Fashion’s Lack of Diversity

June 19, 2010 

The lack of minority input was apparent when French Vogue’s October cover sported a white model in blackface—and to add insult to injury the entire magazine layout failed to include a single non-white model. At a time of the declining print media this was Vogue’s mad attempt to grab publicity and sell magazines regardless of political correctness. This sort of in your face racism is generally expected from the French.

In the U.S. the same disregard was aired on Project Runway when Emile Sosa a Black Dominican born New Yorker won weekly competition after competition only to lose the coveted grand prize to the lack luster performance of Seth Aaron Henderson, a white male. The reason given was that Sosa produced a line while Henderson produced a collection. If I understand the difference correctly, a collection is a designer’s creation for a single season meant to be more edgy and artistic while a line reflects a longer lasting commercial appeal. I thought it was about whoever produced the best work of redeeming quality. Reviewing past competitions evidence suggests line vs. collection became a new standard. Rather than give the Black designer the award the all white judges simply moved the goal post.

As for the dearth of diversity in print, Fashion editors claim their backs are against the wall, with their magazine’s sole income dependent on advertisers their decisions are based on advertiser preferences. It’s all business nothing personal or racist. The fear of low sales and advertisers pulling back prevents editors from putting dark-skinned models or celebrities on the covers of fashion/women’s magazines (which are mostly Caucasian owned). When ethnic consumers quit patronizing these advertisers then what? This same specious argument was used by Southern businessmen to oppose integration during the civil rights movement. Hindsight has shown by opening the doors of opportunity and embracing all, it enhances a business’s goodwill as well as its bottom line.

It all comes down to the personal taste of editors who wield an awful lot of power in the industry (remember the Devil Wears Prada). Now is the time for consumers to exercise their power. If fashion’s print media is to thrive and reverse the decline in readership it needs to become more relevant and by that more inclusive. It can only do so by recruiting more minority editors and writers, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians who are as acutely aware of their own ethnic aesthetic as they are the Anglo-American.

And minority consumers can make their preference known by insisting that industry giants the likes of Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle, Bazaar and Glamour begin to recruit minority editors and writers. Consumers can further demand the Council of Fashion Designers in American become more accountable and step up its efforts to bring diversity to the industry. A minority presence would put an end to stunts like Vogue’s black face.


One Response to “Fashion’s Lack of Diversity”
  1. I loved this article and agree with much of what you’ve said here. We are doing our part in increasing diversity in fashion. Please check out We have a competition now for the Harlem’s Fashion Row 2011 Presentation. You can vote on the best designer. The competition is here

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