Sunday, September 16, 2007

Little Diversity in Fashion: African-Americans Bemoan Their Absence in Industry

Excerpts from WWD

...By not including more blacks in their shows and ads, Ivan Bart, senior vice president of IMG Models, said designers and other fashion companies are missing out on black women's spending power. "By not having black women represented, those luxury brands are saying they can't afford it," he said.

...[Bethann] Hardison, who has modeled, run her own modeling agency and handled casting over the years, said, "In the United States of America, this is the one industry that still has the freedom to refer to people by their color and reject them in their work."

...Daniel Wolf, a Washington-based attorney who specializes in civil and human rights, said the assumption being made in the fashion industry is that it is legal to discriminate — however false. Wolf recommended that modeling agencies hire the same percentage of black models that are in the entire modeling industry.

...The lack of blacks in all aspects of fashion — from the runway to the executive suite — comes as there is a noticeable increase in the number of Asian models, designers and executives in the industry. Among designers, for example, Thakoon Panichgul, Peter Som, Doo-Ri Chung, Derek Lam, Phillip Lim, and Benjamin Cho have all sprung onto the scene. Of course, designers like Vera Wang, Yeohlee Teng, Anna Sui and Vivienne Tam had already helped pave the way.

...Of the 101 shows and presentations posted on, 31 appear to have no black models. Most of those who did use black models opted for one or two. However, Heatherette, Diane von Furstenberg, Charles Nolan, Tracy Reese, Yigal Azrouël, Philip Lim, Marc Jacobs, Jenni Kayne and Sue Stemp were among the designers who used more than two.

...[Naomi] Campbell, who flew in from London for the occasion, recalled how Christy Turlington once told Dolce & Gabbana, "If you don't use Naomi, you don't get us," referring also to Linda Evangelista. Campbell said that's how she also got into Helmut Lang, Prada and Versace. She used a different route with French Vogue, appealing to Yves Saint Laurent, whose campaigns she had worked on for three years running. The magazine relented after the designer threatened to pull his advertising, which at the time was reportedly the publication's largest advertiser.

...Bill Blass' former designer, Michael Vollbracht, recalled the days when booking Sheila Johnson, Pat Cleveland and other leading African-American beauties was a given. After returning to the industry after a 15-year hiatus, he was surprised to learn that was no longer the case. Age is also an issue, Vollbracht said. Cleveland's return to the Blass runway in 2004 was not well-received, Vollbracht said. "I was told, 'Don't ever put that girl back on the runway.'"

...On occasion [Tracy] Reese's booker has to request specific girls or the modeling agencies will not send them, Reese said.

Most of this, we've all read before so I won't bother to rehash my thought on the subject. The most striking thing about this article to me is that someone would actually complain about watching Pat Cleveland on the runway. Talk about a jaw dropping comment. To be fair, I know that everyone has their favorites in the modeling industry but... damn. That would be like me writing a pissy letter to Anna Wintour every time I saw Kate Moss or Gisele appearing in an advertisement. Personally, I'd pay money to watch Cleveland walk across the street.


Tarah said...

This comment is about the Kate Spade comment you left on my blog... What'cha think of this bag?

I am in love with it but think I need a sugar daddy to afford it... (kidding!)

FemmeNoire said...

The link doesn't work for me. Looking at the bags on, the only one that looks cute to me is the "Stevie shoulder tote" but even with that one, I don't like the placement of the label.

I agree though, handbag prices have gone plum crazy. Unless it winds up at The Rack, I don't think I'll be sporting it anytime soon :)

aulelia said...

your blog is so good! i am glad to see this article up. i just want to applaud christy turlington + YSL. i am happy 2 see some sort of solidarity for naomi there, as much as she is contentious for her behaviour, she is a FANTASTIC model. i would rather see her and chanel iman anyday over the gisele's of the world.