Do Casting Directors Have Diversity Slots?

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Model Estelle Chen spoke out about diversity in the modeling world this week. (Image: Courtesy of Instagram/Instagram)

An alarming — but not completely shocking — trend has come into the spotlight in recent years: the lack of diversity within the fashion world. While this had simply been a silently accepted tendency, it’s been thrust into the public’s eye within the past few years, causing many public figures to try to remedy the problem.

One of the most recent instances of this is an Instagram post from the social media platform’s #RunwayforAll campaign about model Estelle Chen (who recently walked in couture shows in Paris this week). It reveals her struggle with diversity within the fashion industry and claims that casting directors have diversity quotas to fill for each show. “It always seemed like there were only ‘select’ slots available in the shows for models of color, so that was really hard to understand at the beginning,” Estelle, who is of Chinese descent, explains.

While it’s a positive sign that casting directors want to include minorities in their lineup of models, it seems they’ve only allotted a handful of slots available for them, whereas the tall, skinny, white girl, supermodel types have an unlimited number of spots available to them.

While the industry has become more open to diversity, Estelle Chen brings up a valid point that people of color, along with plus-size, differently abled, transgender, and older models, are under-represented.

Don’t believe it? Well, according to the Fall 2016 Runway Diversity Report, 75 percent of models used during the New York, London, Paris, and Milan fashion weeks were white, while only 7 percent were Asian, 9 percent were black, and 2 percent were Hispanic. With numbers like this, it’s clear that diversity is still lacking on couture runways.

However, do these numbers prove that casting directors are following an unwritten rule to only fill a certain number of slots with people of color? Prominent members of the fashion industry have spoken out in support of change, most notably, Diane Von Furstenberg, whose letter to the CFDA urged casting directors to improve their diversity numbers on the runways.

There’s definitely hope for the industry, though. Casting director James Scully (who works with Jason Wu and Carolina Herrera) posted this important message to Instagram after noticing a lack of diversity at Balenciaga’s runway show this past year, proving that things will improve: “So if you’re the designer the whole world is looking to right now how, great that your message is one of exclusion which is never in fashion. It must feel like a slap to all if the people of color who line up to buy your clothes that your message to them you don’t see them in your world.”

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