I’m never one for making generalizations or blanket statements that reinforce stereotypes. But there’s a big, ugly secret about the fashion world: it’s plagued by racism.
No secret to you? I imagine it wouldn’t be when Barneys irrationally arrests black men for shopping, Vogue puts maybe one black woman on the cover a year (if that) and Bethann Hardison pleads for more models of color on runways. The writing, for the most part, is on the wall.
But what isn’t talked about are the day-to-day struggles of being a black fashion editor/writer/journalists/blogger. Well, the wait is over though, I’m here to vent.
In the thick of New York Fashion Week, one of my co-workers asked a frank question. Having heard negative sentiments from another black fashion editor earlier in the day she asked, “Have you ever experienced anything racist while reporting on shows?”
I burst. And for two good reasons: First, I’m from Florida. Which at this point is the nation’s armpit of justice. It’s a rare occasion when one can actively hunt down and shoot someone, then walk away a free man. It’s like the Wild West with beaches, T-Pain and Cuban food. But for all of its faults, it has always been clear when someone is treating you crappy because of your melanin.
Now, New York. It’s a whole different beast. A more subtle form of racism masked as elitism. And elitism is a cornerstone of fashion– my second reason for bursting.
Multiply those two factors and it equals a cautious me who analyses every nudge, lost name on the RSVP list and unfriendly glance I regularly get at shows. My slight paranoia is usually justified by a paper thin white girl with a clipboard –who’s probably an intern– ignoring my presence as a professionally employed writer. There was one occasion where I stood in the lobby of an intimate showroom for five solid minutes while all the PR people busily worked on ignoring me, until I finally showed myself the new collection and walked out.
It’s an unstated message of my presence not being wanted or expected in such an exclusive “Girls Club,” and as a result my self-worth is constantly challenged. If you don’t notice my being upset, it’s because I’ve masked it under the gauze of a “snatched” figure, “beat” face and “fierce” heels, but trutfully we all have the same plight. We just learn to step it up and adapt. Fashion just requires more clothing.
I pray that one day there is respect across every field regardless of race. But in the meantime every black girl needs two things to make it in fashion: A high pair of heels and thick skin– wear both proudly.
Danielle Kwateng is the News Writer for StyleBlazer.com.