new zealand fashion week is a paradise for diversity

Casting is the stand out at NZFW, where everyone's joining the conversation on diversity.

by i-D Team
27 August 2015, 12:25pm

Come Tuesday morning, when New Zealand Fashion Week kicked off, Auckland didn't deliver the weather you'd hope. Guests copped the rain as they waited for the first show to begin - ironically, the only show that hasn't taken place under a roof thusfar. But if the weather dampened our sprits, it didn't last long.

The Twenty-Seven Names show proved itself well worth braving the elements for (or rather, huddling under rainbow umbrellas for). It was an exciting show, not just for its ultra-Instagrammable presentation but also for its casting, which was genuinely diverse - the kind of casting that's not only refreshing but absolutely vital.

The crowd awaiting Twenty-Seven Names

That particular show opened the floor to a conversation on diversity that's continued through the week. Along with Twenty-Seven Names, the young designers (Slaeve, Jordan Holiday and Third Form) who followed later in the day, kept discussions of diverse casting at the fore. Before touching on the clothes, in most cases, people praised the casting.

If a show's cast lacked diversity, it stood out. If all-white casts begin to feel like outliers, it's a good sign we're on the right track.

We're also seeing older models - though the phrase is hardly accurate - hitting the catwalk. One of these silver haired angels, 55 year-old Mercy, has walked in dozens of shows this week and is particularly incredible. Her agent eagerly told me she used to model back in the day with Noami Campbell, but only returned to modelling last year. Mercy told me about another moment in her earlier career, where she turned down a request to walk for Alexander McQueen in his student days - yes, McQueen asked personally. "I didn't want to get my arse out!" Mercy said. This year, she walked in two lingerie shows, and killed it.

NZFW hasn't always been this diverse. Jin, walking for Slaeve this year, explains he's been cast for years as the "token Asian," but praises the racially diverse casting of recent years. Mercy agreed, "this kind of thing wasn't happening four, five years ago."

We know that diverse casting isn't a revolutionary act - far from it. Diversity should be the standard, not laudable. But when bigger fashion weeks are still lagging, one has to congratulate New Zealand's designers on doing what others aren't.

new zealand fashion week
twenty-seven names