I was watching a fashion show recently of a very famous American designer. Three dozen lovely looks floated down the runway, modeled by three dozen different models— who each managed to look identical. Teenaged, leggy, wiry, long dirty blonde hair. And white. I guess I should be used to this, having worked in fashion for several years now and having followed it for over half my life. But somehow, it still bothered me.
photo from an old fashion show, not the one I reference in this article. pic courtesy of foodfashion.com

Out of 40 girls, two were non-white. One Asian girl and one black girl.

And the thing is, this is an American designer, behind a contemporary American brand. This is Americana. So how does that runway show even define America? And I’m not trying to pick on this one design house, it happens at so many different places. (Somehow, it doesn’t bother me as much with European designers, A., because I’m not European, and B., because Europe doesn’t have our history, nor is it particularly known for being an all-embracing melting-pot.)

We have so many ethnically-diverse models these days, and thousands of other tall, thin girls pining to join the industry that it seems ridiculous to feature only the Eastern European types. And I know it’s not because we’ve reverted to the 70s ideal of blonde, blue-eyed beauty. Beauty and advertising campaigns regularly feature a diverse array of women—models like Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn, Hollywood stars like Beyonce and Eva Longoria.
Jourdan Dunn in Teen Vogue
I just wish fashion designers would get up to speed and start featuring beautiful women of all colors in their shows. I won’t say all sizes (though that would be cool too!), because I understand that clothing hangs “best” on a certain frame; but to assert, even passively, that it looks best on white women (but should be bought by all Americans and foreigners), well, frankly that’s a problem.
Eva Mendes for a Calvin Klein campaign

What do you think? Am I overreacting here? Am I also being size-ist while criticizing designers for not being race-sensitive? Would love to hear your thoughts, even if you don’t agree with me. xo


Anonymous said...

Great post! :) No, you are not overreacting at all. the sad thing is this is what we've come to expect from the fashion industry (white, ultra-thin) and what we've grown up with seeing in magazines. one would think by 2011 things may be changing but apparently not. i wonder if fashion blogging "democratizes" this a bit and allows other women (women of color, of different sizes, etc) to flourish and get their foot in the fashion industry but a recent post by Grit and Glamour also highlights that the bloggers who rise to the top are also > 85% white, blonde, thin...

thanks for writing this post and highlighting this issue!

- DL

Rehana said...

Loved this post. I remember taking a Women of Color class at De Anza and we were asked to name 10 famous supermodels who were women of color. After naming the usual likes Tyra, Adriana etc. I honestly couldn't think of any past five. Then we were asked to name all the white supermodels... the list was endless. This disparity is so bothersome and makes me wonder where all this so called progress we have made really is? I agree with you guys, I wish this industry was more representative of the world we live in.

Zeenat Umar said...

I think you should send this post to some fashion magazines - i know they'll take it! I don't follow fashion, but from what you said, that's quite embarassing for America, as a nation
-Zeenat Umar


I think your points are very valid...I do see more diversity in fashion than when I was a girl, however, so that is good. This is what I love about Tom Ford's approach since he launched his own womenswear line. He features real women in his private shows, women who may be celebrities, but vary greatly in age, body type, and height. I love that. I love that he also refuses to release images of new collections until the clothing can be purchased. Makes sense.

Anyway, I digress...just wanted to read your point of view since you left a comment for me about this over on G&G. Thanks for that!