Dear Fashion Industry: Please Check Your Racism

Being a fashion student who keeps their ear to the ground in all things Gucci, Louis, Fendi Fendi and Prada, it appears that from the outside looking in, there is a slight discomfort in fashion around race. Particularly with the  magazine editors of your, Anna and Alexandra, heres looking at you. It appears to make the big editors or known names in fashion uncomfortable. Designers, Editors and Celebrity alike, and I’m not too sure why. One could hazard a guess that in a predominantly white, westernised, blue blood industry getting called out on race, means they might have to change their ways and the world won’t just sit and nod at them as per usual. I find the attitudes of some of the more senior people in fashion quite Laissez-faire, and this is highly frustrating for many people, particularly in the time of Trump. It is no good anymore to stick Naomi Campbell or Jourdan Dunn in an editorial and call it a day, representation is key! We need black models, or hispanic photographers, Indian make up artists, we need to represent everyone. Inclusion is key, and for a subject as democratic as fashion, which essentially is putting clothes on your body, I don’t see why it is so hard to grasp.

Even outside of this old guard of fashion, what about the front row of the actual fashion show. How many black people are there? Perhaps ethnic minorities? Depending on the city it does vary but lets say between 10-15, out of a huge crowd of influencers, press and clients. How about the runway? In fashion a black model can often be a tokenistic gesture, or a business move. Heinously echoing thoughts of sales and press, like:  “We need to sell clothes globally and not everyone interested in fashion is white, also we could do without the negative press” instead of actually caring about the people who wear and may eventually buy their clothes. As horrid and cynical this all sounds, I fear there is truth in this, that the small amount of representation we may see is all in the interest of business, not fair and true representation. It appears that fashion is struggling with diversity, which isn’t something the rest of the press should be taking lightly as it does. Struggling with diversity isn’t like struggling with maths homework, struggling with diversity is racism.

Systemic, deep rooted, old fashioned and prevalent as ever. One may query a designer as to why their catwalk isn’t more diverse. I’d love to know the answer, perhaps from Demna Gvasalia, creative director at Balenciaga, and the head of the design team at much adored and fawned after brand Vetements, the two respective brands have dominated social media over the past few weeks, one noteworthy piece being the Balenciaga “Sanders” bomber jacket that initially I liked. Finally a big brand being outspoken and political, only to realise that it was just appropriation of a logo and perhaps a liberal idea, but really: they just want to sell clothes. They want to appeal to those whom are interested in politics and not actually be political themselves, which is incredibly apathetic.

In this climate of Trump and his merry men, surely you’d think it irresponsible to cast 50 white people and then throw in a few black models towards the end, – Dior S/S 17 I’m looking at you   or not even cast one single ethnic minority @ Balenciaga ! I also think the observation has to be made that fashion is not for the white, high class, society woman anymore, and the industry needs to recognise that their client base is not all white. This failure to recognise and represent their customer is grotesque, and suggests that they find only a certain kind of woman in keeping with their brand.

In 2017 how can the notion that white beauty is in any way superior, to black beauty, or any other beauty still be prevalent. I hope this wasn’t the direct intention of those brands or magazines, but when your dealing with a multi billion dollar industry, one must be able to call one out on its bullshit. I do fear for the 15 year old girl flicking through her mothers monthly vogue and seeing the flat image of white girl in pretty dress, over and over, and not being able to find herself in any of the images presented. We need to include and empower everyone in every industry, to have any chance of reaching true racial diversity and equality, and I think this is long overdue in fashion.

Inclusion is essential. Representation is essential. To say that other ethnicities aren’t your aesthetic is not acceptable in 2017. To not have any suitable make up for non-white skin is not acceptable in 2017. To not feature enough POC in your fashion show, campaign or magazine is not good enough in 2017. And for brands like Dior, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Valentino and Vetements to not have equal inclusion of other ethnicities is not acceptable in 2017.

Dear fashion editors,

Inclusion and representation regardless of aesthetic is essential in 2017.

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Amy Spencer
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I am a 19 year old Fahsion Student currently living and studying in London. My interests surround Feminism, Politics, The Arts and primarily issues within the fashion industry including racism and ethical practice.

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