If anything has radiated from this year’s fashion week season, it’s the ever-growing diversity amongst models. More than ever, the global fashion industry seems to be embracing individual, quirky faces, weighing up for traditional “model characteristics” with a portfolio of show-stopping uniquenesses. So-called “street casting” (where non-models are picked up from the streets, or picked amongst friends or online) has become a de-facto strategy at NY/LA cult label Eckhaus Latta as well as Vetements, whose models are often found on social media by the brand’s house stylist, Lotta Volkova. The “style” of this casting (each model unique from the other, each evoking a different element or interpretation of the brand) has disseminated to the rest of the industry, and a glimpse at this season’s faces gives a clear impression. At Balenciaga, girls of all shades took the runway without any apparent make-up (taking the “no make-up make-up”-trend to new, tired-looking heights); at Michael Kors, mature models like Carolyn Murphy and Malgosia Bela walked alongside supers like Bella Hadid and plus-size model Ashley Graham; and most impressively, Dolce & Gabbana enrolled an army of mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, boyfriends, girlfriends, toddlers, and babes-in-arms for their recent Milan show, what critic Sarah Mower described as “a tribe of international millennials, members of European royal families, and so many generations of music, acting, and celebrity dynasties that a seventeen-page identification document was distributed to the press before the show.” Casting is a way for a brand to narrate their brand beyond the mere clothes, playing on our identification with beauty, ugliness, coolness, awkwardness, celebrity, affect, and everything in between. “The character of people is the important thing to us,” said Stefano Gabbana after the show. “We’ve had an attraction to this from the very beginning—our first show in the mid-1980s was on real people. The message is: You need to accept yourself as you are. That’s it!”
Casting is political because it is the direct mirror of social representation, and it is in this regard that casting anno 2017 has made most quantum-leaps. The internet has, for example, developed a rigorous platform for collectively calling out designers who only cast white models – and representation of people of color on the catwalks is slowly growing across the fashion capitals. Of course, in these tumultuous times, it is fashionable to be politically and socially engaged, but we shouldn’t dismiss the current inclusivity of fashion casting as a pure fad: the celebration of diversity at brands like Gypsy Sports and Telfar undoubtedly shaking up the industry. Simultaneously, models are claiming a position in the public eye as vocal activists: most notably, stunning Hanne Gaby Odiele has come out as spokesperson for children born intersex, while Hari Nef continues to fight for trans people’s right in the fashion industry. It all suggests that models are no longer “modeling” an anonymous, homogenous idea of beauty – but that instead, they represent a range of human desirability.
All images courtesy of Vogue.com