Black Girls Get No Love on the Catwalk
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Iman, Naomi, Alek, Tyra, Liya, and Oluchi are names known all around the world. They are supermodels – black supermodels. Put that in perspective. That is 6 names in the entire modeling industry that are better known then other black models. Six names in 2007!
Hundreds of models walked in the Spring 2008 collections in New York and Europe recently. There were 101 shows in New York and more than a third hired no black models. The trend in most of the shows was to have either one, maybe two black models in the entire show. This has been the norm in the fashion world for many years. More black models work during fashion week only if the designer is black. Kimora Lee Simmons and Tracy Reece are known designers who make sure black models are represented in their shows.
The design duo of Richie Rich and Traver Rain who are behind Heatherette made history by using 10 black models in one show. Diane Von Furstenberg used 7 girls in her show. In 2007 when Oprah Winfrey is considered the most influential woman in the world and Barack Obama is running for President, history on the catwalk is finally made.
Paris is the worst culprit in this whole debate. One black model was used for the entire week of shows! Yes, just one. And that girl is Chanel Iman Robinson who is being touted as the new black supermodel. She is 18 years old and of mixed heritage – Black and Korean. Vogue had a recent cover that boasted the world’s next supermodels. Ten models made the list and Chanel was the lone black girl on the cover.
It is a sad known fact that fashion clients blatantly request “Caucasians only.” The current taste in models is for blank-featured “androids” whose looks don’t offer as much competition to the clothes. As expected, fingers are pointed at everyone else. Agents blame designers. Designers say agents only send them pale blond girls.
Not everyone is content with the current state of affairs. Vivienne Westwood has spoken out and says that things must change. She even hopes to use Kenyan model Ajuma Nasanyana in her next campaign. An emergency summit has been called with race campaigners, designers, model agencies, and politicians who will try and tackle this issue. The meeting is scheduled to take place in London next year.
Being ignored by the western world for so long surely is one of the reasons that Fashion Weeks on the African continent are on such a rise. South Africa (Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban), Zambia, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Kenya are just a few countries that have Fashion Weeks where black models aren’t as ignored as they are in the west. Let’s hope that things change for the better and that 10 years from now black models will be better represented on the catwalk.