Sunday, October 12, 2008

And the fashion spreads were lame, too

The latest issue of Vogue has a couple of letters to the editor complaining because a special issue on "diversity" could only find three African American models to profile. This issue itself, apparently not being devoted to diversity, is lily-white. (The non-white women profiled are not in the fashion biz; they are pianists or campaign managers or Michelle Obama.) I think Vogue must be the last place in America an actress of central European origins could be described as "exotic."

But high fashion isn't keeping up with the masses. I noticed the ads in the magazine were more diverse, particularly the more low-brow they were. There were no ads in this particular issue for Benetton or other companies that deliberately market diversity*, but advertisements for department stores and other more affordable shops featured more African-American women than the rest of the issue combined. Ignoring for the moment that, as one letter writer mentioned, diversity is more than just black/white, there are African-American women in ads for The Gap, YSL, Dillard's, Movado, DSW, Lord & Taylor, Vogue TV, Revlon, Jennifer Hudson's new album, and House of Design. With a few exceptions, these are stores that translate fashion for the masses, not high fashion itself. On the other hand, the only model in a fashion spread who could be described as black is a seamstress in a crowd of a dozen other seamstresses. (Not African-American - it's a French shoot.)

I'll leave conclusion-drawing as an exercise for the reader, except for one point: Vogue itself can hardly claim it's at the mercy of the supply of models. If Anna Wintour insisted on more ethnically diverse supermodels, the talent scouts would find them. The magazine has too much leverage in the industry to simply wring its hands with any credibility.

* Possible exception - The Gap.

No comments: