Top Agency IMG Models Claims To Embrace Diversity But Don’t Hold Your Breath

Zac Posen - Runway - Spring 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Top modeling agency IMG‘s Senior Vice President and Managing Director Ivan Bart spoke to Cosmo about a new initiative by the agency to increase diversity in modeling by actively seeking out models who defy the typical modeling mold. While this might be nothing more than a publicity stunt, it does seem like at least one major agency has figured out that there’s a huge consumer demand for models who represent a full spectrum of bodies.

“We want to be an ageless, raceless, weightless agency. We just want to represent the best people in the industry,” Bart told Cosmo. These are great words from a major force in the fashion industry (IMG represents Gisele, Kate Upton, Joan Smalls, Chanel Iman, Alek Wek, and Karlie Kloss, to name a few), but I’m skeptical whenever the fashion industry decides to become a voice for diversity.

However, there is some exceptionally encouraging news coming out of this initiative:

IMG won’t segment new signees who don’t fit the standard fashion model size-zero, 5′ 10″-tall mold into their own division. Rather, they’ll sit on the agency’s board alongside its current roster of supermodels. Giving a size 8, 5′ 6″ model the same significance as a size zero, 6′ one sends a powerful message to the fashion industry, which has largely reduced beauty to one size, shape, height, and race for a very long time.

To me, this is Christmas morning. You’ve all heard me rail on ad nauseum about how I loathe plus size versus straight sizes, and the idea of signing models and not “plus size models” or “straight size models” is unbelievable.

I’m skeptical of any time the fashion industry claims that it wants to be more inclusive, and it’s hard to see this as anything but a publicity stunt to gain some good will. That being said, it means that IMG has picked up on the fact their product isn’t matching the consumer demand. If they’ve realized that they can profit off of inclusivity, then who the hell cares if it’s a publicity stunt? It means somebody’s woken up to the actual reality of today’s consumer, and is taking steps to be more in line with what the consumer wants. Bart had a light bulb go off and figured out: ”I feel like the consumer wants to see themselves.” Way to go, man.

Obviously, I’m not ready to jump up and down yelling that the fashion industry is now a paragon of inclusivity and all bodies are represented. Even when the fashion industry celebrates diversity, it’s a watered down form of it. The models are all still conventionally attractive, and the plus size models typically adhere to an ideal of flat stomach with larger breasts and hips. We flip out over small quirks like gapped teeth or two different colored eyes, when in reality, these people still fit an impossible ideal. But while it’s important to temper excitement about this initiative with a dose reality, there’s no harm in seeing this as a successful step forward.

It’s undeniable that when models who don’t fit the conventional norm are visible, the response is overwhelmingly positive (think: everything Robin Lawley‘s ever done, Tara Lynn‘s Elle cover, Shaun Ross‘ existence, Felicity Hayward‘s public condemnation of negative body image, and Brunette Moffy‘s somewhat revolutionary eyes). And it’s about time a major agency figured out that it’s time to keep up with the times and actually become inclusive. Publicity stunt or not, I’m cautiously optimistic about this initiative, especially the aspect of it that destroys grouping models by body type or age.

Photo: Getty Images

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    • Samantha_Escobar

      While I love the idea of an all-inclusive modeling agency, and I do hope they follow through, I’m just so skeptical about them treating models all equally, if only because of how gloriously most of the fashion industry has failed to accomplish that goal.

    • Calicece

      Well, seeing as they don’t accept applications from anyone over 21, I don’t think this is entirely true