All Articles Tagged "fashion industry"
“Fashion Exists In A World Of Make Believe” Designer Writes Open Letter To The Fashion Industry On #BlackLivesMatter
Maxwell Osborne is the co-founder of Public School and co-creative director of DKNY. As a Black man in America and a Black man in the fashion industry, the designer felt he had an obligation to take a stand with Black Lives Matter and encourage others in his field, which is notorious for omitting the disenfranchised, to do the same. And so he penned an open letter for W magazine explaining his stance, in the hopes of helping those around him open their eyes to the injustices the Black community faces and how they contribute to them.
Read the full letter below and tell us what you think? Do you believe Osborne’s words will have any impact on his fashion peers?
I could have sat at my desk and just focused on the work piling up. I could have just posted a picture on Instagram. But something compelled me to go into the streets last week and join the movement. For a while now, I have been touched by Black Lives Matter. For three years, its members have taken to the streets and – quietly, defiantly – staged protest after protest after protest and, despite a still-roiling epidemic, they have not tired. They continue to raise questions that we as a country need to ask ourselves and they have reminded a community that the deaths of their own will not be forgotten, nor will they be in vain.
As a designer, they’ve made me question what my role is in all of this, what can I do? I decided that I could no longer just sit on the sidelines. Last Thursday afternoon, I left my office in the Garment District, called a group of friends – black, white, Asian, mixed – and we all headed down to Union Square together to join hundreds of others in a peaceful protest of the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. At that moment in my office there was nothing anyone could have done to stop me. I felt I needed to be out there with Black Lives Matter, show face and feel it.
I’m 33 years old and it was my first time taking part in a protest.
I didn’t know what to expect but I was immediately taken back by the camaraderie. Everybody, a big melting pot of people reflective of the city they call home, seemed proud to be there. We were all standing together, side by side, a bunch of strangers chanting the same thing: Black. Lives. Matter. One artist, Dread Scott, made a flag that read, “A Black Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday,” and we took turns waving it. That feeling of unity gave me goose bumps. I hadn’t felt that in a while.
I decided that I could no longer just sit on the sidelines. I felt I needed to be out there with Black Lives Matter, show face and feel it. – Maxwell Osborne
As a black man in an overwhelmingly white industry, race is never far from my mind. But the Black Lives Matter movement has underscored the still astounding disparities African Americans face – at their homes, at their places of business, at the voting booth. While the civil rights movement has made incredible strides, the statistics continue to be staggering: One in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime; black criminal offenders are more likely to get longer sentences than their white counterparts; young African Americans are two fifths of all youth inmates.
I could keep going. If you read the news and the countless op-eds long enough, you’ll have your pick of numbers to choose from and new sobering statistics that you won’t want to believe will inevitably pop up. You’ll want to throw your hands in the air and resign yourself to the easy crutch that there’s little for us to do from our perch in the comfortable seat of fashion except make clothes.
But I write this open letter to encourage the fashion industry to not just continue the dialogue of race in America, but to do something about it. Fashion exists in a world of make believe. Our job is to offer an escape from everyday life and a fantasy of glamour and beautiful clothes. It’s easy to forget the real world with its very real problems. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fashion is always at its best when it looks outside of itself for inspiration and holds up a mirror to society. Sometimes we do that on the runway and sometimes when we come together as an industry and take up important causes, like so many of our peers have and continue to do with breast cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Stand with Black Lives Matter. Go out and educate yourself and learn how you can help and join the conversation as an active participant and not just as a passive, if well-meaning, observer. Encourage diversity on your runways and campaigns. Empower your social media fans to raise their voices. Use your designs for the public good. Attend a protest and see change in action. Raise awareness – it’s not as empty a gesture as it may seem – and others will follow your lead.
And that’s just the beginning. But start somewhere and step up. Let’s not turn our backs on the young black men and women of tomorrow. Let us learn from our fear and the stereotypes that have bound many for so long and stop perpetuating hate and casual discrimination. It is far easier to hate than to love, but what Black Lives Matter taught me is that you can only be silent for so long before you feel parts of yourself die.
What I saw last Thursday was a city united and mobilized in peace for a common purpose. What I witnessed was that love outclasses hate, ALWAYS.
The mainstream/White community is just now learning of Leslie Jones’ talents, now that she appears weekly on “Saturday Night Live.” But those of us in the Black community, those of us who watched “Def Comedy Jam,” know that she has been funny.
And while she is better respected in the entertainment community, the fashion folks haven’t gotten around to recognizing her value.
Yesterday, Jones was looking for a dress to wear to the premiere of her new film Ghostbusters but found that the search wasn’t too easy.
It’s so funny how there are no designers wanting to help me with a premiere dress for movie. Hmmm that will change and I remember everything
— Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) June 28, 2016
Thankfully, after her tweet, Christian Siriano stepped forward to help her out.
— Christian Siriano (@CSiriano) June 28, 2016
It wasn’t long before others followed in Siriano’s footsteps, offering to help her with the bling.
@HeartsOnFire hell yeah
— Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) June 28, 2016
And while we marveled at how good the internet can be, there were others who took the opportunity to slam Leslie for poor planning.
Jeanne Yang, who is affiliated with The Hollywood Reporter, said, “It’s just pure economics. People have this belief that showrooms and designers have racks and racks of clothing in all sizes. They don’t.”
Another stylist, Jessica Paster, said, “This is nobody’s fault except Leslie’s. She should have known four to five months ago the date of premiere, and said, ‘I’m not a sample size, I need to go to designers early or buy myself a dress.’ Don’t be blaming designers and saying they don’t like you.”
Clearly, Paster didn’t read Leslie’s tweet. That is not what she said.
The whole incident reminds me of what Beyoncé was saying during her speech at the CFDA Awards. She said the same things about designers refusing to dress Destiny’s Child at the beginning of their career. And situations like Leslie’s are the reason she tasked designers to use their talents to include women with diverse body types.
Fortunately, after The Hollywood Reporter published their piece slamming Leslie, she had a response for them too.
@pretareporter ALWAYS ONE ASSHOLE THAT DONT KNOW MY BUSINESS HAVE SEVERAL SEATS YOU VERY UNINFORMED MAD YOU NOT WORKING FOR ME PERSON
— Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) June 29, 2016
A 26-year-old Canadian woman, Nafisa Kaptownwala, is taking the diversity issue in the modeling industry to heart. Kaptownwala recently launched the world’s first exclusively non-white modeling agency called Lorde Inc.
Based out of London, Lorde finds most of its models the old-fashioned way, on the streets. And so far, the agency is finding success in its unique business model.
Kaptownwala started the agency after she had begun working in fashion and realized just how few models of color were represented. The agency currently represents 60 models from various races, ethnicities, and cultures.
In just one year, Lorde has secured contracts with the likes of Dazed and i-D magazines as well as the fashion company Adidas.
QUE CUTE! new face #Brittani and #Chan 🌼 in a lil vid by @chloewise_ A photo posted by Lorde Inc (@lordeinc) on
But taking a leap and pushing an industry with a history of issues in diversity is no easy challenge. In an interview with The Guardian, Kaptownwala spoke on the struggle.
“There’s still not a massive demand because this is still a radical idea and people in fashion are not really ready for it. How does that make me feel? In general I think, as a person of colour, you internalise. Creating this agency is a way to channel those feelings.”
And luckily, it does seem as though the fashion industry realizes the need for more diversity on the face of their brands. As companies such as Adidas, Dior, and Robert Cavalli are all partnering or making celebrities of colors the face of their brands. We saw the fashion-forward Solange team up with Adidas, Rihanna has become the face of Dior as Ciara became the new face of Robert Cavalli this past spring.
Kaptownwala believes that change is on the horizon. Even if it is moving slowly the Lorde agency will continue to push the envelope. The entrepreneur noted that her job is a lot harder than other agencies due to the world’s fascination with European beauty standards. But that isn’t stopping her. She credits the rise of the “selfie” for helping society see beauty in various forms.
“People are posing in their own ways, creating their own photo shoots,” she said. “It redefines beauty, opens things up and allows people to say ‘I want to be part of this.”
I don’t have to tell y’all that it’s hard out here for a Black girl. If you look to mainstream media, it would seem that we’re all thin, light skin with loose curls or don’t exist at all.
A part of our fight for freedom from oppression and equality includes inclusion and representation.
Sudanese model Nykhor Paul brought that fact back to the forefront yesterday with an Instagram post directed toward white people.
Dear white people in the fashion world! Please don't take this the wrong way but it's time you people get your shit right when it comes to our complexion! Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don't have to do anything but show up wtf! Don't try to make me feel bad because I am blue black its 2015 go to Mac, Bobbi Brown, Makeup forever, Iman cosmetic, black opal, even Lancôme and Clinique carried them plus so much more. there's so much options our there for dark skin tones today. A good makeup artist would come prepare and do there research before coming to work because often time you know what to expect especially at a show! Stop apologizing it's insulting and disrespectful to me and my race it doesn't help, seriously! Make an effort at least! That goes for NYC, London, Milan, Paris and Cape Town plus everywhere else that have issues with black skin tones. Just because you only book a few of us doesn't mean you have the right to make us look ratchet. I'm tired of complaining about not getting book as a black model and I'm definitely super tired of apologizing for my blackness!!!! Fashion is art, art is never racist it should be inclusive of all not only white people, shit we started fashion in Africa and you modernize and copy it! Why can't we be part of fashion fully and equally?
We all know she makes several valid points. And hopefully, now that her story is garnering national attention, people will start making moves to address it.
The fashion industry is still struggling with the concept of inclusion. Every year there are reports detailing the ways in which models of color are–and most often– are not proportionately represented in advertisements and runway shows. If it’s an issue today, you can imagine what the landscape looked like back in the 1930’s and ’40’s.
But as the modeling world was still in its infancy, Ophelia DeVore-Mitchell found a way to use modeling to send a message about our people, a positive one.
Born in August 22, 1922 in Edgefield, South Carolina, DeVore-Mitchell describes her childhood, as one of ten children, as being sheltered. She attended segregated schools as a child but eventually went to live with her aunt in New York CIty, to ensure that her education wouldn’t be disturbed by her father’s travel schedule. She graduated from Hunter College High School and was admitted to New York University as a math major.
During this time, people started suggesting DeVore-Mitchell take on modeling jobs. She accepted the work for publications like Ebony and other African American companies. And as the work proved to be more and more consistent, she became one of the few models of color in the United States.
In 1941, DeVore-Mitchell married Harold Carter, who worked as a firefighter while she studied fashion, public relations and advertising. The couple had five children together.
In an interview with the National Visionary Leadership Project, DeVore-Mitchell said that modeling was never her passion. But she quickly realized that it could be used for a greater purpose.
“I did a little a modeling but it wasn’t what I was looking for. It wasn’t my mission. It just happened to be something that I needed to do to communicate the mission that I wanted to have communicated, in a positive way. And that was the vehicle that I used to communicate a positive image of my people. Because I wanted not only me to be accepted on a top level, I wanted everybody to be accepted as human beings.”
DeVore-Mitchell and some of her family members came up with the idea to open up a modeling school to train other women of color to both enter and succeed in the modeling and entertainment industry.
DeVore-Mitchell realized that in order to teach these skills she would need to be formally trained. So she enrolled in the Vogue School of Modeling in New York.
When it was almost time for DeVore-Mitchell to complete the program, a brown-skinned Black woman showed up at the school seeking to learn the ins and outs of the modeling industry as well. Her arrival caused a bit of an uproar in the school as instructors didn’t know what to do with this woman, particularly since they thought they didn’t admit women of color. It was then, watching their frantic reaction, that DeVore-Mitchell realized that the school didn’t realize she was also Black. She had passed, unknowingly. DeVore-Mitchell, close to completion, didn’t say anything and took the knowledge she and acquired to start her own modeling school for women and men of color.
In 1946, the same year that she left Vogue, DeVore-Mitchell started the Grace Del Marco modeling agency in New York. Two years later, she opened the Ophelia DeVore School of Self Development and Modeling. There, she taught more than 20,000 students etiquette, poise, posture, speech and ballet. She taught students how to carry themselves, how to look people in the eye, how to cross their legs properly and how to leave an impression walking in and out of a room.
The school’s marker of success was the number of legendary stars who attended or graduated from the program, including legendary names like Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, Susan Taylor, Gail Fisher and Richard Roundtree.
The agency held shows in churches, on college campuses and in the ballrooms of the Diplomat and Waldorf Astoria hotels. DeVore-Mitchell’s breakthrough came when she traveled to Europe and made a name for herself in the French fashion world.
In continuation of her work, DeVore-Mitchell produced a promotional campaign for Johnson & Johnson. The project launched the career of supermodel Helen Williams. DeVore-Mitchell and her students made history as hosts of ABC’s weekly television show “Spotlight on Harlem.” It was the first show produced by and for African Americans.
Later, in 1959 and 1960 DeVore-Mitchell made history when two of her clients became the first Americans, of any race, to win titles at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 1968, she married Vernon Mitchell and the two remained together until he died in 1972.
Throughout her career, DeVore-Mitchell created two the of first ethnic beauty contests, developed a column in the Pittsburgh Courier Newspaper and she created a line of cosmetics specifically for women of color.
Through her involvement in virtually every facet of the beauty and entertainment industry, DeVore-Mitchell changed the entire game.
DeVore-Mitchell passed away just last year, February 28, at the age of 91-years-old. She is survived by her five children and her 9 grandchildren.
If you get a chance, you should really take a listen to her full sit down interview with the National Visionary Leadership Project. She was a phenomenal lady and an exceptionally good storyteller.
Jourdan Dunn has an issue with the lack of minority representation on the fashion runway, claiming some designers use one token woman of color in their shows – and get congratulated for it.
“I don’t know why people applaud designers for having just one ethnic model,” she told Miss Vogue. “It’s not like only one type of woman loves fashion.”
She continued: “I find it weird when [model] agents say, You’re the only black girl booked for the show. Isn’t it great? Why is it great? It’s not great.”
Read more about Jourdan Dunn at EurWeb.com
Fifteen years ago, Alain Lafontant was an intern at BRAG (the Black Retail Action Group). On Thursday, he was accepting the organization’s BRAG Special Recognition Award in front of 600 guests alongside other awards recipients, Macy’s CEO and president Terry Lundgren, and Iman, supermodel and CEO of Iman Cosmetics, Skincare and Fragrances.
BRAG is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing African Americans and other people of color into the retail and fashion industry fold. This year, they hosted the 43rd Annual Scholarship and Awards Gala, which was hosted by style expert Lloyd Benson and featured a special performance from Nick Cannon, who just recently launched a line of ties at Macy’s. In addition to the awards, the organization handed out 67 scholarships, more than double the previous year. The event raised more than $1 million, including $35,000 at a live auction during the event.
Since the days when Lafontant was working on his BRAG project focusing on the changes in retail on Harlem’s iconic 125th Street (today there’s a MAC, an H&M, a Starbucks, and an American Apparel steps from one another), things have changed in stores. But diversity continues to be an issue. Each year it seems, diversity gets attention around Fashion Week, when people notice how few models of color are walking the catwalk.
“Fashion Week always brings diversity to the forefront because it’s an easy visual to see the lack of diversity,” Lafontant told MN Business during a phone call. But for him, it’s not just about racial diversity, but a “diversity of background” that’s missing. And, just as important, is the lack of diversity at the upper ranks where decisions are made is an issue.
“This sea of sameness doesn’t promote evolving changes,” Lafontant added. “I’m interested in the diversity on the business end.”
To that end, it’s worth noting that Lafontant is the VP of business development and brand manager at Sean John, Diddy’s successful fashion line. This is his second time with the company. In between, he was the VP of men’s sales at Rocawear.
“In my career, whether it’s Shawn Carter or Sean Combs, they saw a void in the market and they filled it themselves,” he said. This is a model that other aspirants in the fashion industry should follow. “You don’t have to wait for the company to come and hire you. The industry is fueled by big dreamers.”
It also benefits from both diversity of culture and diversity of ideas. While the Ralph Laurens and Armanis of the industry continue to garner name recognition, there are others coming up behind them like Alexander Wang, who Lafontant noted for his “innovation in product.”
“Creativity is one portion of it,” Lafontant said.
One of this year’s BRAG scholarship recipients, quoted in information we received from the organization, may have listed the other components best: “Because of BRAG scholarships, we are given the character, confidence and education we need to succeed. To us, these scholarships not only represent funding for school, but it affirms our dreams, our hard work as students and our individual ambitions.”
Fashion Week is currently underway and there is no better time to chime in on the gross negligence displayed by major fashion designers when it comes to the under usage of black models.
Former model and the woman who launched the careers of Naomi Campbell, Tyson and Iman, Bethann Hardison, has been known to voice her opinion when it comes to the unfair treatment models of color consistently receive, and considering her exposure and endearing fortitude, she has managed to garner the right amount of attention whenever she sounds the alarm bells.
Hardison is appalled at the fact that major designers like Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, BCBG, Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Prada, Versace, Celine, Louis Vuitton, are all practicing racial bias by not bequeathing black models the same opportunity seamlessly afforded to their white counterparts.
She was compelled to mention the culprits in order to emphasize the severity of the issue and of course to ensure that there is a level of recognized accountability.
She expressed her game plan to the Huffington Post; “This way there’s no hiding, if you say [who], then nobody can say. “This has nothing to do with me”. I am trying to educate those with a careless attitude or who just don’t care. But you have to care. This is a responsibility to many”.
It is hard to believe that in 2013, things have not improved much since Hardison was a young up and coming model in the 70’s but Alas! This is the brutal reality and it certainly has to be addressed head on without any purposeful restrictions.
Hardison isn’t all talk without action; she has unrestrictedly immersed herself in spearheading efforts to help encourage diversity in an industry that seems reluctant to the idea of embracing the symbiotic idea of diversity. She has implemented interactive strategies including town hall meetings in an effort to facilitate prolific dialogue, and this led to a breakthrough in 2008 when Vogue Italia produced their much-heralded “Black Issue.”
As honorable as that milestone seemed to be, even Hardison acknowledged that it wasn’t exactly what she was aiming for. Black models need to feel included in the process, not given their own separate platform.
So the self-inducted activist has decided to embark on a voluntary mission with the companionship of The Diversity Coalition to help highlight a dilemma that remarkably still persists despite the ongoing homogenization process taking effect globally. The itinerary includes four letters sent to the principals attached to the organization responsible for the fashion frenzy that seasonally grips the world; the recipients are the Council of Fashion Designers of America (New York), Federation Francaise de la Couture (Paris), British Fashion Council (London), and Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (Milan).
Here is an example of one of the letter:
Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of color. No matter the intention, the result is racism. Not accepting another based on the color of their skin is clearly beyond ‘aesthetic’ when it is consistent with the designer’s brand. Whether it’s the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society. It can no longer be accepted, nor confused by the use of the Asian model.As expected, the response has been mixed and somewhat calculated which further intensifies the fact that this is a problem that will linger on for years to come.
Old habits die hard, and it’s very clear that Hardison with all her best intentions, is fighting an uphill battle and her passion is understandable since she has been feted by the very industry she is now is now bringing to task.
The truth is that until people of color position themselves in areas that allow them the ability to be valued decision makers and elite forecasters, the fate of models of color will always be foggy at best.
Click here to access the four letters Hardison immaculately conceived with the aid of Balance Diversity.
It seems that week after week, we learn more about the despicable horrors faced by Black models working in the fashion industry. Last week, Victoria’s Secret Angel, Chanel Iman revealed that she had been turned away by racist casting directors and designers who had no problem telling her, ‘We already found one Black girl. We don’t need you anymore,’ or ‘We don’t want you because we already have one of your kind.’ Now, British supermodel Jourdan Dunn is doing the same.
During her career, Dunn has graced the covers of Vogue Italia and Teen Vogue, in addition to being featured in campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger. Despite these major accolades, during a recent interview with Net-A-Porter, the 22-year-old Jamaican bombshell revealed that she too has been pricked by the fashion industry’s racist, venomous stinger. She told the magazine that there were instances where she was literally on her way to a call and had to turn around because the person in charge of casting “didn’t want any more Black girls.” As if that isn’t discouraging enough, Dunn recounted a situation where in the middle of a photo shoot, a makeup artist hired for the shoot openly stated that she refused to work on Dunn’s face because Dunn was Black and she [the makeup artist] was White.
The beauty went on to express that situations such as the aforementioned used to upset her, but the encouragement and the determination instilled in her by her mother hasn’t allowed her to quit.
“I grew up wanting to be my mom. She always seemed to make things work without ever complaining. She whips me into shape,” the model expressed.
Though we often come across stories of racism and discrimination such as Jourdan’s, the frequency never seems to lessen the sting.
What are your thoughts on Jourdan’s revelation?
The lack of diversity in the fashion industry seems to be a never-ending conversation, as it appears that Black models are always being slapped in the face by casting directors and designers who make it obvious that they have a specific “Black girl quota,” which they refuse to exceed. Earlier this week, model Chanel Iman told The Sunday Times that she was no stranger to racism in the fashion world.
“A few times I got excused by designers who told me, ‘We already found one Black girl. We don’t need you anymore.’ I felt very discouraged. When someone tells you, ‘We don’t want you because we already have one of your kind,’ it’s really sad,” she regretfully revealed.
It appears that instances such as this one have caused young, up and coming models of color to want to disassociate themselves with their ethnicity, just so that they have more of a competitive edge in the industry. It was rather heartbreaking to watch Devyn, a contestant on Naomi Campbell’s modeling competition, The Face, reveal that she doesn’t consider herself a “Black girl model,” during an interview with Wendy Williams, which was seemingly a part of one of the competitive tasks given to contestants by the show’s panelists. The first red flag that appeared during Devyn’s interview was when Wendy asked her what advantage she believed that she had over her competitor Ebony, who just so happened to have darker skin.
” I feel like I have an international look and I have a story that can relate to everyone,” Devyn replied.
While her response seemed a bit suspect and a tad slighting, the way she answered the next question was mind-boggling and sent Naomi Campbell off the edge. When Wendy asked “Is it hard to be a Black girl model?”, Devyn responded:
” I don’t really consider myself a Black girl model. I know what my ethnicity is, but I’m fair-skinned and I feel like I have an international look.”
The moment those words left Devyn’s mouth, Naomi Campbell could be heard in the background, going off.
“What the f**k does she mean? That’s a disgrace. She’s a Black girl,” Naomi said to the other judges.
Since the airing of her highly criticized comment, Devyn took to her Twitter page to apologize to offended fans and suggest that the producers over at Oxygen edited her response.
Is “international look” the new code word for fair enough to pass the brown paper bag test?
Turn the page for footage of the interview. What are your thoughts on this? Was Devyn’s response misinterpreted?