What's going on in fashion?
Black models have all but evaporated on the catwalk, observes supermodel Iman.
Iman, the Somali-born supermodel and wife of David Bowie — is speaking to the Standard.co.uk about this trend.“There were more black models on the catwalk when I started in the 1970s than there are today,” she tells the webite. Iman was part of an era that included Beverly Johnson, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks and Cynthia Bailey... “So when people say that there just aren’t that many black models, yes there are!”
Together, Iman, NaomiCampbell and Bethann Hardison, former model-turned-agent-turned activist, penned a letter to the heads of the fashion governing bodies in New York, London, Paris and Madrid, under the banner of Hardison’s Diversity Coalition.
“Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of colour...No matter the intention, the result is racism.”
The coalition reportedly put the designers and fashion houses on notice as “guilty of this racist act”, among them Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Chanel, Armani, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Victoria Beckham, Roberto Cavalli and Marc by Marc Jacobs.
“People have said we are shaming the designers,” Iman said to the Standard. “But that’s not what we’re doing. Nobody is calling anybody racist; the action is racist,” she explains. “I have a 12-year-old daughter [Alexandria, who carries Bowie’s legal surname, Jones; she also has a 35 year-old daughter, Zulekha Haywood, from her previous marriage to the American basketball player, Spencer Haywood] and when she does something wrong, she says, ‘I was very bad’. I say, ‘No, you did something bad. You are not bad’. The action is different from the person who is doing it.”
“The absence of models of color sends a message to our young girls that they are not good enough, they are not beautiful enough,” she says. “Photography and the runways are such powerful tools, and say such a lot about our society. It is so much bigger than the catwalk.”
Iman also recounted the racism she endured in her early career in New York. “Many companies had a different price rate for black models and white models,” she explains. “So I refused to take jobs — if I wasn’t going to be paid the same as them, I wasn’t going to do it. I just sat it out.”