She is one of the most beautiful women in the world, but one of the few black models on the catwalk. As Naomi Campbell demands more diversity, is the fashion world listening?
The world might be embracing diversity – but not, say leading black models, the world of high fashion. In an open letter to major fashion houses, Naomi Campbell has joined forces with Iman and former model Bethan Hardison to ask why they continue to define beauty as virtually all-white.
There has been no official comment from any of the designers they named, although the Council of Fashion Designers of America did issue a statement, declaring that “the most powerful message is one of diversity”.
But the statistics are clear: at last week’s New York Fashion Week, just 6 per cent of models walking the shows were black, and 9 per cent Asian; 13 shows featured no models of colour at all.
Jenna Sauers and Dodai Stewart have been compiling the figures for Jezebel since 2008. They have found very little progress since then – in fact this autumn, there were slightly fewer black and ethnic minority models on the catwalk than previous years.
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Beverley Johnson, who was the first African American woman to grace the cover of Vogue back in the 1970s, is furious, telling the Daily Beast there was “a trend of exclusion that is glaringly insulting and simply unacceptable to me”.
There were a few New York designers who bucked the trend – as the New York Times fashion reporter Eric Wilson noted: