Voices Rise in Call for Runway Diversity

Clothing represented almost all of the color on the runway during New York City's Fashion Week, Karen Grisby Bates writes at NPR. She says it's time to end racial discrimination on the runway.

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A few models of color walk the runway during the Saint Wobil fashion show in New York City. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Clothing represented the only pop of color on the runways during New York City's Fashion Week, Karen Grisby Bates writes at NPR. She says it's time to end longstanding racial discrimination on the fashion industry's runways.

That lack of diversity has been a perennial problem in the fashion industry — at home and abroad — for at least the past 15 years. And while there may be an Asian or Hispanic girl from time to time (in this industry, everyone is a "girl"), discernibly black girls get token representation if they get it at all.

Twenty-two-year-old Chanel Iman Robinson was named in homage to two of her mother's fashion idols (she doesn't use her last name). She's one of the few in-demand black girls, but even she loses jobs when designers have filled their "black quota."

Chanel Iman told The Sunday Times Magazine in February that sometimes when she goes for casting calls for runway shows, she doesn't get to stay. "A few times I got excused by designers who told me, 'We already found one black girl. We don't need you anymore.' I felt very discouraged," she confessed in the U.K. publication. "When someone tells you, 'We don't want you because we already have one of your kind,' it's really sad."

Read Karen Grisby Bates' entire piece at NPR.

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is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).

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