Monday, April 19, 2010

is fashion racist?

"Is Fashion Racist" featured in the July 2008 issue of Vogue discusses the 'sameness' of models in the fashion industry. Typically the largest critique in regards to fashion models is their weight and thin physique, however this article focuses predominantly on race and the lack there of visually present in models in the fashion industry. The idea that there are in fact black models but they are just that "black models". As Neal Hamil of Elite is quoted in the article "Well we already have our black girl". Meaning that when there is a black person on the runway they are filling a quota of a 'black girl slot'. They have simply been reduced to a category within the industry. Another issue is the clothes that these women then represent when they are on the runway as 'the black girl'. Animal print for example would feed the stereotype of 'the wild and untamed' or a more 'urbanized' look suggesting' ghetto' chic. The clothes that women of color wear matter just as much as the amount of colored people wearing them. The Question remains, is fashion racist? I believe that fashion is racist and although the article quotes Bethann Hardison noting that it's "not a conscious racism" it is still racism. The mannequin i believe is the reason for this racism, not too mention the issue of size of runway models. The typical size of a mannequin is four foot and the color, is white. This is embedded into the minds of designer and lived when they begin to construct their articles of clothing for the first time. Another point of my own interest is paper, sketch paper to be more specific. When a designer does a skeletal outline ofthe model in which they will dress- even though it's a skeletal outline it becomes white because of the paper underneath. Already before the fashion even hits the runway there are white 'models' for the clothing. I believe that yes, fashion is racist but with the efforts of designers and powerful influences of models such as Chanel Iman, there can be change implemented and made the norm. Change is the most diffcult part because of such ideals that have been drilled into the world of the fashion industry. I found it interesting when Marc Jacobs notes when he asked models once to smile on the runway and they would just forget "... it' s been drummed into their heads not to smile". I think there is no better parallel to race in fashion. 
Sources: Steve, Richman. Portraits of Mannequins. Grand Rapids: Schiffer, Limited, 2006. 
Vogue July 2008
Image Source: flickr: timewitness

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