As Fashion Week winds down, there is bound to be the recap of the shows- who showed what, who sat where and who was spotted wearing what. But there seems to also be an informal assessment of the industry that happens and this time around, it appears the conversation has shifted.
In her post for the BVX, Yannique Benitez asks a question that much of the fashion world is asking as well: “Is Asian The New Black On The Runway?” Benitez writes:
“For the past few decades black models have fought to gain more representation in the fashion industry. Iconic models like Naomi Sims, Beverly Johnson, and Iman have paved the way for Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks and now Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn. But there is a new push for not only black but Asian faces on the runway… Asian models have become the new ‘exotic’ in fashion shows and are appearing in more and more general market ads.”
As the global market becomes more and more in Asia’s favor, many businesses have revised their strategy to appeal to their new customer base. Just last year Forbes interviewed Bernard Arnault, CEO of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy group on his strategy to expand his business in the developing world. Speaking on new markets in Asia, Arnault is choosing to venture, explaining, “Today it’s clear that the world is driven by the growth of Asia and emerging countries.”
As the audience of luxury buyers changes, so have the women modeling the clothes. However, lest we get caught up in the recent waves of all Asian model editorial spreads and casting for shows- let’s all take a moment and reflect here.
Fashion is notorious for having all-black everything moments, so the latest Asian emphasis has to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. Last month when a cast of women of color were featured in Vogue Italia’s “The Black Allure” spread, Faith Cummings of Poshglam made a timely point, writing:
“The Black Allure” might not be the most appropriate title and is controversial in its own right. Is there really an allure that draws people to black women? Why must our color be a fetish and not something that is embraced and included in traditional notions of beauty? Is this an actual step in the right direction or is fashion having a moment in which shows and spreads are just featuring models all belonging to one ethnicity?”
Reducing ethnicity to a fetish isn’t empowering to any race. Fashion’s love for the exotic is a complicated one to understand- is it about the women or are designers treating the women under the clothes as just another interesting texture? I’m beyond exhausted with everything being the ‘new’ black. As a non-fashionista, it’s hard for me to take seriously, these industry spurts of racial love. This industry, like every other one may have to concede that its misplaced artistic expression is no substitute for committed reform.
What do you think ladies? Are Asian models the fashion industry’s new muse or just another ethnic obsession?