GBC Spring Collection: Black Label

GBC Fashion Collection: Black label

two photos of Gabourey - one on a magazine cover with her skin whitening
Gabourey Sidibe Skin Lightening

Last year, as every year, the Spring collections were paraded on the catwalks at New York’s Fashion Week, and just by looking at the photos, it is easy to see that Black, Asian, and other minority models were seriously under-represented and some fashion industry insiders put it down to discrimination. Just weeks after Naomi Campbell accused fashion magazines of passing over black beauty in favour of fair-skinned models, and a range of scandals involving British Vogue, Elle magazine and L’Oreal due to the apparent ‘white washing’ (lightening the photos of ethnic people) of photos.

This is despite the fact that some of the most notable supermodels of the past decade have been black, including Tyra Banks, Iman, and Naomi Campbell. However, since their departure, racially diverse models have remained a rare sight on the catwalk. Although shows such as ‘Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model’ have created opportunities for models such as Mecia Simone Simson to break the modelling industry.

After every New York Fashion Week, Jezebel examines the racial diversity of models walking the runways. It turns out that Fall-Winter 2012 was one of the most diverse NY Fashion Weeks in history. This is something to celebrate but a closer look at the percentages shows ethnic minority models were still seriously underrepresented.

A photo of Naomi Cambell
Naomi Cambell

George Coleman, a designer attending in New York, said some designers use models to cater to their desired demographic. “For urban lines, you are going to have more (black models),” he said. “But is say, Ralph Lauren, gearing his stuff towards African-Americans? It’s more for Caucasians.” What, then, to make of singer Eve and actress Thandie Newton who sat front row at the Fendi show, or rapper Kanye West and Olympic medallist Sanya Richards who attended New York fashion week?

Possibly even more unexplainable is the lack of Asian models on the runways, considering how rapidly brands are setting up in Asia’s emerging markets. ‘At some shows in Milan, Asian buyers and media filled several rows. Vogue launched in China last year and an Indian edition comes out this fall in Mumbai.’ Yet we still are not seeing this on the runways.

The fashion industry is possibly the only industry where an employer can openly discriminate against a model for being too fat, too short and even too dark. The fashion industry probably won’t be refining conventional beauty any time soon but there are a few designers, such as Vivienne Westwood and Issey Miyake, who have a better track record when it comes to diversity.

By Natasha Holder

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