A3 Week 10

I have continued researching the issue of the lack of racial diversity among models. I have spent some time looking at the situation here in New Zealand although this may not be where I focus my final work. I spoke to my friend and a model of seven years, Imogen Gentles to see her insider view of a lack of racial diversity in New Zealand. Imogen told me that most agencies will have a ‘golden black girl’ on their books to ‘divert form racist accusations’. This is supported by my research from Fashioning Models: Image, Text and Industry where agent George Speros of New York Models is quoted as saying ‘You often hear, ‘we already have a black girl in this issue’ before the casting is done’ (Entwingle and Wissinger 186). On her experience modelling in Tokyo Imogen said: ‘There is not a single black model here with any agency ever because they just wouldn’t get any work’.

I decided to look through the main and development boards at some of New Zealand’s most prominent agencies including Red 11, Clyne, 62 Models and Unique Models and found that even here in New Zealand there is an incredible lack of diversity among our models. This is something I have witnessed myself but maybe never paid as much attention to as I should have at New Zealand Fashion Week and other fashion shows. Further research has allowed me to examine the reasons for this lack of demand for models of colour. A study by Elizabeth Wissinger concluded that the two main reasons for limited opportunities were “ingrained attitudes stemming from the semiotic significance of black skin, coupled with the subjective structure of hiring in the modeling industry”. The article also talked about the laws around employing someone based on their appearance. According to Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964 this is acceptable (Wissinger 140). However, when it comes to race the lines are blurred (Wissinger 140). Casting directors often pull the ‘aesthetic’ or ‘colour scheme’ card to obscure the division between discrimination based on race or ‘lookism’ (Wissinger 139).

An idea I had for a work of visual activism was sparked by the infamous Margiela masks made famous by Kanye West. I found these interesting as they sort of erase the identity of the model. Although they only cover the models face and often their hair and skin colour are still exposed I thought this idea could be played with as a comment on designer’s desire for all models to fit a specific ‘aesthetic’. A theoretical idea for visual activism on this topic although not possible with the limitations of time and budget would be to construct a full piece sort of body suit in a similar method to these masks in which every model on a runway would wear underneath the garments as a comment on the lack of diversity of models. It would almost satirize designers wants for a cardboard cut out line up of models who all look exactly the same.

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Maison Martin Margiela Haute Couture F/W’12 showmask by maison martin margiela

Maison Martin Margiela Haute Couture F/W’12 showtumblr_o3m9r3TRIu1se6kw2o1_500

Maison Martin Margiela. Unknown.

References:

Wissinger, E. “Managing the Semiotics of Skin Tone: Race and Aesthetic Labor in the Fashion Modeling Industry.” Economic and Industrial Democracy 33.1 (2012): 125-43. Web.

Entwistle, Joanne, and Elizabeth Wissinger. Fashioning Models: Image, Text, and Industry. London: Berg, 2012. Print.

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