Today, 51 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” 50 years after the passing of the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964, and on the exact day of celebrating MLK Jr.’s memory, it’s incredible and disheartening that we’re still dealing with issues of racism in the fashion industry and beyond. A new op-ed by Jason Campbell (of the JC Report) published today on “The Business of Fashion,” breaks down yet another impressive example of racial insensitivity–this time out of Vogue Italia.
The Italian issue of the iconic fashion magazine isn’t exactly known for having the right idea about how to be diverse, and they’re frequently under fire for seemingly racist editorials. But the most recent offense just might be the worst one of all. In their coverage of Pitti Uomo in Florence, the site launched a new column in the “Vogue Black” section of their website called “Voguista Black” where they exclusively published all their images of black street style stars. It’s hard to say what misguided judgement could have led to such a strange and offensive decision, but it’s clear that the editors of Vogue Italia‘s website don’t see the fashion world through color-blind glasses.
Jason Campbell poignantly summed up what’s so bothersome–especially to black Americans– about Voguista Black in his op-ed, saying:
“Separate but equal, the intrinsic message of “Vogue Black,” is a historical concept all too familiar to black people, especially in America. Images of water fountains labelled “white” and “coloured,” and separate seating at diner counters come to mind. One only has to see director Lee Daniels’ recent film The Butler to be reminded of those wrenching representations of being included, but not extended the same benefits and respect. It imparts the impression of otherness; a feeling that you cannot be served here. And you don’t have to have lived in America, or be American, to feel the pangs of this division and empathise with this legacy of injustice and bigotry.”
While the Beth Hardison’s diversity coalition is doing positive work to promote more diversity in fashion and help put an end to runway racism, it’s times like this that make one wonder just how long change will take–both in the fashion world and the world at large. The fact of the matter is that crafting a more diverse fashion world will have to be an institutional change that comes from the top–and right now the folks at the top are not a representative group, and they have little incentive to change their ways.
It’s not all bad though, Campbell mentions some recent successes for diversity in fashion, including the diverse Givenchy campaign staring Erykah Badu, and Luptia Nyong’o's Dazed and Confused cover.
Still, it’s disheartening to see, time and time again, such blatant depictions of inequality. We hope that covering the issue can start some positive discourse and help pave the way for change.
2014 has barely even begun lmfao