I was initially sucked in. Legs encased in vinyl boots resembling chocolate-dipped confections; flowery embellishments strung across guipure lace and topped off with fluid plastic capes; seventies-era sequin jumpsuits that feel equal parts right and wrong. Is this couture as relevant, again? I wondered for a hot second, browsing Dior’s Spring Couture 2015 collection and finding the design itself to be refreshingly modern, accessibly inspirational.
Tim Blanks of Style.com appeared certain of this relevance, writing that Raf Simons, current mastermind of Dior is “keen to create connections for couture that wire it to the wider world.” Like the designer’s inspiration, David Bowie, Blanks goes on to deem Simons a “medium,” an accurate title that only makes his lack of awareness for the world he’s catering to all the more troubling.
Where are the non-white models? Zooming back to reality, or the lack thereof in the collection, I ran through the collection again. Two black models and one Asian in a showing of 54 looks—so, essentially, a sea of white women. Is that wired to the wider world? Not so much. Not even to the fashion world, which—while still overwhelmingly driven by white people—is at least slightly more representative of diversity at large. Shiona Turini, Robin Givhan, Bethann Hardison, Liu Wen, Eva Chen, Caroline Issa—just a handful of non-white faces in the industry—what do they see when they view these collections? Is the artistry of it all enough to blind them to their lack of representation? And what of the men and women at home, ogling the designs from afar, only to find that it’s not simply a lack of funds or notoriety which keeps them at arm’s length?
This topic has been brought forth before, but like other trends, it goes in and out of fashion. Currently it appears totally off the radar, making the lack of progress unsurprising but not understandable. I truly believe that if the editors and reviewers who attend these shows would make it their duty to fuss more, the fashion world would be in a more progressive place. One voice, especially one that harbors significant power in the industry, actually does have the ability to create some change here. So imagine the effect that a group would have! But these voices stay silent, or simply retreat when the topic loses its popularity. They continue on, attending and remarking, happy to assert their ambivalence towards the cut of a dress, but seemingly afraid to remark on the blatant whitewashing of the world they work and play in.
It’s not a “lack of models,” it’s an accepted ignorance—the choice of comfort over powerful, necessary change. It’s not excusable, and it renders the designers who promote it to be entirely out of touch.