09 Feb The runways are painted white
For two months a year fashion week arrives, and we are bewildered by the new collections that strut their way down the runway, however it is hard not to notice the impending large amount of white models compared to the ones of different races. With the gradual influence of models of colour, you would think the industry is thriving in the race for complete racial diversity, yet we end up going one step forward and two steps back.
In 1988, Naomi Campbell became the first black model to appear on the cover of French Vogue after Yves Saint Laurent threatened to withdraw advertising if they did not include black models on the cover. The following year, Naomi graced the cover of British Vogue; becoming the first black model on the cover since 1966, and then becoming the first black model to cover the prestigious September Issue for American Vogue in 1989. In 2014, four of the fifteen cover stars of American Vogue were black. From coming from a place where we broke records and embraced cultures to a time where we shy away from placing girls and boys of different races on our covers, yet you log into Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, you name it, and you are immediately immersed into a jungle of activists and teens fighting to get their opinions heard by the people running these publications.
In September 2013 Naomi Campbell, Iman and Bethann Hardison wrote an open letter addressing the racism that has indirectly been inflicted in the fashion industry, “No matter the intention, the result is racism. Not accepting another based on the colour of their skin is clearly beyond aesthetic.” I understand that many brands and casting directors may fear that they could ‘get it wrong’ but if you are never willing to give a model a chance how on earth are you supposed to know what’s wrong or right? The Fashion Spot gathered in data from 373 of the Spring/ Summer 2016 shows from New York, London, Milan and Paris; which included a total of 9,926 models. They reported that “77.6 percent of the time models were white”, which was a gradual improvement from the 83 percent they stated the previous year, yet this is still disproportionally Caucasian. Casting directors may want to remember that a diverse model line-up does not mean two Asian models, one African and twenty-one white models.
With the continuous celebrity culture bombarding the fashion magazines, its allowing fewer models to feature on the covers. Though the large influx of celebrity culture has allowed artists like Beyonce, Rihanna and Kanye West to cover magazines, as well as actors like Lupita Nyong’O and Amandla Stenberg, and renowned tennis champion Serena Williams to become the forefront of fashion’s biggest publication, Vogue.
The Victoria Secret Fashion Show 2015 had 47 girls walk the show, yet with this large number only nine were black models (Jasmine Tookes, Lais Ribeiro, Cindy Bruna, Grace Carvalho, Joan Smalls, Maria Borges, Leila Nda, Sharam Diniz and Leomie Anderson) and only two Asian models, Sui He and Ming Xi. The show was outstanding, but maybe it’s time to have a chat with the casting director, John Pfeiffer about his decision not to add more girls of colour and of different cultures but pick one girl who didn’t even attend the casting yet miraculously made the cut…
With New York Fashion Week commencing tomorrow with the Autumn/ Winter 2016 collections, will we see a change in the painted white runways? We all talk about this issue, but its as if no one is actually saying anything. Will the fashion houses ever be prepared to make a change?
This is fashion’s blind spot.
Naomi Campbell by Patrick Demarchelier for US Vogue & Top Image via Le Mot & la Chose