Photo cred: CNBC

Photo cred: CNBC

New York Fashion week is in full swing, and while most are focused on the designers’ visions for Spring, many are once again wondering why the majority of the faces on the runways are White.

Recently, Bethann Hardison sent a letter to fashion counsels in New York, London, Paris and Milan demanding they no longer accept the dearth of models of color during fashion’s biggest events.

Hardison, a former model and fashion activist, wrote:

“Eves are on an industry that season after season watches fashion design houses consistently use one or no models of color.

No matter the intention, the result is racism.

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.”

Hardison went on to put several couturiers–including Calvin Klein, Diesel, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Rag & Bone, Victoria Beckham, and Vivienne Tam—on blast for the “racist act” of not using models of color.

Hardison’s frustration mirrors that of others who have been very vocal about the industry’s lack of diversity. Last February, just six percent of the models used in New York Fashion Week were Black, causing many to wonder why designers continue to discriminate against models of color.

Pultizer Prize-winning fashion journalist, Robin Givhan, says she commends Hardison on her activism, but is frustrated that this problem still persists.

“I admire her patience because, honestly, I can remember the first story I ever wrote about how homogenous the runways were, and it was like 1996, 1997,” Givhan told New York Magazine’s The Cut. “It just keeps coming around and at a certain point you do wonder, why is this so difficult to grasp?”

Supermodel Jourdan Dunn hopes Hardison’s efforts to force the industry to be more inclusive pay off. Earlier this year Dunn tweeted that she was disappointed, but relieved that she passed over for Christian Dior’s show because of her body, not her skin color.

“I’m normally told I’m cancelled because I’m ‘coloured,’” she wrote, “so being cancelled because of my boobs is a minor : )”

Dunn says she’s frustrated that models of color are viewed as trends that are popular one season and non-existent the next. She told, “I mean, there was a season where ethnic models were being represented and then it went back to the same routine of just using one or none at all. It seems like [non-white models] are only cast when it’s hot for one season and everyone jumps on board. It’s a look.”

Despite the inequality in the industry, models have yet to stage a boycott of the fashion world. While it’s unlikely Black models could pull off such a feat on their own—their presence is already so small, a Fashion Week boycott by Black models would do little to hurt designers—a large-scale protest by models in the industry could be beneficial.

I don’t see this happening anytime soon, however. The modeling world is extremely competitive and girls can and are replaced all of the time. Perhaps it will take a few brave (popular, White) souls to sit out fashion’s biggest events before designers truly change their ways.

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But what do you think: Does fashion need a civil rights movement? Or should Black models—and by extension Black consumers—only support those designers who are more inclusive?

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  • mimi

    It’s time for us as black people not colored people to leave their socity alone. We have creativity, style, beauty and lots of it. I believe it’s time for us to stop buying designer clothes, hand bags, purses and shoes and start to build, create and make these thigs ourselves. Lets face it, this is the world that White people have made for themselves and they are reaping the benifits of their unity and European family who must eat before we do. Stop buying from them Period

    • MusiKCityK

      Most of these designers don’t covet black customers, and we are not there target. Therefore they are not interested in change.

  • Gina

    HELL NO!
    This is why we can’t advance as a people. Why the hell should we try so hard to get into an industry that has made it clear, DOES NOT WANT US?

    What we should be having a ‘civil rights movement’ for business that try to push black competitors out. (Hello, Asian hair markets), We need to be getting our children on THE BUSINESS aspect of these industries. It’s not good for business right now to have black models or black designers because we are not running numbers behind the scenes.

    Good example of this? Shonda Rhimes. Why do we have a top show right now featuring a black woman in the lead? Because someone BEHING THE SCENES who is black made it happen. The only way we can care for our own is to be the one running things.
    Go to school. Stop getting useless degrees in Communications, Graphic Design, etc.

    And get INVOLVED!

  • Monica

    I’m so tired of black people being upset, up in a roar and concerned about things like this. Who cares if fashion shows don’t use black models. We have bigger things to be concerned with……..I’m concerned about our black children being born out of wedlock….
    Those of you with one child or more can get upset all you want…………………………………..
    Everyone thinks their an exception to the rule……………………………………………………
    My child he won’t grow up like that…………..Yet they do………………………………………….
    Single black mothers are failing in raising productive law abiding citizens……………….
    And I’m supossed to be concerned with the lack of diversity in a fashion show or that Sheryl Underwood stated how she felt about natural hair……..
    What difference does it make?????

  • A fashion industry civil rights movement is not the answer. Whites have made it clear that they are and forever will be partial to their own. The missing element is the lack of support for black fashion designers from the black community. There is such a disconnect with the black designer and the consumer market, and until more black designers get that recognition both financially and through media, there will never be a significant change in the world of fashion.