"While tech heads on Friday lined up at the Apple store to buy the latest iPhone, fashionistas evidently hurried to newsstands across New York City to get their hands on the July Italian Vogue featuring all black models," reports WWD. A Condé Nast spokeswoman says the company increased newsstand distribution of the special issue by 40 percent in the U.S. Friday night (on my way to the commenter meetup), I walked by the newsstand on Avenue A, where I'd called and stopped in about a dozen times in search of Vogue Italia, and I jokingly shook my fist, damning the store for not having the issue. That's when I saw it in the window. I bought three copies. Flipping through the much-hyped issue is interesting: After the pull-out cover featuring four striking close ups (Liya Kebede, Sessilee Lopez, Jourdan Dunn and Naomi Campbell), the next thirteen pages of ads — for Valentino, Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Dior — all feature white faces.
I don't read Italian, but some of the headlines and captions have English words. One of the first stories on the "People" page is about Michelle Obama. The next piece is about Spike Lee's film, Miracle At St. Anna, which focuses on four black soldiers trapped behind enemy lines in WWII. There's also a picture of Naomi Campbell and Nelson Mandela with information about the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, and in the caption, the words "benefit girl." A few pages after that: A short piece about Essence magazine, followed by one about Ebony. It's kind of funny how between the pages of editorial content with black faces, the ads continue to have white faces. In any case, I had to scan the page about Ebony because Lena Horne on the March 1946 cover looks amazing.
Skipping ahead, you'll find a six-page ad for PINKO, starring Naomi Campbell. No matter how you feel about her, you cannot deny that the woman is astounding. She is 38 years old and still built like a thoroughbred.
There are eight pages of up and coming black models called "You Have A Go-See." Maybe it's for the people who claim there are no black models. All of the young women are gorgeous; I scanned three for you guys to check out.
The first big black model shoot is the beauty spread; it's shot by Dusan Reljin. Edgy. Not technically "pretty." The underlying subtext seems to be about the meaning of blackness, the meaning of black as a hue, as a skin tone. Not my cup of tea, but here are a few shots:
Question: Is blackface on a black face still blackface?
Oh! An ad for a company called Quodlibet uses a black model! It's so '80s your hair will crimp.
And so we come to the feature well. The first photo spread is the "Modern Luxe" story by Steven Meisel. Alek Wek, Alva Chinn, Sessilee Lopez, Ubah, Kiara Kabakubu, Noemie Lenoir, Vernoica Webb, Arlenis Sosa, Liya Kebede, Karen Alexander, Iman, Yasmin Warsame, Jourdan Dunn, Gail O'Neill and Chanel Iman appear. Many images have already been on the web, so I'm only scanning a few:
It's awesome to see Karen and Gail since they were in the issues of the fashion magazines I read as a pre-teen magazine junkie and I haven't seen them since.
Next is the shoot appropriately titled "There's Only One Naomi." The photographs (again by Steven Meisel) are like scenes from ordinary days in Miss Thing's life: Luxe, aloof, a little crazy.
After Naomi? Tyra.
Then 8 images of ensembles worn with crazy hats, called "Elegance As A Form."
The "How To Dazzle" shoot is 25+ pages of black and white photography; here are just a few images. In case you're curious about how to dazzle, the mag seems to suggest smoking, large jewelry, turbans and animal print.
Did you know that ANTM alum Toccara Jones was in this issue? She is smoking hot. Aside from the whole woman-is-an-object-like-a-car thing. And she is topless! Absolutely stunning. Gotta love that they included a "womanly" body.
There's one last "Black on Black" shoot, but it pales (heh) in comparison to the rest, so I didn't even bother scanning it. But after counting black models on runways and in magazines and finding them ignored by the fashion industry, this much-anticipated issue really delivered.
Is it a gimmick? Yes. But the fact remains that flipping through the issue and seeing page after page of gorgeous black women can act as a reminder to editors, stylists, modeling agencies and consumers — that beauty comes in many forms. It can be edgy, irreverent, weird, pretty, strong and avant-garde — while being black. While perhaps some may be upset that it took a "stunt" like this to throw a spotlight on the issue of the lack of diversity in magazines and runways, it's actually a beautiful souvenir, a keepsake to remember these troubled times. A protest song in photograph form. Never has the racism issue looked quite so stunning.
Related: Memo Pad [WWD]