The latest buzz in the fashion industry is two-fold. On One hand, the Vogue Italia created an all out raid on news stands for their July edition, on the other hand, where were all the black models prior to that edition? Why is the country so backwards when it comes to the progress of ‘ethnic minorities?’ This is the 21st century & we still talking about the 1st African American this & that… Is this the way its going to always be?

“What happened to all the black models?” “Let’s round them up in a special edition of Vogue.” “Why are the runways so pale?” “Let’s trot out Naomi at the February shows.” Basically, Vogue Italia was a token edition of black models because most of those models can’t find work year round, unless its Black history month or some other “ethnic” affair..

Fashion photographer Nick Knight decided not to draw attention to this latest buzz. Instead, he produced and posted on his blog a video about “the outright taboo subject of racism in the fashion industry,” featuring Naomi Campbell, a tank, two loaded handguns and a few slates of text.

As Campbell points two handguns at the camera, Knight’s words appear on screen: “I am virtually never allowed to photograph black models for the magazines, fashion houses, cosmetic brands, perfume companies and advertising clients I work for. Whenever I ask to use a black model I am given excuses such as, ‘Black models are not aspirational in some markets’ or ‘they do not reflect the brands values,’ normally, however, no reason is given.”

Then in the last part of the ‘muted’ video, “If I judge by my own feelings, I can only guess the indignation, anger, rage and fury that black models must feel.” AMEN!! Following that Campbell sprays bullets from a fully automatic assault weapon. Depsite the fact, the video is silent, its message is deafening and poignant. There is definitive conversation in silence!! Listen closely….

“If you look at the catwalks, the shows in London, Paris, Milan, it’s the same. Right across the board, there’s a total under-representation of black models in the fashion industry. It happens in editorial and on the runways,” Knight said.

“I don’t think it comes from the photographers. I don’t think it comes from the fashion editors. I don’t like to parcel out blame, but you have to look at why business allows it. I guess these companies are being told what sells and what doesn’t sell. And I think within those marketing strategies are assumed racisms.”

Marketing strategies is a polite of way of saying that Black models aren’t selling magazines so we don’t put them on covers. However, the July edition of Vogue Italia turns that theory on its head. How many editions of Vogue have sold out prior to hitting stands? My guess is its not a monthly occurence. This is how subtle racism is and how it goes unchecked because the supposition is such that can’t be proven easily at first. Although, if you dig deep enough the truth can always be uncovered…. Let’s keep diggin’

“I’ve often heard, ‘All Asians like this. All Asian people like the color pink. This will work in the Asian market,'” he added. “As if human beings actually act like that. People don’t behave as Asians, they don’t behave as Americans, they don’t behave as black people, they don’t behave as BMW drivers. They don’t behave as any of the stereotypes we put across.”

Categorization: racist always try to place people in convenient little boxes to justify their beliefs, prejudices and actions. Still, we must applaud Knight in his effort to eradicate a phenomenom he participated in. “I realized I was accepting racism and bigotry and I needed to make a statement.”  So why don’t more white people develop a conscience & spine and seek to eradicate this silent killer? Will Knight achieve his aim in making the video? Probably! His only goal: “get people’s attention.”

Marvet Britto, brand strategist and founder of PR firm The Britto Agency, finds the whole situation ironic, considering how many fashion and lifestyle trends emerge from the black community. Indeed, which is why this is so hypocritical. Our country has appropriated the most satiable parts of blackness, while relegating the rest of the culture to the back of the bus (pun intended).

“What these companies fail to realize is A) we spend billions over all sectors of industry and B) as a smaller segment, we still influence the masses,” said Britto, who is black. “Most of the trends we see, it can all be traced to urban culture. It’s simply been adopted and made palatable for mass consumption.” For example, designs on finger nails. Sisters been doing that forever, but now its en vogue because mainstream culture has approved of the style. That’s one example among 1,000’s.

Britto adds, “Marc Jacobs( jeweler) wears his pants low. Black men started doing that in jail because they didn’t have belts,” she said. “Women spend money to get lip enhancements, butt implants, more tan skin. They’re seeking to mimic people with ethnic features — traits that are found in African-American women.”

However, they wouldn’t trade places for a day with these same people they mimic. “While imitation is the best form of flattery.” Let’s call it what it is:HYPOCRISY. I want to appropriate & assimilate your aesthetics, but I don’t want to be confused with being you or like you. Its like trying to learn how to swim without ever getting wet. Impossible? Or, more like standing under a tree with an umbrella in your hand covering your head.

“I remember when black models were everywhere in the ’70s,” said Simon Doonan, creative director at Barney’s and author of “Eccentric Glamour.” “Issey Miyake, Yves Saint Laurent, they used so many black girls. We’ve gone from that to the situation now where there are these token attempts to integrate black women. It’s distasteful to me. Fashion should be intriguing and alluring. What’s alluring about a parade of white girls?” Not a damn thing. Its quite boring & not reflective of reality.

In the 70’s there was a lot of political upheaval within the black community. The Civil Rights Movement, The Black Power Movement, The Black Pride Movement. These community based policies reflected teh full spectrum of blackness. Similarly, like Jazz music, Rock-n-Roll and now hip-hop music the “look” was co-opted and the reality was left to fill the void. This is the method of operation of the establishment. After a while, when the fad wears off, those black models were relegated to the fringe in favor of more socially acceptable “looks” & trends.

“We’re living in a very conformist time where the national ideal is a girl with blond hair, a fake tan, fake boobs and fake lips. It’s a very plastic ideal that dominates our culture,” Doonan said. “The hot bimbo archetype is what’s screwing everything up for everybody, not just women of color.”

“I don’t think this is hard-core racism. I think it’s more inertia and stupidity on the part of the fashion industry. It’s lack of imagination,” Doonan said. “There’s a collective responsibility the fashion industry has to get their a– into gear, come into the 21st century, open the windows and doors and see all the beautiful girls that are out there and not have preconceived ideas about it. This is reprehensible and it needs to change.”

I’ll say it, its definitely HARD CORE RACISM, let’s not sugar coat what we all see self evidently….


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