• Some in the fashion industry are calling for greater diversity. (SBS)Source: SBS
Fashion professionals are calling for greater diversity in mainstream modelling, claiming advertising campaigns don’t accurately reflect Australia’s ethnic mix.
20 Aug 2016 - 12:37 PM  UPDATED 20 Aug 2016 - 7:29 PM

Most models engaged by Melbourne-based agency FRM are from diverse ethnic backgrounds. But according to South Sudanese born aspiring model Subah Koj most share a common career objective. 

“I hope to one-day work for Victoria's Secret - that's one of my main goals or to work for one of the big designers like Prada or Gucci,” Ms Koj said.

Agent Stephen Bucknall says some sectors of the industry, such as catwalk or runway work is moving toward ethnic diversity - but there's a lag when it comes to the industry's mainstream.

“The stuff that you see in-store -on billboards, on posters on websites - the campaigns themselves are where the dollars are,” Mr Bucknall said.

He cites the example of the highest profile model on the books, South Sudanese born Ajak Deng who struggles to get work in Australia, but is considered one of the world's best, and says it’s a consistent theme. 

“To make the big dollars I've had to put them on planes - put them into a market where they can make the advertising dollar alongside the runways and the magazines,” he said.

 Fashion photographer James Pipino has worked in the industry for a quarter of a century, and says Australia's reputation is suffering as a result of the disparity.

 “When an international comes to Australia and they say for example do a casting they'll find the diversity's not there that they'd expect say in London,” Mr Pipino said.

 But industry analyst Patty Huntington disagrees, saying catwalk work drives future advertising imagery. 

 “I think it is definitely changing - it's changing faster than some people realise - but not as fast as some would like,” she said.

 Ms Huntington points to a range of recent examples, including Jessica Gomes who is the current face of retail giant David Jones, South Sudanese-born model Yaya Deng who fronts a major Westfield campaign and the distinctive Fernanda Hin Lin Ly who worked extensively overseas before returning to major, mainstream contracts in Australia.

 “It doesn't get much more mainstream than Bonds - she's also the girl for Marks which is also a mainstream high-street chain,” Ms Huntington said.

 Subah Koj says she understands the bottom line drives decisions, but hopes for more opportunities in her fickle industry of choice. 

 “I hope they see we have a lot of potential and we're willing to work and I'm very driven so hopefully I can get booked for one of the big shows,” she said.

This story will air on SBS World News tonight which starts at 6.30pm.