Two plus-size models posing together
Major fashion labels have embraced models almost never seen in campaigns or on the runway a decade ago.
Annie Wade Smith/Justyna Szymańska

Romany was just 20 years old when she set up Rare Select Models after finding that certain groups were underrepresented in the fashion industry.

Casting directors would often ask if she knew any models from ethnic minorities, as she was coming into her own as a photographer. There was a gap in the market for diverse models.

It wasn't seen as cool to have darker skin models or hijabs.

Five years later, models from Rare Select have appeared in high fashion campaigns.

Francesa has witnessed the fashion industry go through a period of self-correction in recent years by embracing diversity and inclusivity in its advertising campaigns.
Albino model pictured wearing a bucket hat

In the past five years, the diversity of models featured on magazine covers has improved. Theo Cottle.

The British- Nigerian founder says this has been against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement and the George Floyd protests, which led to racist incidents in the industry being exposed.

According to a report from The Fashion Spot, the number of models of color featured in runway shows has increased.

However, plus-sized models accounted for just 2.3% of castings, up from 0.43% five years earlier, according to The Fashion Spot. Castings of transgender and non-binary models increased from 0.17% for Fall 2017 to 1.34%.

The Fashion Spot found more models of color on magazine covers in the years to come. There were 47 models over the age of 50 on covers last year, up from 31 the year before.

The number of models on magazine covers has increased.

The London-based entrepreneur says that before the movement, three years ago, brands were not as willing to feature diverse faces or bodies in their campaigns.
Model pictured wearing a t-shirt and posing in black and white

Alex Chan is a model. Isiah Smith.

"It was harder to get diverse models booked a few years ago but that has changed," she says. Other areas of the industry have undergone incremental changes to feature previously marginalized groups in visual materials.

We are seeing more models with darker complexions, wearing hijabs and from the trans community being featured as the industry is trying to correct its wrongs in a way and is learning how to be more diverse.

"We have been pushing for our models to get exposure before 'diversity' and 'inclusion' became buzzwords and before it was seen as something companies need to do to not isolate themselves from customers from different demographics," Francesca says. 
Close up image of model wearing red highlighter

Emily Emru was photographed by Rare Select Models founder Romany Francesca.

Giving people from diverse backgrounds a seat at the table helps to improve diversity in the industry even more as they can use their influence and experiences to push for change. "Having someone of color in a high position, I feel, has helped dramatically," she says.

In the last year, Edward Enninful became the first black editor of British Vogue and Ib Kamara became the first black editor-in-chief at Dazed.

"British Vogue's cover for its February 2022 issue featured all African models with darker complexions. These publications are a source of influence and direction and often set the tone for others," Francesca says.

We hope that models at Rare Select are valued and that organizations come to first to source diverse models. She says that they are constantly scouting for people with disabilities, plus-size and ethnic minority models.

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