Is fashion always Black and White?

Ajak Deng and Imogen Newton, Topshop Autumn/Winter 2010

 

(I mean to cause no offence whatsoever, and any observations/generalisations are mine entirely and not meant in any negative way)

Few could dispute the global success and recognizability of the 90s Femme du Jour, Naomi Campbell. Famed for her gazelle like legs, rich chocolate skin and a look that definitely transcends the average model’s range  and flexibility. She has graced the covers of numerous magazines including being the first black woman to be chosen as a cover girl for Vogue Paris (1988).  She’s walked for everyone from Ralph Lauren to Dolce and Gabbana, and is unquestionably one of the few ‘real’ supermodels.

However, if asked to name another black/African model, could you? Besides Iman and Tyra Banks I found myself worried by the fact that I found it hard to picture such a model, let alone name them. I turned to the hallowed pages of Vogue’s editorial section. Alongside Tatler, GQ, Company(UK) and Viva (UAE) the combined glossy advertisements  feature only 2 black models: John Lewis and House of Fraser. Strong brands but not exactly YSL, Burberry or Patek Philippe. And these are male models.

The women featured are beautiful. Stunning. They are almost all caucasian. This is perfectly fine and I would not dare to imagine I have better artistic judgement than some of the fashion industry’s best casting directors.  Aesthetically I see the benefit of different types of models. The taller, slimmer, most elegant and edgy looks carry the clothes the best. This is a fact. The models are there to sell a product, not themselves. They are talented women, doing a tough job but they are chosen as an effective mode of advertising. So, there is a case for the fact that a certain skin colour may be a better background for selling a certain product, but this trend is continuous. 

There is no lack of talent. Having browsed the female editorial models from the following top model agencies I discovered the following…

IMG London: 8 black or African models out of 170

Elite Model Management, New York: 1 out of 65

Models one, Europe: 2 out of 90

For male models the case is similarly one-sided. Despite the use of huge sporting icons such as Tiger Woods and Thierry Henry in campaigns, black/African successful male models are unfortunately rare.

IMG Miami: 2 out of 76

The point I would like to highlight is the lack of black or African models in the field of haute couture. There seems to be no reason for their scarcity. In shining a light on this issue the importance of my goal of opening and  directing a model agency focussing on representation of black/African models is reiterated. I don’t want to make some big statement, I just want to get out there and find the talent that could be sensational with the right branding.

Breaking barriers, Naomi Campbell, 1988So..is the fashion industry racist? No, I don’t think so. In today’s super politically correct world it is easy to lose sight of what racism really is in all its ugly guises. Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief, and the belief that all members of a race possess certain characteristics, abilities or qualities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race [Oxford dictionary]. Based on this I would not say that the fashion industry deems caucasian models to be superior or tries to antagonise a certain section of society, it has simply become the norm to see white models. We have been conditioned to see beauty in a strict box of ideals. There is a lot of work to be done! Huge congratulations to the black models who are successful, and I endeavour to continue the destruction of the clear-cut black and white lines of fashion.

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What inspired you today?

Hello Angel!

Hello everybody,

If you’re reading this then a) you may think you will get  a cheeky nude pic of a hot flight attendant or b) Hopefully (!!) you want to find out what this is about.. I might add at this point you will be sadly disappointed if you fit into category (a) ; I am not posting pics of myself clothed or otherwise!

Oh there are many interesting things to blog about my life as cabin crew, which I shall do at a later stage when I feel inspired by something that happened at work but these days we are spending so much time at home on standbys, so it’s not such a huge part of my life.

So, one thing about me..I try to be positive. This is hard for me, like everyone else. Life is complicated and stressful and hurtful and disappointing and so on. But if there’s one thing I know is important it’s to not take this for granted. So you may be driving to work increasingly getting worked up about an argument you had that morning and thinking of so many better comebacks you’ve now thought up and regretted not having them then…and then bham! something awful happens..you know what kind of bad event this could be. I hate even envisaging such events, so no need to elaborate but basically you spend so much time being angry, in a bad mood, negative that you waste your life. You just can’t waste precious time disliking life. So preachy isn’t it!.. But you see so many people moping along. I’m not saying I live in a utopia fairyland and I think no one has troubles and I respect that some people have perfectly awful reasons to be sad. But for the people who are just mad at the world for no reason, stop it!

You’ve just got to find something to inspire you to make the most of what you’ve got and to be thankful for everything you’re blessed with. I’m sure something inspired you today; something that made you think differently or see things in a new light. For me I live in a country with a huge amount of expat, mostlysub-continent labourers. These people are a mixed bunch. But whatever they’re like they earn severely low pay. These people inspire me to realise how lucky I am to have such a good job, and to have been born into the life I have.  We can’t choose what life we were born into..but we can make a difference along the way. I know I have so many opportunities at my disposal and some people have very, very few..so please just count your blessings.

Look for something tomorrow that inspires you to feel better, act nicer, be more grateful, find peace, anything!.. Our planet is there to nourish us, not just physically but mentally too, so take a bite of it and see if it could taste a bit sweeter than you imagined!

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