Vogue Italia is at it again: the May issue of the magazine features a 15-page Ellen von Unwerth editorial intended as a "Tribute to Black Beauties."
The models are: Jeneil Williams, Cici Ali, Ubah Hassan, Gayle McDonald, Kelly Moreira, Jae Childs, R'el Dade, Jasmine Tookas, Lily Taylor and Ariel Meredith.
It's long been established that fashion has a persistent diversity problem. Arguably, nowhere is this more apparent than on the runways of Milan, which are even whiter than those of New York and Paris. Top Italian brands like Armani and Dolce & Gabbana rarely book black models for their runways or campaigns. (Gucci sometimes uses Joan Smalls.) Prada, which is perhaps the most influential of all the Italian brands, went over ten years without casting a single black model in any of its seasonal fashion shows. So it was in that context that Vogue Italia made headlines around the world — and broke newsstand sales records — three years ago, when it released an issue that contained only black models on all of its editorial pages. (The ads were still overwhelmingly white.) Since then, editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani has launched an online portal targeting black readers, Vogue Italia Black, and, in interviews, frequently criticized the notion that her magazine is in any way ghettoizing models of color. All of Vogue Italia's — or even all of all the various Vogues' — all-white spreads still seem to pass without comment. As much as editorials like this one make the point that black models are beautiful and worthy of consideration for major campaigns and covers, all-black spreads also underline just how distant the goal of equality is within the fashion industry.
This January, Vogue Italia ran another all-black spread, with a Harlem Renaissance theme. This seems to be their Blaxploitation redux. At least it's not a "tribal" theme, a "safari" theme, or a "jungle" theme?
Claire Sulmers, who runs the blog Fashion Bomb Daily and contributes to Vogue Italia Black, wrote the text that accompanies the spread. It reads, in part:
A tribute is due to the woman whose skin tone ranges from alabaster to mahogany to smooth onyx, who can flawlessly carry any makeup look — from gold dusted lids to fuchsia blush to ripe purple and pink glosses. These pages pay homage to the versatile woman whose hair can oscillate from a tightly coiled and coifed Afro, to sleek layers, to a slicked back pixie cut in a matter of minutes. To the divine woman whose enviably full lips, strong, white teeth, and delightful smile have been known to electrify the hearts of many. To the siren whose smooth, velvety skin blocks the sun yet remains supple and unblemished with the passage of time.
Variable and diverse, black beauty escapes simple classification. But no matter the incarnation — whether the color of molasses, café au lait, bronze, tan, or tinged like desert sand — black beauties radiate with poise and multidimensional splendor.
Italian Vogue's May 2011 Tribute To Black Beauties
[Fashion Bomb Daily]
Vogue Italia's "Black Beauties" [Tom & Lorenzo]