Is Fashion Racist?

TOM RASMUSSEN sees a darker side to the fashion industry, with its whitewashed aesthetic of beauty.

beyonce blackface diversity fashion fashion industry I-D Lara Stone race racism rihanna Tom Rasmussen tribal chic vogue

Now I don’t know if anyone’s been reading Vogue of late, but they did this shoot a few issues ago of a model riding a wild long-haired bull. She was dressed head-to-toe as a Chanel-yeti, in India, being led around by fifteen ‘natives’, down a dirt track.

The concept was ridiculous – no woman in her right mind would be caught dead in those yeti furs, let alone ones that cost tens of thousands of pounds. But more to the point, at what stage in this process did everyone’s moral compass point in completely the wrong direction?

It is completely absurd that these fashionistas should deck a size zero Caucasian supermodel in multiple £25,000 outfits, accessorized with an admiring coterie of anonymous, underprivileged foreign people.

An ethnic Caucasian?  

In the recent October issue of French Vogue, the editor booked a Dutch model, Lara Stone, painted her face black and offered up a 14 page spread celebrating “ethicity” and Stone’s “uninhibited gappy teeth” and her “radical break with the wave of anorexic models” (she’s a SIZE 4!). This was said to be an “artistic expression”, but I just don’t see that. If the magazine was out to celebrate “ethnicity” they could have booked an ethnic model.

Heading South to Italy, where Vogue Italia releases a yearly ‘all-black’ issue. Great, right? The idea behind these magazines is that they act as an advertisement-come-style Bible, so why don’t they feature models of different ethnicities in every issue? Their demographic surely contains a wide variety of women from different ethnic backgrounds.

The release of this special issue may be in celebration of the beautiful differences in skin colour across the fashion world. But leafing through it, the black models all seem to be consigned to “tribal chic”. Progress? Not really.

Rihanna’s Vogue cover, Beyonce’s spread in I-D and Vogue Italia saw them appear as two blonde, white women. These are two of the most famous and powerful women of colour known and yet these magazines make them look like any other white model. Madness.

In a recent survey, of all of the models in all of the runway shows at all of the fashion weeks in all of the world, a staggering 88% of them were white. A designer’s aim to appeal to women on the street surely is compromised by this fact.

I am an avid fashion lover, but I just can’t get my head around the blatant misrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the industry across Europe. For such a visually forward bunch, surely the industry should look to all corners of the globe for the next big face?

READ Tom’s take on elitism in fashion HERE.