Black supermodel Naomi Campbell has spoken out against racism in the fashion industry saying that advertisers were using the recession as an excuse to drop black models and that the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine in Australia was sacked for putting her face on the front cover.
Black supermodel Naomi Campbell has spoken out against racism in the fashion industry saying that advertisers were using the recession as an excuse to drop black models.
She also said that the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine in Australia was sacked for putting her face on the front of the magazine.
Campbell told the Daily Telegraph (24 October) that she did not see any black face this year in major advertising campaigns.
Campbell has long been an ambassador for equal race representation in the fashion industry.
In March 2009, she told AFP news “…as a black woman, I am still an exception in this business. I always have to work harder to be treated equally. In the past, there were more opportunities for black models but the trend towards blond women has again become extreme. In magazines, on the catwalk, I see blond, blue-eyed models everywhere.” (‘Naomi Campbell hits out at racism in the fashion world’: AFP: Friday, 3 March, 2009)
In July 2008 Italian Vogue dedicated an entire month’s issue of its magazine to black models in response to discrimination in the fashion industry. The idea was inspired by Italian Vogue’s editor Franca Sozzani, who responded to a protest by leading black fashion industry figures, including models, designers and agents in New York to tackle racism in the industry.
Steven Meisel, was the acclaimed New York photographer who took the images of the black models for this issue, including a few of the fashion world’s biggest black models such as Naomi Campbell, Iman, Tyra Banks, Liya Kebede, Jourdon Dunne, Alek Wek and Pat Cleveland, and he is familiar with the barriers that black models face within the fashion industry.
In an article on the Telegraph.co.uk website, by Lucy Cockcroft, on June 20, he said that, “I thought, it’s ridiculous, this discrimination. It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place. Age, weight, sexuality, race – every kind of prejudice.” He added, “I have asked my advertising clients so many times, ‘Can we use a black girl?’ They say no.”
While black and minority ethnic readers can relate to the struggle of wanting to see more non-European models in the fashion industry, is it really rational and realistic to expect commercial magazines that have a predominately white readership to sell African or Asian beauty?
Magazines such as Ebony and Pride have sought to redress the racial imbalance within the fashion industry and it is perhaps a greater presence of these types of magazines that is needed on the shelves of newsagents.
While there may be an argument for the fashion industry to include more non-European models when it comes to selling fashion, when it comes to selling beauty this is an area that becomes more complex.
Canons of beauty differs depending on a specific culture or society, while white readers may want to see images of white models which they can relate to, Black or Asian readers may want to see models that reflect their cultural canons of beauty.
However, because of the racist associations with beauty the fashion industry do have an ethical duty to represent the diverse representations of beauty all over the world.
This is a debate which will provoke debate for some time.
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