|Bruno with fashion accessory|
By ERIC WILSON
Five years ago, the fashion industry faced a reckoning over the startling lack of diversity among the models on major designer runways. Reacting to complaints that many shows and magazines included nothing but white models, Vogue, in its July 2008 issue, featured a substantial article that asked, in its headline, “Is Fashion Racist?”...
And since then, almost nothing has changed.
The New York shows are as dominated by white models as they have been since the late 1990s, roughly at the end of the era of supermodels. Jezebel, a blog that has been tracking the appearance of minorities in fashion shows since the debate erupted, noted that the numbers are hardly encouraging. After a notable increase in 2009 that followed extensive news media coverage, the representation of black models has remained fairly steady until this year, when they accounted for only 6 percent of the looks shown at the last Fashion Week in February (down from 8.1 percent the previous season); 82.7 percent were worn by white models.
In Europe, where Phoebe Philo of Céline, Raf Simons of Dior and many others have presented entire collections using no black models at all, the opportunities have been even less favorable for minorities.
“There is something terribly wrong,” said Iman, one of the most iconic models in the world, who later created a successful cosmetics company. Her experience in the fashion scene of the 1980s and ’90s, when designers like Calvin Klein, Gianni Versace and Yves Saint Laurent routinely cast black models without question, was starkly different than that of young nonwhite models today, when the racial prejudice is all but explicitly stated. The increased appearance of Asian models over the last decade, for example, is often described specifically in terms of appealing to luxury customers in China.
Iman and hubby
“We have a president and a first lady who are black,” Iman said. “You would think things have changed, and then you realize that they have not. In fact, things have gone backward.”
My guess is that one reason for this trend away from black models is that global wealth is shifting away from America and Europe to Asia and some other places such as Brazil. Rich Asians and Latin Americans tend to find whites much more glamorous and appealing-looking than they find blacks. The rest of the world is a lot more racist than the North Atlantic.
Another reason is that fashion's gay mafia tend to be—in their aesthetic tastes, feelings of superiority, and cruelty—pretty much Nazis. (I finally made it through Bruno by Sacha Baron Cohen, who worked as a fashion model after college, and that's basically his point about gay fashionistas. If only Hitler had been allowed into art school ...)
Gay fashion designers never thought the rules of diversity apply to them, and for the last several years they've been hearing constantly about what huge victims they are, so that's just made them even more self-indulgent.
Similarly, gay men discriminate like mad in the fashion business against women who want to get into the field, but it's not a big deal because of Who? Whom?