White models dominate runways, white women land ad campaigns. Yes, it's 2013, and we're still talking about this.
In today's New York Times, Eric Wilson breaks it down thusly: Five years ago, Vogue ran a lengthy article titled "Is Fashion Racist?" (This was one year after veteran modeling agent Bethann Hardison hosted a panel titled "Out Of Fashion: The Absence Of Color.") And, as Wilson puts it:
And since then, almost nothing has changed.
It's true that Prada has a black model in an ad campaign for the first time in 19 years. It's true that DSquared's fall 2013 campaign is all black men. But the numbers, in terms of diversity on runways, are not good. Why does it matter? Because it does. Because fashion is about desired aesthetics, visual beauty. And when global brands — designers and magazines with worldwide influence — celebrate, and therefore elevate, only white beauty, the trickle-down effect is that women of color are not seen as beautiful, that women of color are not deemed worthwhile. When aspirational looks — the images to strive for — are only white, there's a far-reaching, damaging, socio-psychic brainwashing at work.
Wilson got some great quotes from fashion industry people frustrated with the situation. Iman says:
“There is something terribly wrong… We have a president and a first lady who are black. You would think things have changed, and then you realize that they have not. In fact, things have gone backward.”
“No one in power slaps these designers around… All I want to say is, you guys have a lot of explaining to do. If you are going to be bold enough to do it [only cast white models], then please be bold enough to explain it.”
Casting director James Scully:
“I feel the Dior cast is just so pointedly white that it feels deliberate… I watch that show and it bothers me — I almost can’t even concentrate on the clothes because of the cast.”
And perhaps the best quote of all:
“There are not only white people around the world,” said Riccardo Tisci, the Givenchy designer, who has been heralded for representing a range of races, ages and genders in his marketing. Of those who cast only white models, he said: “I think that is called laziness. People sometimes think, ‘It’s easier, we’re used to it.’ ”
Fashion's Blind Spot [NYT]