On Blacks in the Fashion Industry: Deeper Meaning Below A Glossy Surface

Robin Givhan – The Washington Post

Copyright The Washington Post
The fashion industry has always struggled to burnish its image as something more than a vessel for insecurities, pretentiousness and superficiality. At times this struggle must seem particularly Sisyphean for editors of fashion magazines — with their wrinkle creams, in-and-out lists and miracle diets — who are trying to make a case for their social awareness and desire to do more good than harm.
A duo of small but influential Italian fashion magazines may be making more headway than the American behemoths.
American fashion magazines have always grappled with a wide range of issues, from women’s health to politics and social activism. But mostly, what people remember are the pages and pages of luxury clothes worn by gazellelike young women.
In the past year or so, the industry has been paying particular attention to the question of diversity: the lack of it on the runway, as well as behind the scenes. Glamour magazine was confronted with angry calls and e-mails after a white staff member — since departed — speaking on behalf of the publication, voiced her disapproval of Afros in the workplace during a presentation at a law firm.
In response, the magazine hosted several panel discussions bringing together a variety of viewpoints on the subjects of race, beauty and friendships across ethnic lines. This spring, members of the New York fashion community raised concerns because black models had been banished from the runway thanks to the prevailing preference for an Eastern European aesthetic. In July, American Vogue ran an article discussing diversity in the industry and also featured several black models in fashion spreads. And then there was Italian Vogue. The July edition of the magazine was called “A Black Issue” and all the editorial pages, as well as the cover, featured black models…
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