September 18, 2007

filling the void.


liya, iman, bethann, and naomi in new york

this was one season i really wished i was in new york for the shows instead of san francsico because friday there was a great roundtable discussion called “the lack of black image in fashion today.” the models leading the charge were liya kebede, naomi campbell (fresh off her comment to where she critized uk vogue and is looking into starting her own modeling agency), iman, and bethann hardison. vogue’s andré leon talley suggested that the cfda get involved and that black fashion leaders should meet with the organization to work on a solution.

what is the solution?

black women spend more than $20 billion a year on clothing alone according to targetmarketnews. i am one of those women who will gladly spend money on quality, and i have pieces in my closet from proenza schouler, narciso rodriguez, balenciaga, and prada along with stuff from h&m, forever 21, zara, and banana republic. when i’m flipping through the pages of vogue or bazaar, i don’t see faces like myself staring back at me. and of the 101 shows on, 31 used no black models at all. prada hasn’t had a black model in their show for six years.

mia niaria and kinée diouf backstage at roberto cavalli

is the solution having more girls at agencies? well yes and no. having more models helps, but as kebede said “if the magazines and designers are not going to hire them, that’s it at the end of the day.” maybe it would help if current models and designers would speak up. back in the day, photographers, designers and even other models demanded that blacks be included in runway shows and photoshoots. hardison told a story about richard avedon refusing to work with bazaar after they declined to hire model china machado for a shoot, and campbell spoke of christy turlington & linda evangelista telling dolce & gabbana, “if you don’t use naomi, you don’t us.” you don’t have that anymore. the few black models there are out there (chanel iman, jaunel mckenzie) are just trying to get jobs themselves.

maybe the solution a boycott…it seems the only way to get through to magazines and designers is to stop the money train. and nothing gets panties in a bunch faster than a boycott. but many fashion brands and designers don’t have to rely solely on money from black women…they’ve got money coming in from everyone else. so what is the answer? fashion seems to be the only industry where discrimination is rampant, but it’s actually ok to do so. why is this? and why is no one doing anything about it?

images from getty and