Illusion. Retouch. Underpaid garment workers and stolen designs – these are among the hard truths that make up the illusion that plagues the fashion industry. The average consumer doesn’t know how the fashion industry works. “Illusion” is also the title of Marist College’s 35th Annual Silver Needle Runway (SNR) Fashion Show produced in 2021. The first SNR was produced in 1984, and the event continues to increase in production value each year. The student-produced show is an opportunity for senior fashion design students to showcase their creations. At last year’s show, the students successfully staged a professional fashion show with comprehensive branding amidst a global pandemic. Similar to other predominantly white organizations in existence at the time, SNR 35 was rebranded to be more socially conscious in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. SNR 35 strives to “create a digital community that champions creativity and innovation, diversity, leadership and social responsibility” according to the show’s program. website. However, SNR 35 provides an inaccurate representation of diversity and inclusion.
A simple change of brand is insufficient. SNR 35’s commitment to promoting diversity has resulted in a newsletter, promotional videos, a short film and a podcast. Entire teams dedicated themselves to the creative direction, communication, production and branding of the show. Previous shows have even hired professional models, photographers and makeup artists. The SNR 35 was the first to replace these professionals with students. Marist Fashion’s “Measure” magazine – also produced by Marist students – has been sold to SNR 35. According to an email from another Marist student, Juneve Porceillo, all of the magazine’s runway and print designs have paid, with the exception of the Measure coverage model. I know because I was the cover model. A photo shoot takes hours and requires hard work, but it’s an industry standard for cover models who don’t get paid for exposure. Marist Fashion exploited this idea to avoid paying all models fairly. Considering Ralph Lauren is part of the SNR 35 sponsor, Marist Fashion can afford to change the status quo. If SNR values diversity, why does the organization continue to use traditional sample size models?
Marist fashion perpetuates outdated, Eurocentric standards of beauty – a lesson that begins your freshman year in college. Marist’s newest fashion students learn to create clothes for a small but standard subset of women’s sizes: dresses 0-4 and heights of 5’7″ and up. Senior fashion students, now at ease with the design for unrealistic sample sizes, continue to do so. However, many garments to be modeled at the fashion show are designed with these traditional sample sizes. Most of the female models chosen for SNR are tall and skinny , as most of their outfits are designed for tall and skinny people.The SNR 35 and Measure model’s casting poster states that “all sizes of clothes and pants are welcome”, but their look book reveals another story. Showcasing a shortage of plus-size models, their poster also requires female models to be at least 5’7″ – an outdated industry standard. The average height of a woman in the United States is 5’4”. I wonder how many Marist design students themselves have the proportions to wear the clothes they have made. The cycle of maintaining Eurocentric beauty ideals continues after graduation. the medium the runway model is at least 5’8” and a size 4. While the fashion industry has made strides toward diversity on camera, much of the industry’s advancements are still in commercial fashion. The homogenous body types prevalent in high fashion send a clear message to those who don’t fit those Eurocentric ideals: you’re not welcome here.