Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Are Sistahs Still In Fashion?

While we were all justifiably proud of our sis Isis' history making turn on America's Next Top Model, the question still remains unanswered whether she or any African-American model, biowoman or transgender will be able to consistently find work in a sadly segregated fashion industry.

After the spring Fashion Week shows in New York and the European fashion capitals of London, Paris and Milan were roundly criticized for the lack of melanin on the runways and the weak excuses and justifications for it coming from many designers, all eyes were on the recently completed round of Fashion Week shows in which designers highlighted their Spring 2009 collections.

While there was some slight improvement, there were still far more African-American women in the audience than strutting the runways.

That's despite Bethann Hardison calling two summits to discuss the issue and the all Black model July Italian VOGUE issue selling out. Tracy Reese, DKNY and Diane von Furstenberg used a large number of African-American models this season while others such as Vivienne Tam, did not use any.

"Visually on the runways, it has improved," said Hardison, "But the results are still racist. You choose the same white and you never go towards the brown or the dark."

Designer Tracy Reese said the question of diversity on the runway needs to be brought up again and again to ensure change.

"If it's too exclusionary, it puts me off," she said.

One thing I'd like to suggest is that the NAACP or some watchdog group start tracking the diversity of fashion shows. That way those of us who are inclined to spend money on designer fashions have an idea and a record of which designers are consistently hiring sistah models, which ones are dissing us, and adjust our considerable fashion dollar spending accordingly.

It would also be a good idea to keep an eye on the modeling agencies as well and see if they are doing their part in signing and getting work for sistah models.

What's sad about this situation is that if I want to see a fashion show that has African-American models strutting the runway, I'll have to wait until the EBONY Fashion Fair hits town.

Oh well, at least if I attend the EBONY Fashion Fair, some of the money I spend on that ticket will go to a local charity.


Mes Deux Cents said...


I think that the fashion industry, rightly, takes African American money for granted. For a very long time African Americans have spent money on designer products without asking anything in return. The greatest offenders have been rappers and R&B stars who for free advertise designer goods.

So designers realize that they really don't have to do anything to get African Americans to buy their clothes; if African Americans made it known that unless we were advertised to we would stop buying then we would see a difference on the runway and in print.

Monica Roberts said...

Mes Deux,
Your right on that point.

The rappers need to start by withdrawing their sizable cash flow, and stop mentioning in their songs designers that refuse to use African-American models and get behind those that do.