There’s been much ado about Raf Simmons featuring six black models on his runway– for the first time– at Christian Dior’s Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014 collection on Monday. The talk comes almost four months after BuzzFeed did an investigative piece that discussed the propensity for the brand to cast white models. “I feel the Dior cast is just so pointedly white that it feels deliberate,” said casting director, James Scully about Simmons’ lily white shows.
The lineup of black models included: Alek Wek, Grace Mahary, Joan Smalls, Maria Borges, Kelly Moreira and Yasmin Warsame. As an aside, Jourdan Dunn was scheduled to be in the show but was cut because her bust size. She tweeted, “I’m normally told I’m cancelled because I’m ‘coloured’ so being cancelled because off my boobs is a minor.”
We have no doubt that after reading the BuzzFeed piece that discussed Simmons, Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, that many designers will make a change in the casting decisions. It’s funny though, as much as the black community talks about luxury designers, that it’s just now the fashion community is taking heed.
Our minds quickly regressed to Jay-Z and his affection for Cristal champagne, that was forever changed when the brand’s then managing director, Frederic Rouzaud made an interesting comment. In a 2006 interview with The Economist, Rouzaud insinuated that the Russia-made champagne was too good for the likes of rappers and their fans, that so often glorified it in lyrics and videos. The result: a boycott, change in sales and black-owned liquor brands that we see in bars today.
As we all know, fashion has more dedicated patrons than champagne, but there’s a similar feel of elitism and underscored racism that permeates in both luxury markets. Yes, Simmons including black models in his runway show for the first time is a big deal. But are all our woes solved in one swift move? Should we move on or is this just the beginning of a larger conversation that’s long due in the black community about brand loyalty?