Racism leaves a shadow behind at London Fashion Week
London Fashion Week may now be over but the fall-out over its obvious lack of black models has only just begun. While a model of colour could scarcely be seen at New York, the situation in London appears to have only strengthened the argument that the fashion industry doesn't truthfully reflect these cities and the people who represent them. This has led outspoken designer Katharine Hamnett to blast the industry in the Guardian:
"The catwalks are full of white dogs. Cosmetic companies don't like black models - the racist bitches. I have no idea why when it's obvious that black girls are just so genuinely much more beautiful than Caucasians, who have clearly got the short straw. Black girls have much better body shapes and it's such a shame. I just think there should be a bit more of a balance."
Blimey! Ever heard of constructive criticism Ms Hamnett? I'm pretty certain these comments constitute as bigotry in their own right.
British-born model Jourdan Dunn was the only black model to have repeatedly walked the LFW catwalks. She recently told Style.com:
"Luck is on my side that I keep getting cast, but there are so many beautiful black girls. I don't understand why it's always only me and maybe another girl who are chosen."
A rare exception was Avsh Alom Gur's show which featured only black models, although he admits race had nothing to do with this decision. "My colours looked best against these models' skin tones," he explained. "I was initially inspired by photos from the twenties and thirties of black women dressing to attend church in the American South. But I was not making a statement with this decision. I was just inspired by them."
This week, the Guardian's Elizabeth Day published her report on the issue at LFW, grabbing opinions from a range of industry folks from Vivienne Westwood to British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman. Their reasons? The usual - what sells and what doesn't, a sour economic climate - but never that unspoken view that white is is traditionally seen as beautiful. Is it really a case of what sells or is it more a case of what the industry has convinced itself will sell?
Naomi Campbell's plight to highlight the racial inequality in fashion has prompted new British Fashion Council boss Harold Tillman to court her as a model mentor in a bid to improve the working conditions of young models. I wonder, will this include models of colour?
It baffles me that in some of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, if fashion cannot reflect the people of that city, then what does that say about us? How far have we really come? Not far enough, not even close.