New York fashion models brought a cultural change

The garments on the spring 2011 runway represented the cultural shift. The collections ended here Thursday evening with designers delivering a season’s worth of clothes that could best be summed up as nice. But, the mere presence of this mighty industry with its big brands and idealistic entrepreneurs settled in the heart of the city’s cultural community at Lincoln Center was a statement of its maturity and growth.

A new, more diverse group of designers now dominates the runways. These designers are Asian-American, Indian, Latino, Turkish and so on. Oddly, however, few of those stirring the waters are African-American. Names such as, Donna Karen, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Narciso Rodriguez and Michael Kors still matter.

But more importantly, the industry gave in to its future. The balance of power has shifted to a group of designers with varying ethnic backgrounds. They’ve brought geographic diversity — from California to Chicago and, of course, New York. They find their inspiration in a vast array of places. Sometimes that gets them into trouble. But, the changes within the industry are extraordinary.

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