Activism On The Runway

Earlier this year, at February’s NYFW shows, designers were not afraid to make a political statement on the runways. For example, designer, Prabal Gurung, was so inspired by Hilary Clinton’s 2016 campaign that his models strutted down the runway in feminist tees that read “The future is female” along with other quotes supporting feminism. During the final walk, Gurung himself stepped on the runway in his own political tee that read “This is what a feminist looks like.” Gurung wasn’t the only designer that was inspired by the recent election. Public School models rocked red “Make America New York” snapbacks that mocked Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America great again”.


Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

It is liberating to see designers exercise their right to freedom of speech publicly and it’s even more liberating when the response is positive to all Americans. In the most recent fashion weeks, politics, feminism, and gender equality were some of the many stances designers took when marching their looks down the runway, but let’s not forget about race. For some, race can be a tough subject to discuss, but sometimes it’s a lot easier to do when you change how it’s discussed. During NYFW15, model and activist, Ashley Chew, put her creativity and knowledge to good use by addressing the ratio imbalance of white models which often outweighs the amount of models of color on the runways. As a black model herself, she shifted the perspective of black models in the industry with 3 things, a luxury bag, white paint, and a paintbrush.

As such, Chew hit the streets of New York and went to the shows sporting a black shoulder purse that read “Black Models Matter” in bold, white paint. Being inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, she quickly grabbed the attention of street photographers and media platforms. Her biggest supporters who also rocked the purse were fashion icons like Beth Ann Hardison, June Ambrose and Zac Posen. Chew’s creativity didn’t just make headlines but it also made fashion history. She started a movement that has now impacted fashion weeks around the world.


Chew rocking her Black Models Matter purse at NYFW 16. Photo by

The movement hit hard during Paris Fashion Week (PFW) this past March. The lack of diversity in fashion has been talked about in the United States for decades and is making slow strides, but the lack of diversity overseas seems to be rarely a topic of discussion. During PFW, U.K. based model, Indi Irvin, protested outside the Balenciaga fashion show topless, wearing a black bomber jacket and black skinny jeans, holding a sign held high that read “Les Modèles Noirs Importent”.  Refinery 29  stated that only 4 out of 47 models were black and according to The Huffington Post, Irvin vocalized her opinion on her Instagram stating that “2017 was a big year, not only politically, but also for my modeling career as it was my first season in the European market,” she wrote. “It is very different here compared to the NYC I’m used to [sic]. February was Black History and March is Women’s so it just felt right.”


Photo by Olivier Degoulange/Shuttersto k/Rex.

Models, activists, editors, and designers that share the same mentality as Chew and Irvin are the leaders that will revolutionize diversity in fashion internationally. It’s great to see known designers like Becca McCharen, Kanye West, and Rihanna, who actively cast models of color on the runways, but it’s going to take more to recognize the lack of diversity in fashion globally. It’s more common to discuss women’s rights, but we cannot forget about the people of different ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and shapes & sizes. Fashion should be a representation of all not some. It’s time that we show the next generation of creatives that everyone deserves equal opportunity.

Here are AMCONYC, we understand that when more diversity is shown on the runways, a larger amount of people get inspired. We choose to use models of different cultures and colors in our shows no matter race, age, gender, or size. Fashion should be a melting pot that embraces all beauties rather than excluding them. The first step to finding a solution for any problem is identifying that there is a problem. Fashion is slowly progressing when it comes down to displaying diversity, and here at AMCOMNYC will continue to shine a light on models of different colors and shades because representation matters!


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