IS FASHION RACIST, AGEIST, & FATTIST

This is the title that Caryn Franklin, former fashion editor of i-D and fashion commentator,  gave her article featured in the March 2011 ELLE (UK) magazine. Asking readers what I’ve been wondering for years – ‘Why is there such a narrow range of women represented in the industry?’ She recalls a fashion era where models were different from what we see today. I don’t remember much of that. My love for fashion began in the Naomi, Cindy, and Linda days. The day the super model was born. But even in that day there was only one of me there, and she definitely wasn’t fat like me. 

British Vogue’s Alexandra Shuman tells the Daily Mail‘s Liz Jones, “There have always been black players on the scene — at the moment look at the stylist Edward Enninful, make-up artist Pat McGrath and [models] Jourdan Dunn, Liya Kebede and Joan Smalls, who are at the top of the tree … In a society where the mass of the consumers are white and where, on the whole, mainstream ideas sell, it’s unlikely there will be a huge rise in the number of leading black models. If you look at the characters that sell magazines such as Grazia and Heat, it is Jennifer Aniston, Cheryl Cole and Catherine Middleton.” [SOURCE]

There’s something seriously wrong with Shuman’s fashion tree if out all the ‘black’ key players you can only name 6 of them. I often wonder if we are really the minority or if it’s just made to seem that way. The annual minority buying power report was released in November 2010 by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia Terry College of Business. It stated that the combined buying power of racial minorities (Blacks, Asians and Native Americans) will rise from $1.6 trillion in 2010 to $2.1 trillion in 2015. A trillion dollars!!! In my opinion, blacks purchase even when we don’t have the money to and thus why I question who is the ‘mass consumer’. Because we buy into this myth our black models are seen far and few in between. It’s clear and it became more obvious in 2008 that we all want to see more black models as the demand for Vogue Italia’s black issue was unprecedented when it debuted.

 

19 year old model Leomie Anderson (pictured to the left modeling for Marc Jacobs during NYFW) wrote a letter to the Sunday Times in the UK about working as a black model in the fashion industry and the racism she had experienced.

“I’ve only had one racist comment made directly at me. I’d gone to a casting for a London fashion designer, I can’t say who. They just said: “We only want pale-skinned girls to be in our show.” To be honest, I didn’t feel emotional about it. I just thought: “Well, it’s not my fault. That’s their opinion. They are out of date, and in time, they’ll have to change; they can’t continue with that perspective.” [source TheYbf]

Creatively speaking I am torn. If you are a designer I feel like it’s totally your choice in who you want to represent your brand or what type of consumer you may want to market to. So if I am white more than likely the majority of the models I book will look like me. And same if I were black. You would think. But that doesn’t happen.

Like Alexandra Shuman states, it’s this mass consumer that controls how we advertise. There has yet to be a black designer whose runway is saturated with black models. My theory - minority consumers will buy regardless of who is used to advertise the product. Often times when blacks are used in an advertisement it can be seen as urban. Same if I were to use a plus model to advertise a collection with sizes ranging in 0-24. Society automatically assumes that the collection is only for fuller women rather than for all sizes. Would you not buy the red lipstick if it were modeled by an older woman full of gorgeous grey hair? Probably not. We would automatically assume it’s some product with magical aging solution with the intent to cure wrinkly lips. 

I am not sure if there will ever be and end to racism, ageism, or fattism (IDK if those last two are even words!). It seems to just transform itself in many ways over the years. What fashion can and needs to do is support those great designers and models no matter the color. Not just because Anna (Wintour) coins them as the next hot thing. Rather because they’re truly talented.

So do you agree with Caryn Franklin, is fashion racist, ageist, and fattist? Or do you side with Shuman and say that there’s really only room for 4 or 5 minorities in fashion?  

About Ty Alexander

Ty Alexander is an experienced lifestyle writer with a portfolio covering a broad range of topics including fashion, beauty, health, fitness, bridal and celebrity. She's gained experience through working with notable publications like Style.com, Huffington Post, and XOJane. With a bubbly personality and a sassy voice to match, Ty is a seasoned online content editor eager to win the heart of every fashion and beauty girl.

12 Responses to IS FASHION RACIST, AGEIST, & FATTIST

  1. Kimberlee says:

    Great post! I think there is room for everybody! That’s why I love fashion because we all have to wear clothes so therefore we can say something with our clothes. Fashion has always been an expression for me. I think the industry is SO behind. We like to think we’re so ahead of the curve and we are supposed to set the trends for so many other industries but like many other industries, fashion is scared to change. I love that you included the shopping numbers. Companies need to see more of those numbers but I sadly think the industry has a long way to go :(

  2. I can always count on you to kill the elephant in the room…great job. I honestly believe and will forever stand on this: THERE SHOULD ONLY BE ONE PREREQUISITE TO THIS THOUGHT…TALENT. If they have the talent, they should have the opportunity to be considered for the job. However, we know the bottom line is the dollar. If I were a designer, I would want to work with all types of models (race/size/shape) because I would want to market my product to not just who I “thought” would purchase. If you make an item available, it will sell. I would hope that the industry evolves to a place where racism is no longer a factor, but we know different.

  3. Carla says:

    Great post Ty….I’d love to see the fashion industry become more diversy in a variety of ways. It’s interesting because this question comes up often, but then we forget and move on….continue to buy items, so the industry will never know that there’s truly an issue.

    I’m interested in know what’s next?

    • Gorgeous In Grey says:

      I think it was keep talking about it and keep making this an issue we may see a change. The good part now is that it’s not just Black people talking.

  4. This is an excellent post.

    As the editor of the premier plus size fashion magazine, PLUS Model Magazine, I have to agree that fashion is not representative of many of us. Black, especially dark skinned, models are virtually non existent in the plus size fashion industry.

    A very popular fashion designer told me and a friend of mine, “plus size fashion is NOT real fashion”. I guess sizes 12 and up are not deserving of fashion in his mind, yet we are a multi billion dollar industry.

    The plus size woman has been through a metamorphosis in recent years, she is no longer invisible in this world. She is feeling sexy, intelligent, empowered and deserving of clothing that fits her lifestyle. We have NEVER seen so many options in plus size fashion before, yet we are still virtually invisible in the mainstream fashion industry. I’m not speaking about 4 naked plus size girls in Vogue, none of which was wearing a plus size brand, but I’m speaking about actually using plus size models (size 12 and above) and featuring plus size clothing.

    So my answer is, yes the fashion industry is RACIST, AGEIST, & FATTIST.

    Thank you for creating a platform for conversation.

    • Gorgeous In Grey says:

      Thanks for commenting Madeline! My comments on plus models (or lack there of) will be in a new post. It was just too many thoughts and points to make.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I do agree on all counts. Fashion is indeed fattist, racist, and ageist.* The evidence is indisputable.

    As a 45-year-old woman, I’m now invisible to the fashion world. Nobody cares about me as a buyer anymore. I’m at least 15 years too “old.” I’m also not the “right” weight. at 5’7″ and 135 pounds, I’m a “plus” size (UK 10-12/U.S. 6-8). However, I’m white, so—inexplicably—I’m part of the target market, even though I’m not. Does that make sense?

    I consistently see a disconnect—designers market to 25-year-old stick-thin white women. Yet it’s actually middle-age women who can afford the clothes. Mind you, some of those middle-aged women are well-upholstered, so they are at the outer limits of the sizes available. Maybe that’s why they buy couture? As for the white majority, I can’t explain why it’s still in place, and sometimes I just cannot believe more beautiful women of color are not used as models in shows, campaigns, and as muses. It blows my mind.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

    *”Ageist” has become legitimate in the popular vernacular. Keep using it. “Fattist” is a term I heard often in my previous career in fitness, so I believe it will catch on. Keep using that one, too.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Hi there, I just saw this tweeted today, so it was new to me. Sorry to be behind the times!

    • Gorgeous In Grey says:

      HAHA No biggies.. it’s a cool WP plug in Tweet Old Post that keep my new readers informed of old posts. Cool huh.

  7. Pingback: White Slim and Pretty - But what about me! | GorgeousInGrey.com

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