Fashion shows in Paris, London, Milan and New York each year are graced with glittering lights. Industry icons, alongside the rich and famous gather together in hopes of celebrating a renewed sense of style and glamour often absent of diversity.
Aside from Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks, few top models of ethnic origin have the privilege to grace international catwalks during fashion week. The process of elimination often begins well before a model walks through a fashion house’s front door.
Breaking the Trend
Famous photographer Steven Meisel and Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani have crossed race barriers in order to create the first Vogue Italia All Black Issue. Debuting in July 2008, the All Black Issue was available in four collectors covers featuring Liya Kebede, Naomi Campbell, Jorden Dunn, and Sessilee Lopez.
Vogue All Black Issue Covers, Courtesy of Google Images
The issue sold out nearly instantly, causing the publisher Condé Nast to reprint and distribute 40,000 additional copies. Those possessing a coveted issue of the July 2008 Vogue Italia could turn over a 60dollar plus profit on Ebay.
Edward Enninful, a black Notting Hill-born Vogue editor told the Guardian newspaper, “for years, the excuse proffered by advertising agencies for not signing black models to lucrative contracts, and by magazine editors who failed to feature women of colour on their covers, was a supposedly factual, ‘they don’t sell’.”
A New Era in Modeling
Tyra Banks told tv.com “when I look at young black models today, I hope they can just walk through the doors like everyone else”. According to Dean and Dan Caten of Dsquared2 fashion, the type of models often wanted for a show is usually predetermined prior to castings. Some of Dsquared2’s shows have broken the mould by featuring Rhianna and Channel Iman.
In previous years, established designers often create a standard definition of beauty. Gucci, Chanel, Prada, etc. have long chosen models identical in shape, height and colour, with very little consideration for diversity.
However, with the influx of new faces such as Jordan Dunn and Chanel Iman, it seems the old ways of fashion forgetting diversity have started to change.
Naomi Campbell, a high fashion runway veteran has decided to personally combat racism in fashion. Campbell is vowing to set up her own modeling agency in her home country of Kenya. According to the Telegraph Newspaper, Naomi has “attacked the fashion industry and glossy magazines for sidelining black beauty in favour of fair-skinned models”. The opening of her new agency will be an attempt to redress the balance”.
In an interview with the New York Times, Vogue Italia visionary Meisel conceded, “I thought, it’s ridiculous, this discrimination. It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place. Age, weight, race – every kind of prejudice.” As a decade in this new century has nearly ended, there is renewed hope that barriers in the fashion industry will also soon pass.
Photographer Steven Meisel, Couresy of International Center of Photography