Is The Fashion Industry Racist? Featured

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The world of fashion has always been one of controversy. From the size zero phenomena, to the various drugs scandals that have blighted so many of its top models, it has always been a place which has courted newspaper columns and scandal. Now the industry has been rocked by yet another somewhat disturbing allegation: racism.


In 2011, the PR for fashion’s political correctness took a nosedive, when John Galliano - designer for Dior - made some pretty unsavoury, anti-Semitic remarks, whilst drunk in Paris. The gist of his comments was the opinion that Hitler had got it right. Galliano made the classic ‘I’m very sorry, I made a mistake’ speech, before packing his rather expensive Dior bags and heading straight to rehab. All seemed to be forgiven.


However, John Galliano is just one man, and whilst his comments may be rightly condemned and abhorred, the racism which I describe runs a little deeper. It appears to be rife throughout the fashion industry: the issue of ethnic minorities and their token appearances in catwalk shows and editorials.


This year, Victoria Secret’s model Cameron Russell stated that beauty in the fashion industry is found in ‘tall slender figures… with white skin’. She also revealed that just 4% of models on today’s catwalks are non-white. Only last week, Jordan Dunn revealed her delight on Twitter that it was her bra size, not her skin colour, which excluded her from Dior’s runway show. She tweeted:


‘I'm normally told I'm cancelled because I'm ‘coloured’ so being cancelled because off [sic] my boobs is a minor’.


Whilst Miss Dunn appears to at least have a sense of humour, it does not take away from the fact that black models are often told by designers: ‘We’ve already found one black girl, we don’t need you any more’. More controversially, recently the magazine ‘Numéro’ decided to ‘black up’ a white model, instead of hiring a black model for its ‘African Queen’ editorial.


I’m not trying to state that the world of fashion has a zero tolerance policy on diversity and multi-cultures. After all, there are the likes of Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Jordan Dunn, Malaika Firth, and my very own favourite Alex Wek, striding the catwalk. However, they are some of the only faces holding the flag for diversity in a world that seems to favour white skin. With brands like Prada casting their first black model in advertising for nineteen years, it would appear that the fashion industry has a lot to answer for when it comes to celebrating different skin colours and diversity. Fashion is supposed to be something that can be celebrated globally, so isn’t it time the fashion world allowed it to be?  



Joanna Bateson-Hill

Originating from Brixton, London, I study Theatre and Performance at University of Leeds. I love everything to do with film, theatre and most of all writing, with the occasional bit of swimming thrown in for good measure. I hope to write articles that make people laugh but also make them think. To me, writing is a fun, cheap and healthier form of therapy. I hope that people have as much fun reading my articles as I do writing them, which is a lot.


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