A new web show took on the recurring issue of diversity in fashion, looking at today’s palette of runway models and dissecting Kanye West’s infamous sound off on fashion’s racism - or as he likes to call “classism.”
The show “The Positive Controversy,” hosted by Kristen Pope, welcomed a panel of fashion experts of color who weighed in on whether the fashion industry is improving its diversity issue. The panel is comprised of Harlem’s Fashion Row founder Brandice Henderson and fashion bloggers N’Keisha Marie (Ministry of Fashion) and Jesse Adore (Adore Daily).
Henderson says after researching every designer on Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue’s websites, she discovered that less than 1 percent were Black - which ultimately led to the founding of HFR, which aligns brand partners with emerging designers of color in Fashion. In the webisode, Henderson spotlights designer Christy Solomon, who created City of Saints, a clothing line geared toward women of faith who still want to be stylish.
The panel also tackled West’s very public criticism of the fashion industry’s reluctance to embrace him and his ideas.
“He’s certainly speaking the same frustration that I feel every designer has been feeling. It’s very difficult. Money is a huge factor. If it applies to a Kanye West I’m not sure,” Adore said. “Every designer when trying to be an entrepreneur has a certain learning curve regardless of your stature or any previous industry that you’ve experienced success in.”
Marie says that while Kanye has proven himself in music, he still has to prove himself in fashion and that his name will only take him but so far.
But it’s not just designers who get overlooked in the fashion world..the same goes for models. Henderson points out that there’s a pipeline of Asian models in fashion today, but that it’s only as a result of more Asian-American designers making it to Fashion Week. For Black models, however, it will continue to be a barrier as designers of color continue to be shut out.
Though there are Black models like Jourdan Dunn, Chanel Iman and Joan Smalls (who were all featured in Beyonce’s “Yonce” video), Marie cautions people from declaring it a win for diversity in fashion.
“We started tuning to just these particular faces. I can identify Jourdan Dunn and that was just supposed to blanket and represent all models,” she said. “So if we just see these three faces or I can recognize Chanel Iman and I see her in enough ads, then it tricks me into believing that there is enough of a presence until I see the runway show.”
What do you think about the current state of “diversity” in the fashion world?
Watch “The Positive Controversy” below:
(Photos from left: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images, Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz)