“Designers aren’t thinking about the world or diversity of their consumer base. I think it’s lazy…We have a broad audience we’re selling too, but to not address that on a runway is old-fashioned, and we’re in the business of making fashion.”–Tracy Reese.

Hey, hey!
So as you know, last night I attended Part Deux of the “Blacks in Fashion” Forum.
I made my way over to the New York Public Library at 6:30…and the room eventually became quite crowded…


…with fashionistas and fashionistos.
A few luminaries came out.
Vera Wang surprisingly made an appearance….
…(those are horrible pictures, I know, but she didn’t stick around long enough afterwards for me to formally ask for a picture)…
A very vocal Iman was in the front row…

…and tons of others (including a few Fashion Bomb Readers!) filled the seats.
The talk got underway, with designer Tracy Reese, Stylist Lori Goldstein, casting agent James Scully, and model agent David Ralph on the panel….
Bethann Hardison moderated.
If you remember the first meeting, I’d say that similar issues were addressed: how editors believe black covers don’t sell; designers don’t request ethnic models; black models compete against each other (hear that Tyra and Naomi!); agents don’t feel they need more than one black girl; and how image makers don’t have an eye or recognize black beauty.

Though the discussion started off reiterating a lot of the same issues, it eventually seemed to go a step further by addressing the large role magazine editors play in filling editorial pages with diversity, and how that affects the runway. If you remember the article from jezebel.com, you’d recall that a whopping 7 out of the 9 major fashion magazines totally lacked black models in their editorial pages for the month of October. Sad.

Instead of crying ‘Racism’ a la Vivienne Westwood, Wendell Brown, a senior fashion editor of color at Esquire magazine made a great observation: he knows from experience that sometimes editors at these magazines just don’t think of including a person of color until someone in the room mentions it. Meaning these editors aren’t discriminatory per se, just unaware. Seems they just need someone on staff to gently remind them.
The talk went on for a good two hours, and eventually photographer Marc Baptiste asked the big question: “What’s the Solution?”

Bethann stated that her goal was simply to get people talking: to get bloggers buzzing, major newspapers writing (thanks Kenya Hunt and Guy Trebay) and to make the world at large aware of this very serious problem.
Mission accomplished! Take a look at the front page of your local metro newspaper…
Hopefully the dialogue won’t end here.
Afterwards I went down and chit chatted with a few of fashion’s finest.
Yaya from ANTM fame showed her support…
As did Harriette Cole, Creative Director of Ebony magazine….
Beverly Smith, the former Fashion Editor at large for Vibe magazine, and current judge on BET J’s My Model is better than Your Model came through….

…and brought a couple Fashion Bomb readers with her!
And I of course had to snap a few pictures! I caught up with Michaela Angela Davis (founding Fashion Director of Vibe Magazine, former Fashion Director and Editor in Chief of Honey Magazine)…
Robin Givhan (Pulitzer prize winning Fashion Editor for the Washington Post)….
Tracy Reese (super duper dope Fashion Designer)
and Bethann herself!
I told them all about the Fashion Bomb. Hopefully they’ll be tuning in today!
Fashion News and What Nots:
*Speaking of designers of color, Kimora’s KLS line is popping up on every red carpet.
Here, Anna Kournikova and Mya rock the same KLS dress.

Who looked more FAB (FAshion Bomb)?
*USA Today reports that several US Cities are balking over baggy pants. Guys still wear those?
*YBF reports that Rihanna….

and J. Lo…

…both nabbed November covers. It’s a start!

15 thoughts on “On the Scene: Bethann Hardiso’s NYPL Talk: Blacks In Fashion Part Two on the Lack of Black Models on the Runway”

  1. Thanks for filling us in on the event yesterday. I am so upset that I missed it, but as always you gave a great report so I almost feel like I was there! ;-)

  2. Thanks for following this story from the beginning Claire! You are helping shed light on the issue. You are a part of the solution!

  3. That argument that folks don’t think about including people of color unless someone in the room specifically mentions it is ridiculous, especially in New York, where most of them work, but this isn’t unique to fashion. What astonishes me is that white people can openly say “Although I live with you work with you pass you every day on the street I never give you people another thought unless someone makes me.” More than overt and caustic racism, I think this willful invisibilizing (yes, I know, not a word) is really at the heart of the systemic lack of diversity in this country, and I don’t know how that can be fixed. It’s not like we’re brand new here and take some getting used to. If in 2007 white people don’t give us a second thought, they’re not going to, not en masse.

  4. I agree…i strongly think we’re better off with a new Suede versus trying to make people at Glamour or Vogue realize that diversity is important. if they don’t care, if they think afro’s and dreadlocks are dreadful, that black is not beautiful, then forget ’em. Let’s do our own thing.

  5. I think that it is important to have fashion magazines such as Suede, Honey, and Vibe Vixen back. It is equally as important for designers and editors to not be able to say, well we forgot about yall. That is not going to cut it. More of an effort for the name of equal representation as well as diversity needs to be made, and that has to start in all aspects of fashion. There was a time when the Black model was it-but unlike a fedora or a platform pump, being Black is not a fashion statement, it is who you are. So instead of saying its ok to be objectified as if Blackness is an accessory, it needs to be accepted that Black is a person, who deserves just as much shine as their melanin deficient counterparts.


  6. Claire! you’re so awesome. You’re the best actually. You always shine light on such important issues. :)I remember your very first blog like it was yesterday. ;)

  7. I’m so happy to see that so many bloggers are writing about this. I actually went and looked on models.com. Stefano Pilati’s argument (black models have huge butts) was a sham as I knew it was. I’ve stopped buying several magazines as a result of this. I also don’t shop YSL as a rule now.

  8. Good for RiRi and JLo but they are celebs… lets get some beautiful black models on the cover… where is the next Iman, Naomi, Alec? Give it to me!

Comments are closed.