Opinion: Considering diversity in a fast fashion industry dominated by western traits

Runway fashion has always been dominated by tall, ultra skinny models with western facial features. Over the years, this has become hyperbolized in the fashion industry as models for big brands like Yves Saint Laurent starve themselves for days on end with the dream of walking the runway in a big show. However, some brands are jumpstarting the transition to more accessible fashion that can be worn by anyone, regardless of demographic.

What’s going on?

Take the label Aimé Leon Dore, a brand founded by Theorode Santis in 2014 in the heart of Queens, New York. Even though he just recently arrived at the scene, and has no formal training, Theodore’s brand has become a beloved staple in the streetwear scene with their basic yet elegant chinos, sweaters, and shoes. For the past 7 years, Santis has created clothes that can be worn by anyone. You don’t have to be skinny, nor do you have to be tall, or a certain race, to look good in and enjoy Aimé Leon Dore’s products as intended.

Check out Aimé Leon Dore’s recent Spring/Summer 2021 collection which features models of different social groups, genders and body types here.

Another striking example is the Japanese brand Kapital

Kapital was founded in 1985 by Toshkiyo Harata and his father in the Okayama Prefecture of Japan, with a focus on high-quality Japanese selvage style denim.

Although relatively unnoticed, Kapital has opposed modern views of who can model for high fashion brands by casting elderly people who lack western traits as lead models for their campaigns.

View Kapital’s iconic 2015 Fall/Winter collection which displays this here.

What hasn’t changed?

For starters, the vast majority of brands haven’t made much progress towards being inclusive to different demographics. And to be truthful, it doesn’t seem like fashion houses like Balenciaga and Saint Laurent which have rich histories rooted in European traditions will change any time soon.

Additionally, although several brands have created clothes that can be worn by anybody, one demographic that they haven’t made strides towards are those who can’t afford high fashion. Denim jeans from Kapital can be sold for upwards of $500, and Aimé Leon Dore’s famous collaborations with the shoe brand New Balance seem to be worth their weight in gold.

Why is this important?

High fashion isn’t meant to be worn by everyone — it simply isn’t the target audience. 

But, almost every part of modern fashion for teens and young adults trickles down from the world of high fashion.

For example, the ripped jeans found in every Pacsun or Urban Outfitters can be traced back to the rockstar-esque jeans of Saint Laurent in the early 2010s

What’s even more pressing is that much of the controversy in the industry can be traced back to trends from the runway.

Brandy Melville’s “one size fits all” clothing which only caters to certain body types, for instance, can be seen as a direct result of the same trend in high fashion.

Although accessibility in fashion is extremely important, it’s only a speck in the galaxy of controversy known as the fashion industry. Is accessible high fashion truly high fashion? Why is high fashion so expensive? Are designer brands truly better for the environment?

As long as humans are around, clothes will be as well. This inevitably means that there will be controversy that must be addressed.