Haute couture, low representation: luxury brands and the question of diversity


Content Disclaimer: brief mention of suicide

Luxury fashion is often associated with exclusivity rather than inclusiveness. It is therefore undeniably refreshing to see more diverse bodies recently. The industry is more diverse than ever, with an increase in the number of tall, disabled, transgender and colored people walking the catwalks and appearing in advertising campaigns. However, this change raises the issue of tokenism; are brands simply choosing more diverse models to present themselves as an inclusive brand? The public is demanding real change and challenging the luxury fashion industry to do away with its toxic history of promoting unrealistic standards. We want to see our body types represented on catwalks and in the countryside, but knowing that this representation goes beyond simply filling quotas and increasing sales, for the commitment to true diversity.

Are brands simply choosing more diverse models to present themselves as an inclusive brand?

The rise of social media platforms in 2010 sparked the modern “body positivity movement”. Luxury fashion brands have come under increasing pressure to be seen as diverse and representative, especially those from backgrounds that are under-represented in the industry. Luxury brands are particularly notorious for promoting unrealistic beauty standards, marketing themselves with one type of model; white female models of size four. With UK studies showing that one in eight adults have suicidal thoughts about their body image, surely it’s time for the fashion industry to change?

Luxury brands have the power to accelerate change and strive for inclusiveness. They have challenged the exclusion on which the industry was based and are more diverse than ever. The most recent season, Spring / Summer 2022, was the most racially diverse, with 48% of the models being people of color. Plus, curvy models have quadrupled since the fall / winter 2021 campaigns. Ellie Goldstein became the first model with Down’s syndrome to win a high-fashion modeling campaign, posing for Gucci’s makeup line. We must recognize how far the luxury fashion industry has come

Diversity in the fashion industry has become a buzzword, raising the question of whether this new diversity is lasting change or just for the sake of being politically correct and avoiding backlash? This has led to a feeling of “symbol” in the industry as people wonder if this is a real progression.

Diversity in the fashion industry has become a buzzword, raising the question of whether this new diversity is lasting change.

This month, Tess McMillian made history when she became the first plus-size model to walk the Gucci runway at the Gucci Love Parade. It’s long overdue, but we have to ask ourselves if McMillian’s size fourteen (smaller than the national average) is really a plus size. Fashion currently classifies “plus size” models as any size twelve years or older. With almost half of UK women measuring sixteen or older, does that really encompass diversity? Size fourteen model Jill Kortleve featured in the Chanel 2020 campaign as a ‘plus size’ caused a stir as audiences took to Twitter, with one user writing, ‘She’s literally a full-sized woman – a medium. Ugh the fashion world… ‘. We have to ask ourselves if these luxury brands see body diversity as nothing more than an opportunistic exercise in public relations and image.

The question of symbolism is embodied in the fact that despite luxury brands having various models on the catwalks and in the countryside, women still struggle to find clothes that fit them well. Myla argues that this is because “high-end fashion brands don’t cater to tall bodies at all because their ideology is that tall bodies don’t like to dress.” We must continue to challenge luxury brands that fail to produce products in the full range of sizes and shapes. When brands are faced with questions about why they don’t manufacture a greater range of sizes, they often cite financial implications. This avoidance is simply not enough.

The question of symbolism is embodied in the fact that despite luxury brands having various models on the catwalks and in the countryside, women still struggle to find clothes that fit them well.

It’s fair to say that luxury fashion has a long way to go before it achieves true diversity. Despite the progress, the industry is still lagging behind on the path to inclusiveness. Luxury brands must redouble their efforts to drive change and open up new opportunities. Additionally, the idea of ​​symbolism remains blatant, especially with the supposed taller models only being a size fourteen – smaller than the national average. Luxury brands need to emphasize that diversity is not just a ‘trend’ or a numbers game, but it’s here to stay. I hope consumer activism and social media will inspire brands to embrace lasting change. The more diversity there is in the fashion industry, the better. After all, we all have different bodies and height is just a number. While we all undeniably champion diversity in the luxury fashion industry, we all thrive in a more inclusive fashion community.


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