Former Model Agency Owner Calls To End Racism On The Runway

Beauty & Style | Camille Travis | 09/06/2013 | 01:45 PM EDT

Naomi Campbell, Iman Support End To Racism On The Runway

New York Fashion Week is upon us and the discussion of the lack of diversity within the industry is once again at the forefront as major labels and designers leave women of color out of the equation.

For the past five years, former model agency owner Bethann Hardison has campaigned for greater diversity on the runway and her most recent plea has gained momentum with the support of legendary supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Iman. In a memo posted to Balance Diversity, Hardison explains:

"Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches fashion design houses consistently use of one or no models of color. No matter the intention, the result is racism. Not accepting another based on the color of their skin is clearly beyond 'aesthetic' when it is consistent with the designer’s brand. Whether it’s the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society. It can no longer be accepted, nor confused by the use of the Asian model."

The letter was sent to the CFDA, British Fashion Council, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana in Milan and the Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers and Créateurs de Mode in Paris. To add fuel to the fire, Hardison also called out several big-name designers who have proved to be repeat offenders.

After spending nearly a month combing through thousands of runway images in a single season, she found that Prada, Versace, Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, Rag & Bone, Proenza Schouler and others shared a common theme: they all employed an overwhelming number of White models.

Shocking.

To counter her argument, Daniel Silver of menswear collection Duckie Brown (one of the targeted labels) told Robin Givhan of The Cut: "We cast our show based on the boys we see--who is in town-- and who fits the clothing best...We feel that if the modeling agencies had a more diverse roster, our casting would in turn be more diverse."

Duckie Brown was the only New York-based design house to respond to The Cut's request to comment.

"I’m not here to tell anyone what to do. But I’m telling them that they’re being inappropriate," Hardison explained. "[...] They can say this is fashion, but let’s cut to the chase. It used to be fashion, but now we’re talking about clothing. It’s about business.”

(Photo: Brian Ach/Getty Images)

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