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  • Valentina Solci

New York Fashion Week Spring 2021 Highlights Diversity and Inclusivity

Responding to the Pandemic and Preparing for the New Year with a Rise in Different Perspectives

“The beauty of being a woman in 2020,” said Zozibini Tunzi, Miss Universe’s 2019 titleholder, originally from South Africa, “is that you can do whatever the hell you want and still look fabulous at it.” When speaking on NYFW: The Shows’ “Evolving Standard of Beauty” panel, hosted by Bozoma Saint John, the Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix, Tunzi, 27, recalls her navigation through the beauty and fashion industries, and how the complete representation of all peoples and all colors is critical to a young girl’s self-esteem. She says, “Growing up watching TV and not being able to see myself reflected in the media, not being able to have people to look up to as my role models, it really does something to somebody, especially a young girl, if you don't see yourself out there and so I really do believe that we can be what we can’t see.” The panel highlighted three other recent beauty pageant titleholders of color, each representing different experiences and, thus, different viewpoints, but collectively united by aiding the industry’s continued drive towards inclusivity.

As a response to the recent uproar of support for the Black Lives Matter movement in addition to the ongoing pandemic and the upcoming November elections, digital fashion week took on a more meaningful approach by showcasing minority designers and various types of models to strut their garments. From designers of color working with Black in Fashion Council to transgender and disabled models, viewers were better able to identify themselves through the figures chosen to showcase these new collections.

When speaking of beauty pageantry and media representations, Cheslie Kryst, a licensed attorney and the titleholder of Miss America 2019, says “not only can there be more than one of us, there can be five out of five.” Over the decades, fashion has been notorious for being a “white washed” industry gracing us with only one or two minority models on the runway, let alone any plus size, non binary, disabled, or older models. This, however, has taken a shift in recent years with consumer demand forcing designers to rethink the way they cast their models and create their marketing campaigns.

Although advocates of diversity reports, such as The Fashion Spot, Fashionista, and Business of Fashion, have not yet published a full on analysis regarding this season’s NYFW diversity statistics, viewers and fashion lovers can appreciate, what seems to be, a more diverse model cast in comparison to last season’s “plummet in size and gender inclusivity”, as reported by The Fashion Spot. NYFW: The Shows provided digital attendees with back-to-back panels and social media posts focusing on diversity and the “new” faces of beauty. On one of NYFW: The Shows’ Instagram posts showing a clip of Alice and Olivia’s vibrant dancers of color wearing masks, Instagrammer, @madamvnyc, couldn’t help but comment, “I can’t be screaming like this at work...get it ladies!”

Fashion advocates and creators that are changing the name of the game on beauty, will have to recall Tunzi’s wise words when she says, “beauty is not just an outer thing, it’s an aura and what you present to the world”. This message helps lead the way to the potential future of fashion, which will have to reach a point where vital topics, like sustainability, ethics, and diversity, are a moral norm as opposed to a demand from consumers. For now, though, this season’s set of designers proved to be promising of this future as we slowly pave way into the new year.



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