At Prada, Supermodels, Virtual Models, and a History-Making Moment

Change is in the air at Prada. A decade ago, during the Fall 2008 shows, Jourdan Dunn broke barriers by becoming the first black model to walk the house’s Milan runway since 1997, following in the footsteps of Naomi Campbell. Since then, the brand has embraced the concept of diversity, utilizing young men and women of color from across the globe in its shows and advertising campaigns. At today’s Fall 2018 show, Prada hit another milestone by opening with Anok Yai, the Sudanese model and viral star, who stepped out in a puffer trench—making her the first black woman since Campbell to lead one of the brand’s influential casts. It was only the latest step in the trailblazing trajectory she’s been on since being scouted during Howard University’s homecoming celebrations.

Naomi Campbell at Prada Spring 1995

Photo: Condé Nast Archives

The lineup that followed Yai provided an overview of the brand’s favorite women, past and present. There were impressive comeback kids like all-American supermodel Amber Valletta, longtime campaign star Sasha Pivovarova, and Chinese superstars Liu Wen and Fei Fei Sun alongside girls of the moment Kaia Gerber, Kris Grikaite, and Adut Akech. As always, casting director Ashley Brokaw introduced a series of new faces via exclusive debuts, the strongest of which were Nigerian beauty Eniola Abioro and baby-faced Brazilian Eduarda Bretas.

Prada also made waves by handing over its Instagram to virtual model Lil Miquela, but the show made an impression even without the digital gimmick. By placing a model of color front and center for one of the most influential houses in fashion, Prada and Brokaw sent the message that diversity on the runway isn’t a trend—it’s the new standard.