An islandista conundrum – Jourdan Dunn and tokenism in Milan

So anyone reading this blog would know that we here at Islandista red-heart1  Jourdan Dunn. We really do. We love how she’s both fierce and gazelle-like, we love that she freely admitted she wished she had a big bamsy when she was younger and we love her refreshing frankness on the paucity of black models in high fashion.

So we are torn… torn we tell you! at her recent success on the catwalk and what it means. On the one hand, Jourdan has been tearing it up – from Vogue and Elle editorials to dominating New York, London and Milan’s Fashion Weeks thus far. And we love it.

However it is her dominance of Milan Fashion Week that raises yet again the troubling question of race in fashion for Jourdan was often the token black on the runways at the recently concluded Milan Fashion Week.

Lonellly... I'm so lonnelly... on my own... Jourdan Dunn was the sole black model at Etro's Fall RTW show during Milan Fashion Week. (photo credit: Marcio Madeira for

Lonellly... I'm so lonnelly... on my own... Jourdan Dunn was the sole black model at Etro's Fall RTW show during Milan Fashion Week. (photo credit: Marcio Madeira for


New York Magazine pointed it out in a much-commented on piece last week, noting:

While New York’s runways were more diverse than in seasons past, Milan was quite the opposite. Top Italian designers Gianfranco Ferré, Giorgio Arman, Jil Sander, Marni, Missoni, Moschino, Prada and Salvatore Ferragamo featured all-white casts of models. And the few times when designers did book ethnic models, they picked from a small, highly-selective pool of girls:  Jourdan Dunn, Liu Wenn and Marina Peres (Dunn, Wen, and Peres were the most requested girls from their respective groups.)

And therein lies the rub. While we revel in Jourdan’s success and love that she was the top model in London’s fashion week, walking in 14 shows, we bemoan the fact that designers are using her as the token black.

The figures from Milan, which NYM collected, bear this out in grim detail. In six out of the ten shows she walked in, she was all on her own to represent the million shades of black beauty that there are out there. In the other four, she was accompanied by Chanel Iman, who seems to be the only other black model in the world as far as most designers are concerned. She walked in seven shows but only walked two on her own as the sole black model – the others were of course with Jourdan and one with Arlenis Sosa.

So … they say a word to the wise is sufficient so leh we try a t’ing here.

Friends, Milanese, designers – lend me your ears!

Jourdan Dunn is NOT the only black model in the world.

It is ok to use more than one black model at a time. It will not scare anyone. In fact, it could do great things for you. (see Italian Vogue, all black).
All black women and/or black models do not look alike. (Androgynous Eastern European models now… that’s another story). We have diverse complexions, features and even hair types – not that I am so hopeful as to see a model rocking dreads anytime soon – but it’s an idea!



1 comment for “An islandista conundrum – Jourdan Dunn and tokenism in Milan

  1. youcouldbelievethis
    March 13, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    The fashion designers are very much stuck in their ways. Right now they prefer to treat black models as gimmicks, rather than use them regularly. They really should know better, because it’s not just the black models being shafted, all models of colour are being ignored.

    But I rather they have one or two, than none. But black designers need to make an effort to always have models of all colour on their runways so the public knows, that weak excuse about there not being enough is just that an excuse.

    They can’t feed that rubbish to we West Indian women because we see potential models in town every day, and strutting their stuff at CFW.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *