From Exclusivity to Inclusivity: Modeling's New Age


Nov. 14 2023, Published 12:45 a.m. ET

The fashion industry has long downplayed the value of diversity and inclusion. The runways, in particular, have been a show of utterly narrow and unrealistic beauty standards, underrepresenting or even outright excluding groups like people of color and plus-size models.

However, in recent years, several movements have cultivated some hope for inclusion in the highly preserved and gatekept industry as they advocate for equitable representation of diverse groups.

Fueled by the growing awareness of the importance of representation and the spirited push from influential fashion icons, these movements are gradually winning the war. Here’s how diversity and inclusion are transcending in the modeling industry, especially on runways.

Diversity and Inclusion on the Runways

The runways are the pinnacle of fashion expression, and the models chosen dictate the industry norms and trends. With their immense power, they have taken on the responsibility of promoting diversity within the industry by setting the right trends and standards for the rest to follow.

Lately, a spark has been lit in the fashion industry with the increasing presence of previously sidelined groups, even on the catwalks of prominent designers. This increase shows the industry's evolving approach to beauty and appreciation of diversity.

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The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is a clear depiction of this transformation. It has featured several black models in recent years, and in 2023, it added Black designers to the team. The show also included models with Down syndrome, sending a powerful message of inclusivity and representation.

Due to such initiatives, designers are embracing diversity, creating runways that reflect our multicultural world. Brands like Pyer Moss, for instance, have added Black models to their shows and are organizing events to celebrate Black fashion. They are challenging traditional beauty standards and redefining what it means to be a fashion icon.

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Black Models

Black models are now reclaiming their rightful spot on the runways after decades of absence. Massive credit goes mainly to the Black Lives Matter movement for this incredible transformation. It has played a pivotal role in breaking down barriers and sensitizing the masses and corporations on the value of equal representation across all industries.

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The movement is challenging the systemic prejudices that have been sidelining Black people in the fashion industry, allowing the beauty of black skin to flourish in the fashion scene. As a result, designers and casting agencies are seeking out black models to showcase their beauty in their exhibitions.

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This global exposure is consequently ushering Black models — Adut Akech, Winnie Harlow, Leomie Anderson — into mainstream fashion and culture. It’s placing them as monumental figures who deserve a spot in fashion and beauty celebrations. Their appearance in magazines and advertising campaigns is inspiring people from diverse cultures to embrace their unique looks and feel confident in their skin.

Inclusive Initiatives Led by Fashion Icons

The fashion industry is witnessing renowned fashion icons coming out to support initiatives that champion diversity and inclusion. Notable icons like Bethann Hardison are leveraging their status and influence in the beauty industry to challenge common notions of beauty. They have become key actors in initiatives fighting for the place of Black models in the fashion industry, as they mentor and offer them networking opportunities.

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Additionally, big fashion brands like Gucci are creating opportunities to work with these Black fashion icons in their initiatives to boost the presence of Black models' in fashion. With their talent backing and resources, these brands are setting black models up for success through world-class training and exposure.

An All-Inclusive Fashion Future Looking Brighter

The modeling industry is radically transforming, embracing diversity and inclusion with unprecedented determination. Runways are no longer confined to a narrow set of beauty standards. They are now showcasing the beauty and diversity within the global community. These inclusive initiatives are paving the way for the much-deserved representation of all groups worldwide.

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