It’s early days yet but things are looking good as islandistas have been making their presence felt on the catwalks of New York Fashion Week.
Fashion industry insider and activist Bethann Hardison continued her good work with a blistering open letter sent to the fashion councils for the ‘Big Four’ fashion weeks – New York City, London, Paris and Milan accusing them of what we have discussed here time and again – endemic racism. (Emphasis in the quote is ours.)
Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of color. No matter the intention, the result is racism. Not accepting another based on the color 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.
This time, she called out the chief offenders by name, highlighting those who consistently under-represent or do not even include models of colour and it includes major fashion industry heavyweights such as Donna Karan, Versace, Céline, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein, BCBG, Prada and Chanel.
Bethann has been on this for a few years now, holding town hall meetings and discussions to highlight the lack of diversity in fashion. Truth be told, her efforts are working, which is why over the past 5 years that Islandista has been online, we have been seeing way more models of Caribbean birth or heritage.
However, Bethann would be right to feel that her efforts are not working as quickly or as much as she’d like. The sad truth is, the vast majority of the shows are still lily-white. Furthermore, how often have we seen a Caribbean model rise in a blaze of excitement and then fade out? Sedene Blake was hotter than fire a few years ago and is hardly seen now. Same of Sesilee Lopez.
And while islandista Joan Smalls reigns supreme at the top of models.com, models of colour (not just black – models of East Asian descent and sub-continent Asian models (like islandista Alyssah Ali) are still the exception. I don’t expect them to become the rule because the truth is, all four of the countries where the Big Four fashion weeks are held are still majority white. However, it is hardly reflective of the diversity of the cities themselves, especially New York, London and Paris!
What are your thoughts islandistas? We’ve come a long way just in the last few years alone but where will be the point at which we can say – yes, we’re comfortable, this is a fair representation?