February 24th, 2014
Black Designers, Blacks in Fashion, Ethnic Models, Fashion Discussion, Fashion News, Fashion Show, Fashion Week, Milan
Fashion Week Discussion: Should Designers of Color Use Models of Color on The Runway?
By Claire

Quite an interesting discussion erupted on Instagram when I posted a picture of Stella Jean‘s Fall 2014 collection, which showed today in Milan.

1 stella jean fall 2014
Stella Jean Fall 2014

Instead of focusing on the bright African prints and lustworthy shoes, commenters were more dismayed at the lack of diversity on Stella’s runway.

stella jean fall 2014 14
Stella Jean Fall 2014

Stella Jean, who is half Haitian and half Italian, is known for her vibrant kente and ankara printed separates, mixed with European menswear tailoring. She, however, didn’t use any black models in her Spring 2014 show. Out of 30 looks for Fall 2014, 3 were modeled by women of color.

A look from Stella Jean’s Spring 2014 Show

@SoulfulSwag wrote, “Who’s her audience? I hate when some African based designers only use Caucasian models! Are you afraid your clothing won’t sell if you actually use black models?”
stella jean fall 2014
@KidCadaver went on to look at Jean’s Instagram page, noting, “Stella Jeans IG, when viewed in the aggregate, looks odd for its overwhelming presentation of white models in ‘African’ inspired clothing.” @AsamPete added, “I just viewed her IG page and I must say I am disappointed in her lack of model diversity.

Stella Jean Instagram
A picture from Stella Jean’s Instagram

Bethann Hardison has been spearheading the movement for Diversity on the Runway since 2008. I agree that it would be nice to see a few more women of color on Stella’s runway, though she did use a handful this season.

stella jean fall 2014 2
stella jean fall 2014 1
Stella Jean Fall 2014

The bottom line is: designers still believe that women of color, particularly black/brown women, can’t sell clothes. The common belief is also that black women are not the target luxury customer; they’re not the ones buying the bulk of merchandise, so why cater to them by including them in advertisements or in runway shows?
Models display creations of Prada Spring
We obviously know this line of reasoning is false. Still, this season in Milan, some of our favorite fashion houses, including Etro, Dolce & Gabbana, and rapper’s delight Versace only used one black model on their runways.

versace fall 2014
Versace Fall 2014

Perhaps Stella is simply following in the footsteps of her colleagues, keeping diversity to a minimum as to not ‘shake the table.’ Jean is based in Italy–perhaps she believes her runway models truly reflect her consumer base. Jean is also half white. Maybe she identifies more with her Caucasian lineage than her Haitian heritage, despite her design aesthetic.
The bottom line is: diversity is the ideal for us at The Fashion Bomb and for people like Bethann Hardison, Naomi Campbell, and Iman. It would be great if diversity were the ideal for all designers–especially those of color; especially since there are so few designers of African descent showing on an international scale.

Stella Jean with Anna Dello Russo

Stella Jean with Anna Dello Russo

But it’s clearly not a priority for everyone. And I guess that’s their prerogative.

Stella Jean Fall 2013

What do you think?
*See more of Stella Jean’s work under our Stella Jean tag.

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67 Responses to “Fashion Week Discussion: Should Designers of Color Use Models of Color on The Runway?”

  1. its is her designs its her runway she is free to use wat ever colour of models she likes. wat is all dis people of colour buhaha. black women are not makin enof money from dere butt black models are not used enof on runways and adverts if u want to use black models design your own clothes den use black people

  2. mnrodgers says:

    clothing comes alive when on the right person…and i hate to sound biased…but it truly comes alive on the african (assuming she is african, i may be incorrect) model…as an entire ensemble it looks a tad costume-y on everyone else…

  3. mnrodgers says:

    someone please take down the first comment on this post…ignorance is not a virtue sweetie…please have a seat…

  4. fly won says:

    I couldn’t care less. You can’t FORCE anyone to conform to any standard. She’s an artist, she’s going to do what she wants.

  5. miss says:

    And why suld my comment be removed dear the truth is painful and bitter. A designer has a right to use wat ever colour of models the designer wants. Just like beyonce specifical requested black models for her yonce video its her music she calls the shots. So in dis situation the desginer call the shots. So take a look at the beautiful clothes and not the colour of the models. If u don’t like it take several seats behind. There is notin u can do about it anyway. The runway show is over. Poor u. Don’t be sooo pained

  6. 2 cents says:

    It’s this ^^ ^ apathy mixed with Stella Jean’s lack of cohesion that will always undermine us getting ahead. We just don’t get it: if we don’t care, no one will. If we don’t act, no one will. It’s like 12 years a slave, all the slaves leaving the main protagonist to almost hang for hours, going about their business, refusing to give him a hand. Only one stole away to give him a sip of water. This is how we are today. But our lack of caring and lack of unity is the ‘master’ now.

  7. Paula says:

    Ridiculous, people will criticise until the worlds end. Let her use what ever models she likes. Do the prints not represent diversity enough?

  8. Anonymous says:

    People like to create trouble where there is no need for any. Does the colour of the models matter in dis situation. Ofcourse it doesnt

  9. iQgraphics says:

    I believe that this designer is playing with the juxtaposition of African prints and silhouettes against white skin. I don’t think its a matter of ‘black models not being able to sell clothes’. I think its an artistic choice.

  10. Esta Fiesta says:

    I’m all for giving creatives the artistic freedom to do what they please with their projects but unfortunately as minorities sometimes we still have a “responsibility to our people” if you will. I’m not calling for all black models but it would be great if while she’s taking the opportunity to showcase that black people can create and that African-inspired prints can be fashionable then she should also take the opportunity to showcase that black women can sell the clothes and be considered “beautiful”.

  11. Caz says:

    I think it is her collection, and she can use what ever model that she wants to. Is always nice to see models of different colors on the catwalk, oriental, different negro, Indian, all the pallets and spectrum of people for me.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think all designers should use more diversity on the runway in advertisement ect…. Being a woman of color, that wears color brings life to the ensemble. But like the beauty said before, they have it in their heads that color isn’t buying nor can color sale. But color is beautiful that’s why so many people tan… just saying

  13. Brandon says:

    @Miss Gwonnnnnnnnnn somewhere wit dem ebonics nahhhhhhhh!

  14. Ashley says:

    I want to say to my fellow bloggers, sometimes it is best to think before you speak. A lot of people made accurate points. Some of you should be ashamed of how you speak and think. Yes, a lot of designers world-wide, use very few black models. As fashion addicts, you should definitely know that to be a true statement. But, it is definitely up to the designers discretion as to whom they want to hire for the job. Personally, I like seeing a variety of colors/races. But that’s not the world today, now is it?

  15. yup says:

    I see almost only black models on jayz roca wear print adverts and I don’t hear white people complaining about it. You can’t tell a designer wat colour of models to use

  16. Peaches says:

    Yes Ashley, I do understand! However, I do love Stella Jeans collections and feel she chooses the models wisely~~~

  17. Sally says:

    Personally the isnt enough black models on the runway something I believe needs working on, and yes I do believe that a model of african decent would have rocked this outfit well.. just to create a diverse range, which the isn’t enough of

  18. POW says:

    People don’t see anything wrong with a Haitian-Italian designer who uses fabrics and silhouettes that are heavily influenced by traditional west African clothing modeling said fashions almost exclusively on white women?

    Not only is the effect silly. The fact that this show appears to have been done without any irony (or innovation, frankly) leads me to question the designer’s intelligence.

    Anyway, judging from the comments, the intelligent and enlightened are fighting a losing battle. I bet the same people who “can’t see the point” of requesting racial diversity on runways have orgasms at the idea of a transgender supermodel. My people, smdh.

  19. Anonymous says:

    This is hilarious! Suddenly it’s “The designer can do whatever they want” and “It’s their decision” – hypocrisy! Same people crying fowl over other (white) designers not showing diversity, don’t seem to care in this instance. Why?

    I think it’s cheeky to have a collection which is obviously African inspired, yet have non or next to no models who represent African countries (but I guess South Africa was represented, right? Ha). It starts at HOME. If we can’t uplift ourselves or support each other, don’t expect others to. But then again, some of us only care when it concerns white people; our own validation & support doesn’t seem to matter as much *sigh*

  20. lilly says:

    And wat is wrong with a transgender super model. I can see how enlightend you are. If u want to see more coloured people on runways den black people should get up go to fashion and design sch. Then there will be more black designers then they are free to use more black models in other to show case black people. But before then keep quiet

  21. Anonymous says:

    @pow. Nail on head.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Atimes I get tired of our peoples victim mentality. I have realised it is imposible to please a black person. Its always poor me nobody likes me because I am not pretty enough. Its not enough that the designer has used african fabrics she has to flood the run way with black models in order to please black people I am speechless

  23. Anonymous says:

    @Yup. Why would white people complain about jay’s advertisement? Are they an underrepresented group in fashion? Have their features been demonised and put down for 1000′s of years? Have they been made to feel ugly? Inferior? As if they won’t “sell”?? Perhaps they’re the most ignored group in the world? Oh that’s the right, that’s BLACK WOMEN. Of course white people wouldn’t complain, they’ve no need to! Read a book, ignorant!

  24. Puny says:

    House slaves vs field slaves. Same old $hit

  25. Anonymous says:

    @ 6.17pm You are the one who fits the sterotype of an angry black woman its people like u dat give us the bad image and the bad reputation I don’t hear the native american indians complain they are in the minority and their land was stolen from them. Nobody has told u dat u are ugly its a messed up idea u hav in your. I am a black woman and I don’t tink any white woman is prettier dan me. I belive it and people see me dat way. Move out from the gehto, go to sch, loose some weight and learn to love your self child.the white man didn’t tell u dat u are ugly. U are the person who said dat to ur self

  26. Anonymous says:

    Loooool @6:27. Ok.

  27. The truth says:

    These white models are not doing the clothes justice at all.

  28. lola says:

    How do you use West African fabrics and not use black models though? That’s like using Sari fabrics for an Indian-themed collection and only using white models. Girl gone. I really do not have time for ignorance in 2014, so ya’ll can have this one and the many others to come. I mean if you cannot see what is wrong with this then it’s a wrap. And dead @ the excuses. Girl, if you want to appeal to white women, go right on ahead — nobody is stopping you. But cultural appropriation is a no no. You cannot eat your cake and have it, Half-black or not.

  29. Bankè says:

    I think the reality is people are still not comfortable with people of colour, it is almost so infectious that we ourselves almost don’t feel comfortable using or working with each other. From my personal experience as a PR girl for a brand i used to work for, I had to be selective of the press and bloggers I worked with. I was told a few times when I worked with coloured bloggers that they weren’t right for our target audience even though they were high flyers with great statistics. Where I was willing to be diverse, the brand I worked for were still scared of how they would be perceived with a mind set that working with coloured people or getting coverage in certain magazines might be bad press for them.

  30. Jessy says:

    No black models= not interested this season. Maybe next season they’ll do better, and I’ll be happy to consider opening my purse strings. Until then…

    Next company/fashion house on deck!

  31. mwah says:

    i have to agree with above nobody can make you feel ugly but yourself and this is the problem with black women in america. they are so sensitive and outraged by everything. yes this poor me , im single overweight ugly baby nobody wants me mentality boo hoo. black american women stop it, stop it. Stop putting other black women down with your poor me attitude.

  32. A. Sy says:

    I feel you should make it a point to feature ethnic people who inspired you to design the collection in the 1st place. I know the fashion house is aware of this issue surrounding the subject (especially if she’s half Haitian) it kinda looks like she sold out on this one. The collection is inspiring and beautiful by the way (I’m a sucker for fly fashion I can’t help it) but I also think as a human being you should feel socially obligated to show diversity that represents the world we live in that’ s my opinion.

    As for the comments about black women being sensitive,to poor to buy the clothing , always complaining ,like get a clue. Watch 12 yrs a slave, school daze by spike lee, and read something like the “bluest eye” whatever you do please make a choice to get a clue . Like …. Really.
    Yes Being free is a mind set,breaking down barriers is a choice and we as black women are doing our thing and taking care of our homes.
    however Unless who’ve been living under a rock I don’t see how a conscience mind can ignore the Systematic neglect we have been subject to for years ,we do it to ourselves & we allow companies to dictate to us what is beautiful.
    The bottom line is we have to love ourselves enough to unite & fight to create the change we to see. We have to unite in way that let these companies ,fashion houses and publications know that ignoring the diverse beauty of the black woman is unacceptable. But maybe a lot of us are to busy ,and that’s why there’s no change.

  33. lissley says:

    I don’t see the native indians coMplaing about not being properly represented I don’t see the asian people in america complaing about not being properly represented either. We black women should suck it up please and stop weeping all over the place. If president obama spent all his days weeping he won’t be the president today. Be the change u want to see. Improve on ur self go to sch, design clothes if u want den u can use women of colour as u like

  34. Anonymous says:

    @lissley u are right I never hear the american indians complain as much as our people do. And they are in the minority too.

  35. ABW says:

    You don’t hear Native American complaining because most of them were killed and disenfranchised like really yah don’t know this ? . To point that they can get a free college education the government knows ain’t too many left and it’s not gonna cost them too much .and the populations that are left live on their own land like who has seen a Indian /Native American in a week . Asians don’t complain because they don’t have too. Wake up !!

  36. Anonymous says:

    “The Asian’s aren’t complaining” the Asian’s have their OWN industries, the Asian’s are making moves in the economic & business world. They (on the whole) have always been united and supportive of their own, insuring for their own, which is part of their success!

    And perhaps the Asians don’t CARE about this area, but black people obviously have an INTEREST in it, because stats clearly show we put more money than anyone else into this industry. If we have this interest in it, it’s obvious that we should champion BETTER representation and support our own just as the Asians do in their areas.

    All this “You go design school then” talk is stupid. I can’t go into EVERY single industry; the point is to support and uplift our own, in a society which has historically not done that! We are the only race who doesn’t seem to think bigger – black businesses, black ownership, black unity and black support. Read up on Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. Never truer words spoken. Sad.

  37. Anonymous says:

    @3.14am yeah nobody expects u to be everywhere at the same time but white people manage to be in polictics, in medicine, in education, in sports, in fashion, in music, in movies. So we as black people can also spread ourselves and be in all these places and dominate dem too just like white people. But do u no why we can’t? Its because of people like u who play the blame game and don’t want to take responsibility for their life. The white man is not holding u down u are the person holding your self down and we wil bee doing ourselves and the generation yet unborn a great dis service if we don’t live the white man alone and take our destinies in our own hands. I am out

  38. Anonymous says:

    My black sisters the white man didn’t stop u from improving your life you did dat your self. The white man didn’t stop you from goin to sch you did dat to your self. The white man didn’t make you fat you did dat to your self. The white man didn’t make you hav five diffrent children for five diffrent baby papa’s you did dat to your self. So live the white man out of your deppresive life. This one is not his fault. And the designer has the right to use wat ever colour of models she likes its her business

  39. Jessy says:

    Wow…quite a few stereotypes floating around in here… baby daddies, fat, ugly, ghetto? You all (Black or non-black) have some major anti-black bias/issues (and half of you all cannot put together a coherent paragraph in English, yet you’re complaining about black women not being educated).

  40. Mary says:

    It’s extremely difficult to find any substance within these comments. If you are unable to spellcheck, you’re unable to make a legitimate argument.

    Blacks,Asians, whites, and native Americans have to stop playing victim and using ignorance as their defense, it’s unbecoming with the amount of education we tout.
    The purpose of this post is to rile up our community against each other. In Italy it’s difficult to find black established models, and when you’re a designer cost efficiency and reliability are also a focus. As jean is a minority designer, she has to execute her shows a lot safer in order to establish her brand.

  41. Michele says:

    Let’s just be honest. The designer of major wax prints;Marjan De Groot is dutch and her textiles are the most coveted in the African Print industry. So, again here were are communicating of who can wear it but it goes to show you how this European holds most of the cards of the design, distribution and respect for her work under the Vlisco label. So they make it; we wear it even in Africa.

  42. Jackie says:

    And as a human being in 21st century, I’m always happy to see diversity. I agree that designers have a right to choose models that best convey their clothing, the mood of the show and most importantly, that are available. I didn’t see the SS14 show. Did she have a more diverse set. Fashion has done a horrible job of instilling and celebrating diversity in ways that are beyond window-dressed homages to certain cultures through beading and prints. There is a LONG way to go. We don’t know which models were presented/available for this show, however, I love what I saw on those models. (Though SS14 was my favorite show.) It’s too easy to accuse her of denying the ‘darker-hued’ side of her genetic makeup. Perhaps all of these points are right to some degree. But we don’t know. Let’s discuss the business itself. And let’s not forget that Italy still has overt racism. It couldn’t have been easy for her or her parents. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt for now.


  43. Jackie says:

    Oops. I meant that I hadn’t seen the AW14 show. Sorry. :)

  44. Anonymous says:

    Wow I’m shocked at the responses..so only white designers should have diverse models? That’s just silly. All designers need to have diversity. Doesn’t matter if she’s half black. If your target audience doesn’t include us why would we support them? End of story.

  45. jeda says:

    My head hurts from all the ignorance I just read. As a black designer (and yes she is black, even if its half), I would expect her to make a more conscious effort to include a variety of models on her runway. Not necessarily all black, but a variety. As a black woman in the fashion industry, she should know how hard it is for other black women in the business. As she is already in that world, I think she should use her success to help up and coming black models. Needless to say that her clothes are heavily influenced by African culture, really it would only make sense, its a no brainer.

  46. KITANA says:

    The nerve of this person to use African prints and not use one AFRICAN in her show. This is her white side appropriating culture being stupid and oblivious to people effected LMAO..

    Also explain to me who is playing victim? This is a valid discussion on how and why a person who has made strides in an industry that blacks across the world finance, but at the same time are habitually excluded from would dare hire all white models to wear traditional African prints. Its an abomination. There is no victim role playing here.

    You idiots making these “victim” remarks need to look up the definition of the word first. Next, we know you aren’t Black-so with that being said why are you even concerned or involved in a discussion that does not apply nor relate to you?

  47. Ashley Alexis McFarlane says:

    Stella Jean seems like one of those black people who want to be the only black person in the room so whites will excuse her blackness and see her as one of them. On her Instagram of hundreds of models I only counted 2 black people other than her. Black people who are like ‘this is her choice who cares look at the clothes.’ Need to get a clue. Fashion is a business and black models aren’t getting paid because of this sort of discrimination. What if your employer didn’t hire you because he didn’t think his business would get as many contracts or you didn’t match the paint job. Would you be like oh it’s his choice and artistic vision? Wake up black people.

  48. lisa says:

    Most of these prints are produced in dutch and holland not in afica sorry to bust your bubble and a designer is free to choose wat ever colour of models she likes. That’s my own opinion

  49. lizzy says:

    My head hurts from all this arguments

  50. Anon 3:14am says:

    @5.11am, you read my comment wrong. Black people are in all types of industries! My point is that I shouldn’t HAVE to “go to design school” that’s not my interest; my point is that those who are in said industries should be supportive of their own, rather than ‘ignore’ them as they themselves are by the industry! I am simply saying SUPPORT your own. That’s all. There is no “woe” is me about that belief. I made NO reference of white people holding us down, actually I said WE hold ourselves back. I seek no validation from white people. I then referred to malcolm X & Marcus Garvey, so how you could infer I was seeking white approval is beyond my understanding. You’ve simple reiterated my original point *sigh*

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