers, artists, dancers, and actresses and out of the 42 women total, only 7 were regular models.
It probably helped that her show was based around the them of Ecofeminism. In a press release, it was noted that the designer had “[taken] inspiration from a passage in Judith Plant’s essay entitled The Circle is Gathering. [The collection offers] insight into an idea of…women’s connection nature’s power to create.”
It shouldn’t take some special theme for any designer to want to deviate form the norm. Because in case we have forgotten, everyday people are the ones who buy and wear fashion, so why not represent them as much as possible?! Carrie Hammer is proving a fashion house doesn’t need an excuse to cast a role model, instead of a fashion model. Why not use the runway as a vehicle to inspire audiences at the same time while showcasing the latest fashion!
We are always excited to see certain industries getting disrupted by a small group of people. Fashion has been around for so long that we aren’t under any assumption it is going to change overnight. It will take a collective effort for the status quo to be diversity, to be inclusivity, not just one narrow standard of beauty that then becomes a dangerous trickle down to all areas of society.