ETHOS. Diversity Issue Page 4-9 Have We Lost A Race? Pages 10-12 Street Culture.
Have We Lost A Race? Fashion is a language, an expression of identity, a statement to be different or an ego to hide under. It is a narrative that has urbanized within cultures and has broken all language barriers. We live in a society where being alternative is admired and accepted. Yet we close of the possibilities of integrating within other ethnic races. Internationally countries have discovered their own strong identities within fashion. However lack of cultural communication has limited the ethnic diversity. Can we integrate different cultural identity into our fixated society? Or is it barrier that can not be broken?
ugust 1974, the first black model is featured in an issue of Vogue. Beverley Johnson was breaking down the racial barriers within the fashion industry. Fashion had finally recognized different races and ethnic culture for their own identity, but more importantly they were also accepting them. Since this breakthrough, we have seen many super models hit the runway and covers of magazines from the infamous Iman and Namoi Campell to the more modern faces such as Jourdan Dunn. Racial diversity was introduced into the fashion empire with a positive impact; the world was changing and making history with the black power movement, the equality of races was finally being accepted. This was the time for fashion to move forward with society. To integrate different ethnic races to inspire collections that would also result in inspiring the people. So why is the fashion industry stuck in the moment and not moving forward? Calvin Klein’s SS12 saw a runway with zero ethnic race models. In which the society does not seem to be affected; a response from a coloured blogger I interviewed was ‘the lack of ethnic diversity is normal an all white catwalk is not unusual.’ If we see an all white catwalk as normal, will it be seen as normal to go back to segregated schools and buses? Calvin Klein is dependent on all types of people that want to be seen in its logo. Illustrating how strong the brand value is worth. As a result to the consumption of images and our idealistic view of beauty we ignore the lack of cultural diversity from the brands that inspire us. Fashion is a segregated industry, but as customers we only care about the brand name not the brand value. Our softened sensitivity results to us ignoring the harsh reality that we are racist buying into a racist brand. Calvin Klein was not the only fashion house to use a lack of ethnic models. New York fashion week AW12 saw 4479 models; in which there were 3706 white (82.7%), 409 Asian (9.1%), 271 black (6%) and 90 Latina (2%). (Jezebel by Jenna Sauers) Casting directors have suggested the reasons being that the fall and winter colours in the collections look more aesthetic against the white pale skin.
The lack of ethnic models is so low that there were more black people on the catwalk in the 70’s than there are now. Iman stated ‘we have a president and a first lady who are black. You would think things have changed, and then you realize that they have not. In fact, things have gone backward.’ Fashion and the critics are moving backwards whilst societies within day-to-day life are moving forward. The society is changing, adapting and accepting cultures. Learning to appreciate and interpret different styles, society and faces. Advanced technology allows designers to broadcast their shows live, showcasing their work to a non-racist society. You would assume that having a bigger audience would result in more critics, critics that would pick up on the lack of ethnic races and the domination of white models. Accept we do just the opposite. Instinctively we segregate by the colour with an assumption that ethnic people are not good enough. A statement by Carole White; ‘I think clients have this perception that black girls do not sell products, which goes way back to the 50’s. I think it’s engrained in every magazine editor. There are more products for blonde and blue-eyed girls. Everything is geared to that.’ Carole is a designer that sources mainly white models yet is putting the fault on the magazine editors. We forget that not including segregated models illustrates a discriminating society. ‘The absence of people of color on the runways and photography reinforces to our young girls that they’re not beautiful enough, that they’re not acceptable enough.’ (Iman) The consumers are not aware to the issue and designers shift the blame, assuming that it is a fixed perception within the fashion industry. It wasn’t noted until the influential Naomi Campell came out exploiting the fashion industry on their racism act. As part of the diversity coalition with Iman they have written to many fashion councils to call an end to racism within fashion. When talking about this issue Campell said ‘it’s heart-breaking to me that we’re in 2013 and we’re sitting here talking about this. But it has to be done and people need to know.” Since the diversity coalition have spoken out there has been a change within the catwalk. Calvin Klein saw 5 coloured models on their SS14 collection and there was a raise of 2.72% of ethnic models within the New York SS14 fashion week.
However these are only small changes for a big issue. Campell has recognized these changes responding; ‘If you’re beautiful, you’ve got the right aesthetics, that you have the opportunity to go after the job, and be in the show, or be chosen like anyone else. So it’s not something that’s just hip for five minutes.’ The critics and public are a massively influenced by the fashion industry as it is slowly filtered down into everyday life.
Although the diversity coalition has created awareness and pushed for change within the fashion industry we are still only seeing around 25% of different ethnic races being used each season. Is the industry going to move one step forward and then move one step back? If we were to see the industry change to have an equal integrated catwalk, would you still buy into the brand represented by an all black catwalk? Who are the true racists the designers or the customers?