Extra research / Quotes:
“They’ll book the big Caucasian girls, spend the big dollars, and fly them in from L.A., but I’m yet to see them book a dark-skinned girl in that way.” Ajak Deng
“When I was younger, I encountered this same issue. I would be backstage at shows and there would be stylists who didn’t have any experience working with Black models,” she explained. “I’d always bring my own products — my own makeup colors, hair products, everything — just to be sure that I had everything I needed to achieve a certain look. It’s disappointing to hear that models of color are still encountering these same issues all these years later.” Naomi Campbell
“It’s about not having a static beauty ideal. It’s not about representing this idea of one. I want to celebrate the individual as opposed to ‘a type.’” – Designer, Rosie Assoulin.
Interviewed friend and model of 7 years, Imogen Gentles currently on a modelling contract in Tokyo:
“One thing I can say is that for Sydney fashion week it was extremely evident that the agencies had their ‘golden black girl’ almost as a way to divert from racist accusations. The agencies always have a black girl or two maybe 3 depending on how the agency is but in numbers compared to caucasians are obviously not large.”
“Also Japanese as a culture are very racist towards black people. There is not a single black model here with any agency ever because they just wouldn’t get any work because their ideal look is ‘kawaii’ which generally showcases very cute faces, young looking, blonde/ brown hair. Obviously black hair as well but more so if they have a specific look.”
“Also NZ Has the same thing with the token black girl stuff, there’s what like one black model that actually gets work in NZ.”
Postgraduate Festival Hosts Talk on Diversity in the Fashion Industry:
Naomi Campbell / Prada:
This photo is from the last time Naomi Campbell walked for Prada. Miuccia didn’t use another black model for another ten years.
This is a project by Bethann Hardison created to spread awareness and discussion on the lack of diversity within the fashion industry.
Fashioning Models: Image, Text, and Industry:
In ‘Fashioning Models: Image, Text, and Industry’ Doreen Small, former vice president of Ford Models is quoted as saying: ‘We look for beauty transcending race’ (Entwingle and Wissinger 185).
‘I think people will always go to look and see what will sell. Who’s my market, who’s buying my clothes, who do I need to relate to, and I need to put my models in my catalogue to whom my consumer can relate.’ DS
‘Often the black ethnic girls that do well have caucasian features.’ George Speros, Agent at New York Models.
‘You often hear, ‘we already have a black girl in this issue’ before the casting is done.’ George Speros.
Influential members of the fashion industry, from activist Bethann Hardison to models Naomi Campbell and Iman, have spoken up about why racial diversity matters. Part of their activism included publicly chastising brands that mount runway shows without casting models of color. That public shaming awakened a lot of designers to their subconscious prejudices, and they changed their ways.
Demna Gvasalia Designer of Vetements and Artistic Director of Balenciaga:
‘kinda suss casting decisions’ (Oyster Magazine)
“Our criteria for choosing models was purely based on the idea of diversity of character. We had very different types of girls but Lotta [Volkova, stylist and model] who works with me, we come from this cultural background where [race] is not even an issue. We don’t even have that thing to think we have to be politically correct. I guess the criticism is justified but from my point of view it was the attitude of those girls that was important for me not the shade of their skin or their origin.” (Demna Gvasalia quoted by Oyster Mag)
“It’s likely that most of the dialogue surrounding Gvasalia’s fall 2016 offerings will skew positive, with their lack of diversity seen, unfortunately, as an afterthought. Sure, the designer is known for casting his friends (like his stylist Lotta Volkova and fellow streetwear designer Gosha Rubchinskiy) and people off the street, but that’s all the more reason to have cast a wider representation of races. Sending the message, deliberately or not, that these “cool kids” can only be white isn’t only inaccurate, but it also marks a step back for the industry, which has slowly but surely been making progress on the diversity front.” Alyssa Vingan Klein for Fashionista.
“So if you’re the designer the whole world is looking to right now, how great that your message is one of exclusion which is never in fashion. It must feel like a slap to all of the people of color who line up to buy your clothes that your message to them [is that] you don’t see them in your world. Two strikes out. And the award for most anticipated and biggest dissappointment [sic] at once goes to…… Demma [sic] Gvasalia,” Casting Director James Scully quoted on NY Mag
‘When a brand has the world’s attention it makes a statement even if all it wants to do is sell some clothes.’ Telegraph.
Meanwhile if we’re to rely on the vision of Gvasalia and his band of millennial influencers, fashion’s future is strangely one-dimensional and melanin-free. For someone whose excellent design work has been dubbed “revolutionary” in fashion circles, the all-white casting Gvasalia champions is, unfortunately, out of touch with today’s global reality. Vetements’ Americana-themed collection of reworked street wear, leather city coats and knee high boots worn exclusively by wan, Eastern-bloc looking models does not reflect the racial diversity seen on New York City streets, or even in middle America or on the West Coast where plenty of clued in hipsters of colour already wear or want to buy from the brand, as they do from London to Lagos, to Los Feliz (Business of Fashion).
On this topic, Vetements and Balenciaga need to be called out and corrected (Business of Fashion).
“I would never compromise the credibility of a collection, for instance, to cater to what someone might think regarding our politics, or to send an insincere, first-degree message about something people expect for the sake of correctness,” opined Gvasalia in a piece published by 032c magazine last year. (Gvasalia for 032c magazine as cited by Business of Fashion)
One specific problem with Vetements is that a haute-streetwear line needs something to justify its price tag. Must one of those things be whiteness? That’s the elephant in the room distinguishing a hoodie in its natural environment from its $1500 iteration. If so, this reasoning is terrible, and frankly exhausting (Huffington Post).
It also erodes Vetements’ claim to cast friends, who just happen to all be white (also known as the “Lena Dunham/Girls defense”). When the product they shill is so heavily influenced by urban streetwear of minorities, it comes across as unbearably arrogant to cast zero minorities to wear them (Huffington Post).
CREATING A WORK:
Approaching this assignment has been very interesting. I am a strong believer that the aesthetic or beauty of art should not be sacrificed in order to create meaning. When I search up visual activism or art as social commentary on google or pinterest, I see a lot of rubbish. My art teacher always enforced into me the importance of not letting the narrative get in the way of work or for the work to become didactic. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how this fits in with this assignment and how didactic a work of this type should be. I have realised that visual activism, in order to be successful needs to be obvious enough in that people are able to engage with it and understand the message it is trying to draw attention to. However, I wonder if the type of visual activism I am more interested in is art that makes people think rather than presenting a biased argument or one certain perspective. When I think about artists who use art as social commentary the only two who come to mind are Banksy and Ai Wei Wei. I believe that their success is largely down to the fact that they create works that are visually engaging. The message is not always clear at first but the images are always thought provoking.
My first idea for a work was kind of based off the idea of cultural appropriation at the Misha show mentioned in my research. I wanted to photograph white people in cultural dress as if for a magazine cover. I would then make a full mockup of a magazine with ironic titles and headlines etc. It would be satirical and would be intended to make people question cultural appropriation. However, I realised that this idea strays too far from my topic of focus.