I’m African American and love fashion so naturally I was beyond jazzercised when Vogue announced they’d be doing an “All Black Issue” meant to address discrimination in the fashion industry. Well actually it’s Italian Vogue, and the concept came as a response to long time fashion agent and model Bethann Hardisons summit “Out of Fashion: The Absence of Color”, where some of the top names of fashion (designers, models, agents and other industry peeps) discussed the decline of, you guessed it, people of color from the fashion industry since the 80’s and 90’s when they were sorta kinda prevalent.
Italian Vogue and world renowned photographer Steve Miesel try their best to highlight black as beautiful but unfortunately the range is narrow. Lots of European features, no kinky hair in sight – basically a Westernized Caucasian standardization of beauty. You can read others critiques about Italian Vogues failure as they make blackness “special” to maintain the status quo.
My biggest gripe with this attempt at racial civility is that there are virtually no people of color featured in any of the advertisements for the various luxury items that act as Vogue’s bread and butter. While the editorials are okay at best, more edgy 80’s throwback aesthetics than beautiful, the fact that people of color are excluded from the Dior, Prada and Louis Vuitton ads sends a pretty clear message: Even though African Americans spend $845 billion dollars on fashion and luxury goods, they’re not sought or included in the branding, but they’re money is still accepted. The only thing ground breaking and deserving of props in this issue is the inclusion of a “plus sized”, model (that’s regular people size), Toccara Jones from America’s Top Model Cycle. Way to cross over girl! But even this representation falls into the “black = bootlicious = only way to be beautiful/desirable” equation that you see play out in ass and titty magazines (NSFW).
Having diverse representations of beauty is good for everyone, both socially and financially. Seriously. Its also important because a generation of little girls are growing up believing that beauty is homogeneous and that if they don’t fit a very narrow, nearly unobtainable standard that they are not desirable.
I didn’t expect this Vogue to fix the problem, or particularly raise awareness but the fact that the issue is flying off the shelves of newsstands around the world, even calling for 40,000 reprints, might start a conversation that needs to be had around ethnic representations of diversity around beauty and consumerism.
You can peep the photo spread here and chime in. I’m interested to hear with you think.