Black Models “Everywhere” or “Ignored”? Either Way Accusations of Racism Rage

Talent Management writers have noted some apparently conflicting views on the fashion industry’s use of black models in the papers this week…

black models lacking
Black models appeared to be absent from many of this year’s London Fashion Week shows

Talent Management writers have noted some apparently conflicting views on the fashion industry’s use of black models in the papers this week. While a report in the Daily Mail suggested that models of colour are being excluded by designers, the Telegraph declared the opposite – claiming that “black models are everywhere”.

But did the points being made by both publications amount to surprisingly similar messages coming from the UK media during London Fashion Week after all?

Editor of Black Beauty & Hair, Irene Shelley, was one of those interviewed by the Telegraph. She suggested that black models are being used more frequently in 2013 but that images are often ‘stereotypical’.

She told reporters: “We’ve seen changes in the way women’s magazines use black models. Now they’re used more just as other models would be used, instead of being plonked in there if you had a carnival fashion shoot. But we’re still stuck with a lot of pictures of the stereotyped fashion magazine black girl you know, pale skin and long, flowing, corkscrew hair.”

This opinion is shared by Marcelle D’Argy Smith, editor of Cosmo, who agrees: “Cosmo put its first black girl on the cover in 1973 and its latest one on the August issue. It has to be said, though, that black girls on the cover of Cosmo generally have their skin bleached out to a peanut butter colour, so they look not so much like black girls or even white girls, but simply Cosmo girls…”

She went on to describe Britain as “bloody racist, a very racist society”.

Meanwhile, models Iman and Naomi Campbell, alongside former model Bethann Hardison have expressed the view this week that many designers are guilty of ‘racist acts’ in opting not to cast models of colour.

In an open letter to the governing bodies of the fashion industries in New York, London, Paris and Milan, they wrote: “Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of colour. No matter the intention, the result is racism.

“Not accepting another based on the colour of their skin is clearly beyond “aesthetic” when it is consistent with the designer’s brand.

“Whether it’s the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society. It can no longer be accepted, or confused by the use of an Asian model.

“As of last season, below are the fashion houses guilty of this racist act.”

The list included Victoria Beckham, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Chanel, Armani, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Roberto Cavalli and Marc by Marc Jacobs.

What do you think? Is the UK fashion industry guilty of racism? Talent Management writers would really like to hear your opinions.