Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Race Card- Racism In The Fashion Industry

As I was reading the New York Times a few days ago, I came a cross an article that I knew would inspire some dialogue.  The Article was called "Fashion's Blind Spot" and it was all about racism in the fashion and modeling industry.  This was quite the interesting article for me, because it touched upon a few things that not many people speak of.  I decided to do some more research on it and I began to see that it's the elephant in the room, next to eating disorders.

Five years ago (July 2008), Italian Vogue did an issue dedicated to women of color, mostly black women. It became the best selling issue of Italian Vogue.  It sold so well, that it had to be reprinted a few times.  This was the issue that had EVERY major black model, from the up and comers (Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn, Sessilee Lopez), the supermodels (Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Veronica Webb), to the iconic (Iman, Pat Cleveland).  ll of these models of different shades and types were celebrated in all of their glory.  This was an issue that EVERY black mother would want to pass on to their daughters to teach and show them how to celebrate their own beauty and empowerment.

Italian Vogue's Black Issue- July 2008

Chanel Iman

But if you look at the runways today, you would believe that issue never happened.  Many of the big designers did not use any models of color, and now that China is becoming a new market, there are finally a few Asian models breaking through, outside of China.  During the height of the 80's and 90's, there was never an issue in using models of color.  The big designers were casting them left and right and there was an equal balance in all of the shows.  There was so much diversity, that EVERY kind of woman was represented.

The Supermodels at their finest

Now, it has swung in the other direction and the runways in the most recent fashion weeks have become very white.  In this instance, I'm not sure what to say, because each case is different.  Some instances it's the designer, who wants one type of model and the agencies send them 60-70 versions of that same woman.  In other instances it's the agencies, who will sometimes take only one or two women of color and turn down the rest because they feel they can't get them work.

Whenever I am out and about on the streets, I see all kinds of women (Black, White, Asian, Latina, etc.) and they each have their own sense of style.  The fashion runways should reflect that.  Everyone wants to see themselves in the fantasy of fashion.  As a designer, I want to have all kinds of men and women in my shows because they reflect the world at large.  We are a mix of all cultures, races, creeds, colors, characters, religions and gender identities.

Although the current crop of Black and Latina models are working and even fronting big campaigns, there is still simmering tensions, where even the most successful models of color openly complain about designers, casting agents, and stylists not working with them because of their race, ethnicity is "too black" or "too latin", and it distracts from the clothes.  As long as we call out designers, casting agents, and stylists on their lack of diversity, they will have to take a moment and check themselves and learn from the situation.

Stay fashionable and sexy!!!!



  1. Another issue that needs to be addressed as to why there are fewer women of color on the runways is China itself, which places an extreme amount of importance on being white, 'Western'= culture', and the marketing of all things 'white' to Chinese culture. The ads in the country are disproportionately featuring white women, especially considering how non-white the country itself is. And Chinese do not think highly of people of color even though they ARE considered people of color outside their own country, something else they have yet to grasp as a concept. With so many labels trying to break into the Chinese market, this is a plausible reason.

  2. I totally agree with you, Triston!!! A lot of them are so hell bent on either being "more white" and worshiping white features (blonde hair, blue eyes, etc.), or finding everything wrong with being anything OTHER than white. I find it hilarious that they don't see themselves as people of color outside of China, yet if you bring this to the Japanese, or the Koreans they get it. No, there may not be as many people of color living in China, but they have to know that they exist!! The worst part is that in their eyes, we are criminals and thugs, unless we are Jay Z and Beyonce.