Racism, The Gift That Keeps On Not-Giving In Fashion

Racism, The Gift That Keeps On Not-Giving In Fashion (André Leon Talley & NYTimes Speak On It)

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 Photo: WENN

The old, ‘there’s not enough people of color’ in fashion feels like a dead horse that keeps getting beaten with each new headline announcing the obvious omission. But if that is the case, then every blackface ad campaign or editorial, or article that has to out-rightly triumph the appointment of a person of color to a lead editorial position—because the occasion is so few and far between—is the proverbial water that keeps giving the aforementioned horse life.

The NYTimes.com recently published an article, “Fashion’s Blind Spot,” analyzing fashion’s persistent, and even worsening, rac1st practices despite the dialogue on it that was opened 5 years ago, stemming from the lack of women of color on the high fashion runways. The NYT reports that black models only accounted for 6% of those cast during last season’s fashion week—a noticeable decline from the previous season’s 8.1%.

It was also only yesterday that Fashionista.com reported on former US Vogue fixture (and bestie to Anna Wintour) André Leon Talley’s comments made about racism in the fashion industry in an upcoming issue of Vanity Fair. Fashionista reports that according to Talley, “He admits to wondering why, with such a packed résumé, he’s never been the editor of a major magazine” and says, “People stereotype you. What person of color do you know who’s in a position like that, be it a man or a woman, unless it’s Essence magazine?”

Well, it’s about 3 now? Keija Minor made the news last summer for becoming the first person of color to hold an editor-in-chief title for a Condé Nast publication. She was name the EIC of Brides magazine. Since then, Elaine Welteroth became the health and beauty director of Teen Vogue, while Shiona Turini was just named the new fashion market director of Cosmopolitan less than two weeks ago. Yea, that’s three; three in over a hundred years.

With a 2.1% drop in models of color on the fashion week runways, and a less than 0.1% rise in upper level titles held by people of color in fashion journalism, it feels like African-Americans and other professionals of color are still being left to try and catch a ride on the waves of hiring trends coming and going in fashion rather than setting them for the multi-billion dollar industry that that we actively participate in and support. With that said, where do we go from here?

No race can really, adequately allot the resources for another without an intense experience to help define what the group needs and wants. An early example of that was in post-slavery America, African-Americans got “40 acres.” In post-polite ‘racism in fashion’ dialogues of five years ago, people of color got 6% runway models and 3 titles. So the answer, even though it may be too obvious to be groundbreaking, is ownership.

Although professionals of color should still continue efforts to break down color barriers in the predominantly white industry, we should definitely also aim to start fashion publications; especially pubs that will provide holistic coverage, featuring African-Americans and other races, because we are a group equipped to do it—contrary to many people’s readiness to callously write off black-owned businesses from a belief in our inability to produce work of a certain quality that can appeal to a wide range of consumers.


  • Person of color is NOT synonymous with ‘Black’. Black is distinctive with its OWN unique aesthetics. It is most certain that Andre Leon Tally is talking about the lack of representation of individuals who have undeniable Black/AfRAkan ancestry–like him. He bears the PROOF on his scalp.

  • lol

    Black women are way more beautiful than white women… its just jealousy and racism!

    • samech

      They (Black women) are more STRIKING!!! More versatility. Fair assessment…

  • Nigg.Newton

    Maybe just MAYBE it’s because BLACK FOLKS are not WEALTHY or willing to spend $3,000.00 on a purse for ONE night.

    White folks do.

  • MistaO

    Ummm, did the writer say that Black people received 40 acres after slavery? Did I miss something here? When did Black people actually get 40 acres?

    • iso

      some people did receive, maybe not exactly the 40 acres and it wasn’t everyone, but there was some “land redistribution”

  • brilliantfly

    Being a flaming queen, got him no where hunnnn. To bad all that manhood wasted on a industry that’s no different than a common job.

  • klove

    the problem is we need more black designers then we will have more black models on the runway people with Tally’ s influence can start a new generation of fashionistas. we must stop trying to fit in we are free now and lets show how free we are by creating our own.