Racism In The Fashion Industry

by - June 16, 2013

"We know what you’re asking: The fashion industry is racist? No way! Fully 20% of the models at New York Fashion Week are people of color, and since 20% of the world’s population is people of color, and… Wait, what’s that you say? The world isn’t 80% white? Don’t you watch television?".

This is the foreword of an article written back in September 2012 regarding racism in the fashion industry through the years. Their conclusion is somewhat shivering, most of their examples are of "recent vintage".

That's right: after the highlights of the 80's and 90's, where there was a good representation of black people on the catwalks and the magazines, it has fallen all the way back down again.
Nowadays, the "right" black model is a "white girl dipped in chocolate", this is a true statement made by an insider of the industry while filming the documentary "The colour of Beauty". This documentary is a part of a larger Canadian Government Project, trying to reveal the challenges minorities face on a daily base.

They revealed that there is systematic racism in the modeling industry – and it’s not going away anytime soon. The industry does not reflect the diversity of real life. We live in a world that is so diverse and where visible minorities are actually the visible majority.

Vogue magazine was started in 1892. In over 118 years and 1,416 covers, only 14 have featured minorities of any kind. That's less than 1%.

Carole White, co-founder of Premier Model Management, which supplies models to top fashion brands, admitted that finding work for black clients was significantly harder than for the white models. Because both magazines and fashion designers were reluctant to employ them. "We have had casting briefs which say 'no ethnics'. But we are better in London than Paris and Milan; there if you offer a black girl they will drop the book like it's hot".

Nick Knight, a photographer who is known for his shoots featuring unconventional models, said the lack of black girls was "a pitiful reflection on the industry. But it's not just fashion, I work in film and advertising and it's the same level of racism. And I do think that if we don't use a model because of her skin colour then it is racism".

Nick Knight: "Fashion is often seen as frivolous, but this is not a trivial issue. It is my belief that our society must be inclusive and by denying people the right to be seen as beautiful you cause deep cultural resentment, alienation and division".

The industry self points the finger back to us. According to the magazines, black models don't sell.
We are the ones who are demanding and it's a fact that the faces that sell us products are predominantly white. "Sadly we are in the business where you stock your shelves with what sells." So it is not their fault that minorities are not prominent on the cover or the catwalks, it's ours.

Fashion is probably the only industry that can discriminate on, not only skin colour, but in fact on everything. They are often the cause of problems. Hereby also talking about how thick, or better said thin a model has to be. We try to equelize those pictures. Minorities often have no resemblance than white models, which can give them a low self esteem about being different than the average white model.

By casually throwing a limited handful of minorities with “big names”, they cover the racism. We are not racist, look we have Naomi Campbell. She is black, she is on the catwalk, but she's the only minority there.
These minorities with “big names”, happen to have more diversity in them than all of the white models during Fashion Week. For instance you can't say that Chanel Iman, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks leave the same impression behind.

The individuals in the industry are not necessarily racist, but work in a system that is. They can make decisions that contribute to systemic racism. They are responsible for almost everything we see and relate to. We have a very narrow definition of beauty, which is mostly created by them. They try to make an illusion based on their creative insides and of course on their consuming market. They are responsible for painting a global picture of all aspects of society. I believe that there definitely need to be some changes made. What do you think? 


Sources: Picture 1/Picture 2

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