Will The July Issue Of Italian Vogue Solve The Black Models Problem?

Illustration for article titled Will The July Issue Of Italian Vogue Solve The Black Models Problem?

Ever since we first heard about the "all-black" issue of Italian Vogue, we've been in a tizzy. The magazine has still not hit in New York, but we're making friends with all the dudes at the best newsstands, who are amused as we keep calling. ("What is in this July issue?" asked one vendor. "It's special," we replied. "All black models." "Oh," he smiled. "Nice.") As for the issue: Is it good? Is it bad? It's hard to comment without actually holding a copy of the magazine in our hands. Still, an interview with Franca Sozzani, whom the Telegraph calls "the seraphic, Botticelli-haired editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia," offers some insight:

"I'm not trying to be provocative," she says. "It's just that, like everything else we do in fashion, the idea started from watching the shows. It's got to the point where I can't tell one model from another, except for [Liya] Kebede (pictured), who started me thinking. In the early Nineties, we knew all the models' names, recognised even the less famous ones. Liya was reminding me of Iman. And then I was in New York for Super Tuesday, seeing what was happening in America." Because how is it that we can have a black man running for president when only 1% of models on Milan's runways are black?


As previously discussed in summits held by model mogul Bethann Hardison, things were not always so bad. Black models were part of the fashion industry's fabric for decades. Telegraph has a quote by Brigid Keenan, from her book The Women We Wanted to Look Like, written in 1977 (when Naomi Sims, Donyale Luna, and Beverly Johnson were ubiquitous): "Women like [Naomi] Sims prove that the battle for black beauty has been fought and won."

Perhaps, as they say, the battle was won, but not the war. Another summit is being held in Paris this week, and the lack of black models in couture shows is the issue, reports Breitbart. There's a blame game, of course: "I asked the modelling agency for black girls for our next show but there simply aren't any," says Mario Lefranc, of the Lefranc-Ferrant design duo. An assistant to Jean-Paul Gaultier says: "It's really very difficult at the moment. There are no black models on the market, the agencies have none." But the agencies probably don't have any because designers and magazines won't book them, correct? At least one person was extremely frank: Renee Dujac-Cassou, head of Paris's Crystal model agency says:

"Blue-eyed blondes have always been the dream type. It's as simple as that. A beautiful African woman is not the dream type, neither is a Tibetan or a Chinese princess. [The number of non-white models] will always be extremely limited."

And here we have the true problem: People think that people don't like diversity. Experts claim that "the market" demands a uniform, pale, Euro-centric look. (For the record: I love to shop, I love fashion, I love diversity. Raise your hand if you can say the same.)

But what about going "all-black"? Like Italian Vogue? Or the recent Dsquared men's show, which featured an (almost) all-black cast of male models? Over on Stereohyped, a post reads, "As much as it delights me to glimpse the gorgeous pics in Italian Vogue and peep the gorgeous men in the Dsquared show, collectively, these efforts at diversity seem to be more like a passing fad instead of something that will actually change the industry. Sort of 'Let's do all black guys this time! It will be fabulous!' Having all-black magazine issues and all-black fashion shows isn't going to solve any problems." Agreed. But. Having all-black issues and runway shows does call attention to the problem. Having all-black issues and runway shows also gets black models working. Having all-black issues and runway shows allows editors, designers, stylists and mere mortals to see that, indeed, beautiful people come in all colors. That being in style or high fashion is not merely the territory of fifteen year old Estonian children. If black people can model, so can Asians! And brown people! While there's a danger in having an all-black cast becoming a fad or a trend, anything that calls into question the recent and pervasive whiteout in the fashion industry can't be bad. Now if we could just get our hands on that July issue…


Naomi Campbell, Iman And Jourdan Dunn Grace Vogue Italia's All Black Issue [Telegraph]

Is Going The "All-Black" Route A Superficial Answer To Fashion's Deeper Problems? [Stereohyped]

Prêt-à-rapporter: A Black And White Vision Of Modelling [Telegraph]

Vogue Italia, Thanks Cathy [Fashionista]

Conspicuous by Their Presence [NY Times]

Beautiful Is Beautiful (slideshow) [NY Times]

Discrimination On The Catwalks? [Breitbart]

Earlier: On The Runways Of Milan, Color Just Wasn't Considered Chic

Fashion Week Runways Were Almost A Total Whitewash

Vogue's Not Racist; Three Black Models Prove It!

Is Prada To Blame For the Lack Of Black Models?

Where Are All The Black Models? Let's Start By Asking Anna Wintour

We're Still Looking For Black Models

Most Ladymags Continuing To Experience Whiteout Conditions

Modeling Matriarch Continues To Demand Diversity On The Runways

Black Fashion Industry Insiders Ask: Where Are The Black Models?

Will Italian Vogue Break With Fashion Mag Tradition, Feature Black Models?

Italian 'Vogue' Shocks, Awes, Makes Civil War Sexy

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

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This just smacks of concession. Like it'll be, ok, here's our quota for the year, all in one place! And then they won't bother to attempt to diversify the rest of their fashion spreads. It would be more sincere if they made an effort to actually use a variety of models in all of their spreads.