For the first time in history, every runway show at New York Fashion Week 2017 had at least one woman of colour. Almost one third (31.5%) of catwalk models were non-white at this major fashion event. Although this is progressive compared to two years ago, when models of colour only made up 20% of the catwalk, the fashion and beauty industry still has a long way to go when it comes to diversity.
Many major fashion brands still aren’t catering for the non-white market, a quick search of 5 of the UK’s largest fashion retail websites for ‘neutral’ or ‘nude’ coloured underwear and hosiery revealed only one retailer offering a shade darker than the tone designed for Caucasian skin tones.
It seems that a neutral skin tone for most retailers is a shade of pale beige that’s only the skin tone for one group of women; Caucasian women. Is this acceptable, given that one in five women in the UK are women of colour?
The beauty industry is already way ahead of fashion, but it’s still not satisfying its non-Caucasian customers. According to a study by Superdrug, 70% of black and Asian women say that high street stores do not cater for their beauty needs. More luxurious brands such as Bobbi Brown have been providing make-up for darker skinned women since the 80s. Many high-end brands have gradually followed this trend over the past 3 decades.
Sadly, only a small handful of more affordable brands now cater for all shades of women, these include L’Oreal, No. 7 and most recently Maybelline.
However, some fashion brands are revolutionising the market with products that specifically cater for the many different skin tones of women of colour, bringing a whole spectrum of skin tones into the picture:
The makers of Pendeza Pantyhose specialise in tights and hosiery for women of all colours. The Toned Collection offers a range of 5 shades to suit women with darker skin tones.
The fashion industry is a long way off providing women with 50 shades of neutral, but at least it's finally listening to women of colour.