Archive for June 23rd, 2008


Making Waves?

For those who know me well, and even a few who don’t, the fact that I am even aware of this may come as a shock. After all, I care nothing about fashion of any kind unless it comes from a thrift store or is a pair of converses. But I must say when this came up on my news feed I just couldn’t help myself. Apparently Vogue Italia’s July issueis a special one. It features Black women only, and issues related to Black women. (Side note: I haven’t read the issue, ergo, I have no clue what said issues are. I am always suspicious of blanket statements such as this one, but I am only the messenger). I never know what to think when confronted with things like this. But I  must say, the editor of Vogue Italia really surprised me with some of the interviews I have been reading. For instance:

I thought, it’s ridiculous, this discrimination,” said Mr. Meisel, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place. Age, weight, sexuality, race — every kind of prejudice.”

…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.”

Basically, Meisel (a fashion photographer) has decided to tackle every issue of racial and size discrimination in the fashion industry in one neat little issue. Apparently, it’s just that simple. Put an issue with black women and a spread with Tocarra (America’s Next Top Model’s original plus size poster child) and all is right with the world. I suppose having an all-black issue fudges the stats in terms of how diverse Vogue Italia might be, but dedicating a specialized issue in this way regardless of the statement it makes still leaves black women or plus size models in the margins. This is something that frustrates me, especially with fat women who statistically make up the majority.

Ok. Here’s my thing. I am all for exposing discrimination and fostering dialogue about potential prejudices, whatever they maybe. But one aspect of the fashion industry that really burns me up is the fact that designers, magazine editors and models are all willing to criticize an industry while participating it all at the same time. So it seems almost hypocritical to me for this editor to vent frustrations with the lack of black models and the refusal of advertisers to use black models. It seems hypocritical when you think about how much money this person makes by participating in this system.

I do think it’s important to criticize our own communities and change things from the inside out. But it’s awfully pretentious to climb on that high horse and act like you have not contributed in some way.

But what is really frustrating to me is the fact that I can’t decide for myself the best way to go about this. I do think it’s important to change the mainstream ideology but can that be done from the inside? I want to say yes but I just don’t buy into this all the way. Is it possible to be a part of the system and criticize it or does it always have to come from the outside? Which way os more effective? I wish I had answers.

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