A news story on a great blog, Jezebel, reported that Vogue Netherlands recently did a shoot with white models sporting black faces instead of using black models. The shoot was meant to honour an old Marc Jacobs collection inspired by Grace Jones. If you’re a regular fashion follower you will know that sadly this is not the first time this has occurred.
This news story has come in the middle of the week, on Monday I received my almost daily email from another blog I follow, the Business of Fashion. This op-ed piece was about the widespread racism in the fashion industry with black models recalling awful stories of make-up artists refusing to work with them or touch them and model booking agents for shows saying ‘we already have a black model’. At least black models have a one person quota for some designers, models of other backgrounds such as Chinese, South Asian, Middle Eastern get even less of a preference. The article pointed out that some designers, such as Calvin Klein, almost always have entirely white models at shows.
Designers and agents always tout the familiar excuse: we have an ideal woman that the collection has been designed for and other background models don’t fit that look. I can see the argument that certain collections look good on certain body types, I have tried squeezing my Punjabi bum into Sisley jeans with no luck, however, an entire ethnic groups doesn’t contain only one generic body type. I don’t understand this blatant racism on the part of designers as we all know as we have been told time and again that future business growth will come from China, the Middle East, India and so on so why are these customers still not able to see women like them on the catwalk?
I used to live in Florence, I was studying there. I had a part time dream job that was to shop for Japanese tourists who were barred from entering Louis Vuitton and other designer brands. I was handed thousands of Euros and given a list of bags I needed to buy and I got commission on the total amount I spent. Although it was a great job, it sat uncomfortably with me. I didn’t understand why Japanese women still wanted bags from brands that didn’t want them. Imagine that happening in any other industry!!
I can only admire the branding and marketing of these companies but I think that women should protest with their money. If women of colour do not make up the beauty demographic of some major fashion brands stuff them! Buy from another brand such as Tom Ford that is more representative of the world we live in. The models that are shunned by rude and racist makeup artists should name and shame the people involved and brands they work for so we can decide whether to buy makeup from them in the future.