Where did the diversity go? London Fashion Week AW 16

On the closing of London Fashion Week 2016 and after New York Fashion Week being considered the most diverse in recent history (pictured below), we expected to see some great statements by designers on this side of the pond.

So, we watched all of the shows through a feminist critical lens, considering the diversity and representation of models in terms of ethnicity, body size, age, dis/ability, and gender. In terms of visual culture, we viewed the designs of garments critically to interpret any challenges of social constructions or socio-political messages.

What we found…

Representative body size – Absent

Representative age – Absent

Disability – Absent

Ethnicity – Almost absent

In terms of ethnicity, we can celebrate that almost half (14/32) of the models selected for the Bora Aksu show were non-white. Although this comes after a backlash against the lack of ethnic diversity in his SS16 show where the models were overwhelmingly white compared to the amount of selected non-white models.

In comparison to this, the majority of designers showcasing this week greatly lacked a genuine representation of ethnic diversity amongst their selection of models. Of 23 models, designer 1205 cast 2 Asian and 21 white models. Rejina Pyo and Pringle of Scotland seemed to tokenise models of colour, with Rejina Pyo selecting 2 Asian and 1 black model and Pringle selecting 2 black models, with all other models cast being white. This pattern trended throughout the majority of the designers’ castings, with Aksu being the only designer to demonstrate a large proportion of ethnically diverse models.

In terms of visual culture and garment design, concepts of gender featured strongly. Christopher Raeburn and Paul Smith featured more stereotypically masculine designs for their womenswear collections. Gender fluidity had a distinct presence within the Phoebe English and Claire Barrow collections, where genderless garments were modelled on males and females.

Claire Barrow was also the only designer to feature the only normal/plus sized model on an LFW catwalk, and the only designer to make explicit statements about gender and gender fluidity.

We also noted that flat shoes continued to trend (thank god, we can still walk throughout Autumn/Winter 16) and the nipple was freed by Sibling, Barbara Casasola and Felder Felder.

Our round-up: LFW disappoints with an abysmal array of diversity. Whiteness, thinness and youth is trending…Again! There is still no space for disability, ethnic diversity and normal body size on London’s catwalks. Diversity seems to be a trend that simply cannot stay, and for now we will have to stick with New York Fashion Week. However, the statements made by designers such as Claire Barrow and Phoebe English leave us hopeful of the continued challenging of gender norms and stereotypes on catwalks for seasons to come.

Tell us what you think and leave a comment!

Written by Holly C

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