Article Lead Image

Photo via Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay

Diversity in fashion is better but still terrible, says new survey

The industry still hasn't caught up with its consumers.


Mary Emily O'Hara


Posted on May 6, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 8:01 pm CDT

The fashion industry has a long way to go before it can be called diverse.

According to the latest survey of models featured in spring 2016 ad campaigns, the vast majority of fashion ads stick to the status quo—with not a single transgender model in sight, and very few women of color, plus-size, disabled, or older models represented.

The Fashion Spot analyzed 236 spring 2016 ad campaigns that featured a total of 422 models and found that 78 percent of the models were white. Amazingly, that number was a decrease from the fall—when a stunning 85 percent of campaign models were white. 

But is such a slight increase to be celebrated?

“Our latest Diversity Report shows that the industry is slowly moving towards a more inclusive mindset,” said Fashion Spot Managing Editor Jennifer Davidson in a statement emailed to the Daily Dot.

“Progress is being made when it comes to racial diversity,” she said. “However, we were disappointed to find that plus-size models, women over age 50, and transgender models had far fewer appearances than fall 2015—a confusing setback given the amount of media attention these demographics received this year.”

In the fall season, three transgender models—Andreja Pejic, Valentijn De Hingh, and Hari Nef—were featured in ad campaigns. This spring, zero made the cut.

There was a slight drop in the amount of plus-size models starring in campaigns this spring, too, despite recent gains in visibility due to model Ashley Graham‘s skyrocketing success with the covers of Sports Illustrated, Maxim, Elle, and more. Not a single plus-size model graced billboards or ads in mainstream fashion magazines. Of the 422 models examined, only six were over size 12, and five of those were featured in campaigns for plus-size specialty labels rather than major fashion brands.

Age-wise, fashion celebrated youth more than ever before, with only five women over age 50 featured in spring ad campaigns.

Despite the good news of a very slight increase in racial diversity this spring, the vast majority of fashion campaigns still featured white models. Black women came in second in terms of campaign representation at 8 percent, Asian models were third at about 4 percent, and Latina models made up just under 4 percent of ads. The numbers for other race and ethnicity groups like Native American, Indian, and Middle Eastern were dismal—a tiny 5 percent of models fell into the “other” race category.

But even those small numbers were almost double that of last fall, when under 2 percent of ad models were Latina and only about 4 percent were black. 

Each year, the Fashion Spot survey also highlights a list of fashion brands whose campaigns are completely whitewashed, with zero models of color. This spring’s list includes Forever 21, Versace, Saint Laurent, Miu Miu, and BCBGMaxAzria—companies with campaigns that featured three or more models, all of them white.

Share this article
*First Published: May 6, 2016, 4:00 pm CDT