At the close of the Spring 2018 season, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour observed that diversity on the runways finally felt like the rule, not the exception: “It was a giant step forward and I think that those who have spoken up in the past publicly should really be given a lot of credit. And I hope that those that did not follow suit will now recognize that fashion has a responsibility to be in step with the times and not persist in portraying a one-note way of looking at women.”
In a post-New York Fashion Week interview with Paper magazine, casting director James Scully — one of those who has often “spoken up” publicly regarding diversity (or lack thereof) on the runways — echoed Wintour’s remarks: “I have to say in all the years I’ve been in this business, it was definitely the most diverse on every level. Besides size and color and age, there was a big showing of trans girls this season and Teddy Quinlivan coming out … I don’t even know what to say, I’m so surprised at how diverse it was.”
Wintour and Scully are right: times are unquestionably changing. In Spring 2018, race, age, body and transgender representation on the runways reached an all-time high. It’s important not to exaggerate the level of progress, however. There’s still much work to be done. See below.
Transgender visibility saw a significant lift, too. For Spring 2018, there were 45 transgender women castings and 4 non-binary model appearances across 47 (for the most part, major) runways. That’s by far the largest figure we’ve seen since we first started tallying the numbers in 2015. By comparison, Fall 2017 saw only 12 such castings, confined to 5 — again, big-name — shows. The prior season had only 10 transgender model appearances, the season before that 8.
Whereas all 12 of Fall 2017’s transgender and non-binary model appearances occurred in New York, Spring 2018 saw 10 trans and non-binary castings in Paris, 7 in Milan and 1 in London.
In recent times, it has become (slightly) easier for those who identify as transgender, non-binary or gender nonconforming to break into the fashion industry thanks to increasingly mainstream advocacy on the part of activists like Hari Nef, Laverne Cox and Andreja Pejic. Spring 2018’s massive uptick in transgender and non-binary castings shouldn’t be attributed to a sudden leveling of the playing field, though. Rather, it’s a testament to the success of model Teddy Quinlivan, discovered by Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière back in 2015.
After two years of strutting just about every major catwalk and fronting campaigns for Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors and more, Quinlivan publicly revealed her transgender identity in a September 13 interview with CNN Style. “There are not a lot of openly trans people in media, and I think it’s really important to show people that not only am I trans, I’m (also) very successful and good at what I do,” stated the model. Indeed, she is. The 23-year-old accounted for over half (27) of the season’s transgender model castings, including all those that took place in Milan and all but one in Paris. It’s heartening to see that Quinlivan’s honesty did not diminish her prospects.
Quinlivan helped boost Spring 2018’s percentage of transgender women and non-binary model appearances to 0.59, a record high. Of the European shows we examined*, only two featured a transgender woman or non-binary model that wasn’t Quinlivan: transgender model Hunter Schafer walked at Versus Versace in London and non-binary model Jude Karda at Anrealage in Paris.
New York, on the other hand, had a fair share of non-Quinlivan transgender (17) and non-binary (3) castings, including Stav Strashko at Tome, Dara Allen at Marc Jacobs, Schafer at Hood By Air and R13, Massima Lei at Coach 1941 and Sies Marjan and Leyna Bloom, Aurel Haize Odogbo, Carmen Carrera, Maya Monès and Geena Rocero at Chromat.
Additionally, thanks to the aforementioned New York designers, people of color constituted 10 of the 49 transgender and non-binary castings and a transgender, nonwhite model over 50 (Sophia Lamar) walked in one of the most talked-about shows of the month, Helmut Lang. Thus, though a tall, white, willowy, cisgender-presenting model accounted for the majority of gender-inclusive castings, it’s clear the industry is not only moving beyond exclusion, it’s moving beyond tokenism. (Again, at least in New York.)