As New York Fashion Week continues, so has the inevitable conversation around diversity on the runways. And while so far the number of women of color seems to still be as low as it has in years past, one industry insider has been channeling Africa as his inspiration. But lest you think this is another take on the ever-recycled “Safari” trend with animal prints and ‘tribal’ patterns, think again.

James Kaliardos, head of the MAC Pro team that for Diane Von Furstenberg’s’ Spring 2012 collection, spoke to The New York Times about where he found his inspiration. In the piece, Times’ writer Catherine Saint Louis reports:

One of his inspirations, he said, was “an African face,” because “African women have found this way to look absolutely stunning no matter what the situation is.” So he wanted to use makeup strategically to give the models’ natural features more impact.

Writing for The New York Times’ Magazine, Stephanie LaCava blogged from backstage at the DVF show:

For makeup, this meant James Kaliardos used M.A.C. products for a face inspired by the land where it all began: Africa. The idea was to highlight the planes and tones of the face using an earthy (literally) palette of eight Crème Color Base shades, including Ochre, Pale Peach and Dark Brown. The inner and outer corner of the eye was highlighted with a khaki variation, while the middle of the lid was done in white or yellow. There was no lip, just as nails were kept clean, coated with only Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails. Kaliardos described the ingenuity of the woman who inspired him, “No matter her economic situation, she finds a way to look beautiful— regal even.”


Since Africa is a continent with many diverse people, it’s not clear what Kaliardos meant. Both Liya Kebede and Charlize Theron call it home- proving that there is no one “African look.” Still, as the makeup artist explained the aesthetic of his work, he gave a little glimpse of what he meant explaining that he was going for a “natural” face.

By contrast, “when we say ‘no makeup’ makeup, it’s like no makeup.” He laughed and said, “It looks great, but it looks raw.”

Quite frankly, I think we’re all more than tired of hearing people in the fashion and beauty industries use Africa as a synonym for “of the earth.” In every incarnation it draws on the continent for inspiration for the primitive and is carelessly glorified without even a second thought that the association may be ignorant or offensive.

What do you think of Kaliardos’ comments? Weigh in Clutchettes and tell us what you think!

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