The July issue of Vogue Italia coming out next week is the much-speculated-upon “all-black” issue featuring fabulous bitches such as Liya Kebede, Sessilee Lopez, Jourdan Dunn, Naomi Campbell, Chanel Iman, Veronica Webb, Iman, Tyra Banks, Alek Wek, Pat Cleveland, Karen Alexander, and America’s Next Top Model contestant Toccara Jones. The issue has only black models, and all the features are related to black women in the arts and entertainment.
Cathy Horyn from the New York Times spoke to Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani and photographer Steven Meisel about the project.
“RACIAL prejudice in the fashion industry has long persisted because of tokenism and lookism. “We already have our black girl,” says a designer to a fashion-show casting agent, declining to see others. Or: “She doesn’t have the right look.” Laziness, paranoia and pedantry may also have something to do with the failure to hire black models for shows and magazine features in any meaningful number, but, hey, that’s just a guess.”
“[Sozzani] She said that, as an Italian, she has been intrigued by the American presidential race and Mr. Obama, which was one source of inspiration when she and Mr. Meisel began discussing, in February, the idea of an all-black issue. Also, she was aware of the lack of diversity on the runways in recent years and the debate it fueled last fall in New York, where Bethann Hardison, a former model who ran a successful agency, held two panel discussions on the topic.”
“Mr. Meisel has his own theories about why black models, save for the token few, have disappeared from runways. “Perhaps the designers, perhaps the magazine editors,” he said. “They are the powerful people. And the advertisers. I have”asked my advertising clients so many times, ‘Can we use a black girl?’ They say no.” The concern is that consumers will resist the product, he said. “It all comes down to money.”
On the one hand, we think it’s a good thing to examine the issue of diversity in the fashion world. On the other hand, an “all black” issue comes off a little gimmicky (with a twinge of imperialism). Still, it’s representative of the larger point that people feel such an issue still needs to be put out at all.
On the other, other hand, we’ll shamelessly steal a good gimmick if we think it makes an interesting post, so here’s our little tribute to all the black models of Project Runway. Take a little stroll down memory lane and gaze at the fabulousness (and a couple trainwrecks).
Camilla Barungi (Read our interview with fabulous Camilla!)
[Photos: nytimes.com/various sources - Screencaps: Project RunGay]