The New York shows are as dominated by white models as they have been since the late 1990s, roughly at the end of the era of supermodels. Jezebel, a blog that has been tracking the appearance of minorities in fashion shows since the debate erupted, noted that the numbers are hardly encouraging. After a notable increase in 2009 that followed extensive news media coverage, the representation of black models has remained fairly steady until this year, when they accounted for only 6 percent of the looks shown at the last Fashion Week in February (down from 8.1 percent the previous season); 82.7 percent were worn by white models.
In Europe, where Phoebe Philo of Céline, Raf Simons of Dior and many others have presented entire collections using no black models at all, the opportunities have been even less favorable for minorities.
The most astonishing aspect of the persistent lack of diversity — to Iman, to Ms. Hardison, to the models who apply for castings and are told, “We already have our black girl” — is that there have been no obvious repercussions for those who still see colorless runways as an acceptable form of artistic expression. Despite a history of polite and often thoughtful discussions within the industry, there are still many designers and casting agents who remain curiously blind to black models, or unmoved by the perception that fashion has a race problem in the first place.
It would appear that the designers are beginning to pay attention to the potentially negative publicity, but representatives for both labels refused to discuss the subject or to make the designers available, as did a spokeswoman for Céline, which has not used a black model in a runway show since Ms. Philo became the designer in 2009. Not one in the 259 looks shown in eight runway shows. “I would say it’s quite odd,” Mr. Scully said. “Everyone notices, so why shouldn’t someone say something?”
To designers who say they cast white models for aesthetic reasons, their critics would ask if that means they don’t think their clothes look good on black people.
This is important, said Veronica Webb, who encountered the same excuses during the years she walked the runways in the ’90s, because “this is where a lot of young women get their idea of beauty from.”
“When you see someone that looks like you,” she said, “it makes women feel beautiful, and it makes women feel they belong.”"