The political sphere has constantly been the forefront of fashion, with icons such as Jackie Kennedy and now Michelle Obama, the first African American woman to grace the steps of the white house. But, within an industry that prides itself on expression, trends and adherence to the changing times, diversity has not seemed to be one of them, until recently.
Fashion Designer Francis Roces is the co creator behind the Denver based clothing line “Kimono Dragons”, a hybrid line that brings in “a taste of Asian, a sprinkling of retro and twist of modernity”. Roces has been in the fashion industry since he was in high school, and has noticed a change in women of color appearing in the industry since his days of freelancing and sketching.
“People are looking for something different, something new and exciting. [The industry] is starting to look outside of the ‘wonder bread’ box finally”.
Since the presidential inauguration, first lady Michelle Obama and her sense of style has been focused on immensely throughout the fashion industry. Women of color have started to seemingly rise to the forefront of the runways and magazine covers, and it’s possible that this could be contributed to the larger amounts of diversity that has been recently witnessed within the White House. “I believe that Michelle Obama has affected the industry because she has become a focal point. What she wears and how she wears it is focused on, people are always watching what she does” said Roces.
Roces believed that there was more to diversity in the fashion industry than just Michelle Obama in the white house. He expressed that the industry is attempting to pull more creative influences from ethnicities, and “designers that are becoming well known are becoming more innovative and non-traditional”.
Diversity has been a controversial issue in the industry for decades. Numerous reports have argued about the lack of color appearing in fashion shows, on the runways and in Fashion publications. But, within recent years, there has been an upturn in the appearances of models on the runways and fashion magazines. This hike has become more prevalent after Michelle Obama took her seat as the First Lady. Could it be that industry professionals are starting to take notice to this lack of ethnic backgrounds and attempting to rectify the situation? “[Designers] are discovering other cultures and ethnics, and expressing and tapping into them. They want to be able to market to the wears to other cultures” said Roces.
If Michelle Obama isn’t necessarily the main reason for diversity appearing in fashion, then could there be a more behind the scenes outlook into where diversity is appearing. Fashion designers themselves could be the cause for streams of skin color appearing in the Fashion industry. Recently, new designers, such as Thakoon and Vera Wang, who are from ethnic backgrounds themselves, could be attempting to add diversity into the industry, and Michelle Obama could just be the one in the forefront of it all.
Roces expressed that the “onslaught of new Asian designers are starting to bring more Asian models almost to the status of supermodel. [But] there is also Tyra Banks and Iman doing their shows as well, which shows you more women of color within the Industry. It stems to the music industry also, with Beyonce’ and her line ‘House of Dereon’, she brings plus size models and women of color to the front as well. Models don’t have to be a size zero or only Caucasian anymore.”