We Want the D.
Deconstruction of rigid beauty standards, and a sprinkling of Diversity, please.
‘Diversifying is not difficult. The resistance to do so is intriguing.’
It all started with a plaster.
A pinky ‘flesh toned’ plaster. As I stared at my boyfriend’s wounded arm, I noted the effortless camouflage of the little plaster. It was a perfect colour match. The satisfaction of seeing such a perfect match was quickly subsided by a single thought: what if I had to wear a plaster? I looked down at my caramel-cocoa skin and then back to the plush pink plaster. There was no way that was going to match, and they only make one colour. One colour is standard. Then I thought, but what about people darker than me? What about people lighter than my boyfriend? What of golden, freckled or chalky skin? They need plasters too.
Of course, this was a ridiculous reason to fret; nobody can expect a rainbow of plasters to pick from every time they get a papercut. The problem isn't with plasters. The problem is in the wider implications of standardisation.
Endless campaigns within the fashion industry for diversity have certainly challenged the rigid beauty standard mould. Vogue Italia led the way back in 2011 with their ‘True Beauty’ campaign featuring a trio of stunning full-figured models. Three years later, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o graced us with her striking Vogue cover.
Despite these achievements, the world of fashion still lacks diversity. To tackle the issue further, supermodel veterans Bethann Hardison, Naomi Campbell and Iman Abdulmajid founded the Diversity Coalition: a campaign to diversify runways. In 2014, the coalition actively named and shamed design houses such as Versace for their ‘lack of conduct in being racially diverse’.
It seems the industry is strutting in the right direction, but progress is slow. Diversity on the runway is but a façade. Just 21% of models used during New York Fashion week’s Fall2014 showcase were non-Caucasian. This is surely an unacceptable misrepresentation of the vibrant metropolis whose population, according to the 2008 U.S. Census, is 55% non-Caucasian.
The demographics of New York and its runways may seem a world away, but as always with the fashion industry, what starts at the top infiltrates its way to the bottom. High-street beauty favourite Rimmel London released a campaign video for their Match Perfection foundation. Alongside an afro-haired beauty and a lusciously locked ginger, Georgia May Jagger poses proficiently, enchanting us to ‘get the London look’. Three beautiful models depicting different takes on beauty standards is a rather effective advert, and shows a glimmer of diversity in the industry. Unfortunately, the glimmer is just a glimmer. Rimmel’s Match Perfection comes in eight colours, yet the darkest is just two shades lighter than May Jagger - the exact shade of my boyfriend’s pink plaster. The façade of diversity strikes again.
H&M, one of the leading high-street brands for racial diversity uses models originating from all over the globe. This is encouraging within the industry, but what about different types of diversity? The company boasts a superb plus size collection, however, it contains 10x less clothing than their ‘straight size’ range.
The esteemed Mango also offers a selection of larger clothes in their Violeta range. While this is fantastic, it is astounding that their plus collection begins at a UK size 12. When the national average is a size 16, what exactly are the implications here?
It seems there’s a long way to go, but ‘diversifying is not difficult’. So while we wait for the industry to step into 21st century and sort itself out with more racial and body representation and the deconstruction of the beauty archetype, let us remember our individual beauty. Let us celebrate ourselves and each other. In an ideal society, clothes would come in more than 5 standard sizes, and plasters would come in more than one standard colour.
Eventually the fashion industry will catch up, and recognise the beauty of diversity.