The Black Issue

by jennine on June 30, 2008

It’s no secret that the fashion industry is a little biased toward tall, skinny, blond hair/blue eyed young, young women. The past few years white has dominated the runways, and we’re not talking about white fabrics. This July Vogue Italia is publishing for the first time, a “Black” issue, one issue featuring mostly black models and articles written for black women.

The Black Issue is stirring up some controversy, critics call this ‘racism’, though I can’t recall the last time a Vogue with strictly white models caused any controversy in the mainstream media.

“It’s heartbreaking for me now because the agents send the girls out there to castings and nobody wants to see them,” said Ms. [Bethann] Hardison, referring to black models. “And if they do, they’ll call afterward and say, ‘Well, you know, black girls do much better in Europe, or else black girls do much better in New York, or we already have our black girl.’”Title is a quote taken from NYT article (Ignoring Diversity, Runways Fade to White)… Ivan Bart, the senior vice president of IMG Models.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Fenke June 30, 2008 at 11:10 am

The problem is, that if you would call the issue with only white models the “white issue” than some people would have protested aswell. it is giving it a name, that makes it so controversial. because it still means - in this case - that it is something extraordinary, that there are more black models featured. it is simply still nothing that goes with out saying.
what is next, the asian issue?


2 jennine June 30, 2008 at 12:25 pm

maybe! i don’t know, there are a lot of fashion magazines with no ethnic diversity at all. even mainstream ones, i picked up off my shelf… nylon: march 08 had 3 models that weren’t white, instyle, march, other than actresses and the feature article (eva longoria) had zero. tush/ april 08 had zero, le officiel jun 08 zero

the problem is that no one says anything when there is no ethic diversity. i don’t know… is the name offensive?


3 Gabrielle Thorn June 30, 2008 at 1:42 pm

It is fabulous that the July issue is the all black issue, black models need just as much coverage as everyone else! Although Vogue is not the major arbiter of equality, but at least it is a step in the right direction. There defiantly needs to be more “Bianca’s” recognized in the industry.
I’m currently working with Toyota and I’m really hyped when it comes to spreading the word about the new interactive If Looks Could Kill webisodes. They follow an aspiring fashion assistant who is a prime example of a woman whos’ got it going on. I’m talking the dream job, man who’s got all the ladies drooling, and the spice to keep it all together. Think James Bond meets Sanaa Lathan in Something New.
You’ll have to see what I’m talking about. I can’t wait to read your thoughts on the first episode so we can chit-chat abut what’s really going on. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself being reeled in like bait. That will make two of us!
I hope I didn’t overstep my bounds by directly contacting you. After viewing your blog and seeing how hip to the game you are when it comes to what’s hot and current, I figured this would be something that would catch your interest.
Looking forward to the girl talk!
Gabrielle Thorn
ILCK Ambassador


4 Cammila June 30, 2008 at 4:32 pm

It’s sort of baffling that there are folks who think this could be construed as racism. Of course having an all black issue isn’t the same thing as having an all white issue — there’s a power differential! If black models are given a role in the fashion scene that’s disproportionate to their role in world culture — which they are — then efforts like this serve to help foster balance. I think it’s a lovely idea.


5 oluchi June 30, 2008 at 4:39 pm

as lovely as it sounds (having a black issue), there would be no need for one if black models were used as often as white models.

prevention is always better than a cure.


6 Sandra Mendoza-Daly June 30, 2008 at 5:02 pm

One of the many reasons I have come to prefer Italian Vogue to all other Vogues.

Race is always a sensitive issue so it will of course stir up controversy. Cammila states it best!

I will be buying the magazine for several reasons: to support statements of cultural celebration and identity, and to support the admiration of all ethnicities.

Thanks for posting this Jennine!


7 miss shoo June 30, 2008 at 6:48 pm

I was actually oblivious to an “all black issue” until I saw the post on the NYT and blogged about it a week or so ago. I found it interesting + exciting all at the same time.

I love diversity but let’s get honest here it’s lacking deeply in fashion. From blogs to magazines, to designer runways. I applaud Italia Vogue for at least attempting to keep the subject freshly on the tips of tongues. I believe without it some wouldn’t be willing to acknowledge there is an issue.

They chose to focus on “black” as the term is all encompassing. I’m from Brasil and I consider myself black. If that helps people grasp the term in and of itself. Trust me this issue if it does what some of us hope it will might just open the doors to more ethnic diversity. Make this world truly global. Fashion is owned by no one yet it does have an elitist air when we blatantly exclude groups of people because they aren’t “in”.


8 SwanDiamondRose June 30, 2008 at 10:28 pm

it’s a type of affirmative action. and affirmative action always appears contrived. and it is. it is a conscientious attempt at righting an imbalance. i wish it wasn’t necessary but it is. it is so sad because it was a balance that the industry tried to create decades ago. and the progress just slipped away. i seriously do not want to look at non-stop look-alike white models.


9 Imelda Matt July 1, 2008 at 12:07 am

healthy discourse on the current imbalance is needed but I agree with Swan affirmative action always contrived. So can we expect an all Asian issue to be in the pipeline?


10 SwanDiamondRose July 1, 2008 at 10:23 am

i don’t mean contrived in a bad way.


11 pretty kitty July 1, 2008 at 7:45 pm

The day must come when the fashion industry realizes that diversity is what makes fashion interesting and as the world continues to become smaller, magazines that exclude persons of color will cease to be relevant if only because more people of hue will be in positions of influence. In addition, younger generations, who will be exposed to multi-cultural social networks through their families and through their friends, will continue to exercise their influence on media outlets, and will form their own social networks that cater to their niche interests regarding style and fashion. These networks will be tight-knit and grassroots, again making general interest magazines like Vogue, dare I say, irrelevant. It is already happening. Just think about your favorite street-style blogs.


12 Toodles July 1, 2008 at 11:13 pm

I am still on the fence over Us Vogue. It seems as if they are playing tag along to Italy. I pick up many fashion magazines and it hurts to not see someone my color. Many women consider Nylon ” A Fashion Bible” yet they NEVER feature black models. In fact they did a spread on young upcoming hollywood talent and everyone was white except for a black guy. No women of color. They even mentioned how “pale” one girl was as if it was awesome! They always have blond women on their cover. And the new “it” girls are always blond. If it isnt Kate Moss it is Agnes. The industry is racist and coming with an all black issue wont solve anything unless in the future there will be more diversity. And as far as all Asian or Hispanic…why do people always bring that up when its an all black thing? If you new history you would see everything a black man has is usually taken or destroyed. China, Korea, Japan all have control of their nations…Africa is in pieces because of the white man. It is easier for asians to honor their models because they control their countries. As far as blacks, our motherland was ripped from us, and we still hardly control our own land.


13 susie_bubble July 3, 2008 at 2:48 am

I find the issue just ludicrous as a concept….. why highlight the BLATANT fact that fashion is basically biased towards white girls by making one token issue dedicated to BLACK girls…. it’s like, ‘Hey we won’t use you in the other 11 issues of the year but here you go, have an issue all to yourself because you’re special too….’ It’s incredibly condescending and actually really quite hilarious…. the solution would be to present a diversity ALL the time…. sure, white models will always dominate due to the sheer numbers game of there being more white models than other races, but it’s best to be subtle and to have other ethnicities getting equal billing and take on some shoots in the SAME issue…. as opposed to pointing things out and making everything seem very staged…


14 jennine July 3, 2008 at 8:21 am

wow, there are some really great comments here. personally, i have very mixed emotions about the all black issue. on one hand, we all need to make bold statements against homogeneity in fashion. one issue is a start, but it kind of feels a day late an a dollar short. we need more.

also, i resent the notion that race has been played out as a black/white issue when there are so other ethnicities who are even more underrepresented in the mainstream media.

in california, 35% is hispanic, 12% asian, and only 6% black, with native americans 1%, yet in hollywood, you don’t see that. hispanics, asians and native americans are virtually invisible.


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