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Style site Jezebel.com crunches NY Fashion Week model numbers and sees little diversity change

NEW YORK, N.Y. - In the wake of a fresh diversity push among models and under the headline "New York Fashion Week: Diversity Talks But White Faces Walk," the culture and style website Jezebel has already crunched the numbers on the number of models of colour who walked this time around, declaring the math shows little progress.

The site looked at 148 shows during eight days of previews concluding Thursday and found 985 looks were worn by models of colour out of 4,621. That, Jezebel said on its website Friday night, means about 79 per cent of those models were white.

That number is slightly smaller than last season, the site said, but has changed little from roughly 80 per cent of looks worn during New York Fashion Weeks over the past six seasons.

Last September, black models Iman and Naomi Campbell, along with veteran modeling agent Bethann Hardison, launched the Balance Diversity campaign, which included open letters to organizers of fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milan that called out designers whose catwalks were almost entirely white.

They have a new recruit in British model Jourdan Dunn, who told The Guardian recently it's "lazy" for fashion editors to ignore black models based on the argument that they don't sell, according to Jezebel.

Jezebel acknowledged that for a few shows it was difficult to break down models by race because it could not obtain the names of the models who walked. The site scoured photos on Style.com and excluded menswear, breaking the count into black, Asian, Latina and "other," where Middle Eastern women would fall. It counted non-European Latina models as Latina and called its system flawed when considering mixed-race models.

That said, the site estimated 9.75 per cent of the models counted were black, 7.67 per cent were Asian, 2.12 per cent were Latina and .45 per cent were "other."

As is often the case, some models of colour walked for more designers than others. For example, Jezebel said, black models Grace Mahary and Herieth Paul walked in 17 and 13 shows, respectively. For comparison's sake, newer face Leila Nda walked eight. Cindy Bruna, who closed Cushnie et Ochs, walked in nine shows. Asian model Tian Yi was in 13 shows, and Xiao Wen Ju, Sung Hee Kim and Chen Lin were all in 14.

Jezebel said only a few designers used entirely white casts, while others regressed. Calvin Klein, for instance, used five models of colour last season but featured two black models this time around, according to the site.

Last September, Balance Diversity called out by name some industry heavyweights in an open letter to the Council of Fashion Designers of America challenging them to work for more diversity. The designers included Donna Karan, Proenza Schouler, The Row, Victoria Beckham and Klein as among those who used almost no black models in the February shows a year ago.

This time, Jezebel named as designers with diverse casts Diane von Furstenberg, Desigual, Bibhu Mohapatra, Ohne Titel, Pamella Roland, Naeem Khan, Zac Posen and Tracy Reese. Anna Sui and Creatures of the Wind used models of colour to open and close their shows, the site said.

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Jezebel.com's diversity count: http://bit.ly/1bwzebC

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