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Where are All the Black Men in Fashion?

Disclaimer: I am not qualified to speak for all African-American men, and I do not intend to speak for all African-American men. 

If you don’t know by now that there is a lack of color within the fashion industry and  seemingly open racism within how the Haute world functions, then it can only lead me to believe that you have/are living under a rock.

What has often been brushed under the soles of the Balenciaga heels of the fashion intuitive is the problem with the lack of men of color within all of the facets of the fashion industry.

We do see the likes of Andre Leon Talley (former editor-at-large of Vogue Magazine), Olivier Rousteing (creative director at the French fashion house Balmain), Laquan Smith, the late Willi Smith, and Kerby-Jean Raymond (who recently spoke out against Police Brutality in his Pyer Moss fashion show), but these are only a few prominent African-American male names in the industry as compared to the plethora of white male names that have become hackneyed and tiring to pronounce.

What is even more alarming about the lack of African-American men in the fashion industry is the exponential growth of white males within the fashion industry.

“It’s a paradox, really. African-Americans have generally been the purveyors of style in our country for much of our history, and yet African-American designers have such trouble breaking out and creating businesses of any scale.” – Mellody Hobson

Creative Review cites the design council’s review of designer demographics in the United Kingdom alone as “60% male, 93% white, and, on average, 38 years old.”  A New York Times article displays the number of African-American designers that showed collections during 2015 New York Fashion Week by reporting that only three out of 260 designers showing “with any global reach” were African-American; what is even more quizzical is that of this three none are men.

Female empowerment and African-American female empowerment within the fashion industry should definitely be praised and commended continuously (as it is disgustingly rare), but what I am frustrated with is what the lack of male African-American designers means to the continuation of stereotypes of African-American men that already disease the typical non-Black mind.

With the reinforcement of African-American men as thugs, drug dealers, rapists, felons and other undesirable epithets comes the death of the possibility of African-American male creatives. Ironically, many people do have positive views of African-American men but those “positive” views typically seem to be of rappers (which still reinforces plenty of vile stereotypes more often than not) or professional sports players. Being a rapper or a sports player is a fine and lucrative career, but it is not for everyone, and it is not fair to shove all African-American men into a box in which we will not all fit or belong in.

I am frustrated with the lack of male African-American designers and how this contributes to stereotypes of African-American men that already disease the typical non-Black mind.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in sports reports that “More than three-quarters of NBA players (76.3 percent) and nearly two-thirds of NFL players (66.3 percent) are Black, while Major League Baseball has the fewest Black players at just 8.3 percent. Latinos have a strong presence in MLB (28.2 percent) and MLS (24.1 percent).”   For comparison, the Council of Fashion Designers of America is only home to 12 African-American designers out of the 470 that compose the council.

As a young African-American male with aspirations of a career in fashion, being confronted with a white male dominated fashion industry is unnerving and uninspiring. But perhaps this just means that the industry is waiting on me for a change in the totally off trend status quo.

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