Fashion industry excludes models of colour

Tuesday, 02 July 2013
Prada have cast a black model for their fall winter 2013 advertising campaign. This news should be far from interesting, but unfortunately racial issues in fashion are an every day occurrence. Fashion may be exclusive, but even in 2013 it is very much racist.

This is the first time Prada have used a black girl to front a campaign since Naomi Campbell in 1994. Before that there were none.

Less models of colour in brand campaigns

Prada stoically prefers Arian-esque models, Germanic, young and most certainly white. Even on the catwalk, after Campbell's runway appearance in 1993 there wasn't a single black girl featured for another 15 years until 2008, when Jourdan Dunn took to the catwalk. Shocking considering the many black beauties that have emerged over the years. 19 years is a long time for a fashion brand to not have a diverse showing of models, considering it advertising every single month in the world's leading style pages. That's 228 months of advertising without a black face. Miuccia obviously is making a point about who she wants to represent her brand, and it's by far not the African community.

The news is poignant this week as Raf Simons at Dior cancelled black beauty Jourdan Dunn from his Dior couture show. Apparently because her breasts were too large. Dior, which also cast a very generic Arian white-girl look, has been criticised since the departure of John Galliano as Simons has hasn't been inclusive of more racial diversity on the Dior catwalks. While Galliano's offensive remarks have no place in a luxury fashion house who needs to sell its products to many markets, how different is the underlying message when the same fashion house sends only white girls down the runway, season after season. And similarly its campaign uses only light-skinned faces. Is the message that is interpreted that white is more beautiful over everything else?

Poignantly, Jenna Sauers, a commentator from Jezebel.com, wrote: 'As we've documented repeatedly on this website, the fashion industry as a whole has a number of problems with race - whether it's the under-representation of models of color on the world's biggest runways, or the spate of ignorant but widely copied trends, like blackface references in editorials.

'Perhaps no single brand has embodied near-total whiteness more than Prada. What made the company finally hire a black model for its seasonal ad campaign? Prada isn't saying. Let's hope it won't be 19 years before we see another.'

Image: Prada AW13 campaign

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