On the heels of Vogue Italia‘s latest all-black spread, “Tribute To Black Beauties,” comes V Magazine‘s release of its all-Asian issue.
V is one of fashion’s trendsetters, pushing envelopes and boundaries at every turn and doing it all with a high-fashion sensibility. Their take on the all-Asian issue sheds light on the beauties of Asian culture through articles and interviews with Asian designers and documentary filmmakers, a collage of Dolce & Gabbana’s “Journey East” starring Naomi Campbell, and of course, all-Asian fashion spreads are also included, much in the vein of Vogue Italia.
This isn’t the first time Asian models have been highlighted: Riccardo Tisci used only Asian models in his Spring 2011 couture show for Givenchy, and Chanel’s Pre-Fall 2010 collection was not only inspired by Shanghai, but took place in the city and featured ten Asian models. On each of these occasions, the response was one of marvel, as the likes of it—featuring all Asian models—had never been seen before. Both the Givenchy and Chanel shows seemed to represent a push for diversity that had really began with Vogue Italia‘s Black Issue in July 2009 and forced the industry to acknowledge models of color.
Despite the inclusion of some models of color, the problem of diversity in fashion is still rampant. From the bottom up, minorities are scarce. From designers at famed fashion houses, editors at magazines, top-level executives or models, people of color are rarely seen. Recently, Olivier Rousteing took on the role of Balmain’s newest designer, but another black designer, Patrick Robinson, was ousted from his position at Gap. One can use two hands to count the number of minority editors at national magazines, and when you go further up the ladder to directors and even editors-in-chief, the minority presence is virtually unseen. And with models, it is as if the only time magazines feature models of color is during these all-Asian and all-black issues and fashion spreads. When you flip through the pages of Vogue or Elle, it is a rare thing to see an ethnic model, especially in advertising campaigns. It is still something to note when one is featured.
For these reasons, the sincerity and originality of these types of editorials is being questioned. Do single ethnicity fashion spreads and magazine issues focusing on one culture really promote diversity or are they instead singling these ethnicities and cultures out and practically working to segregate them? Is this really a push to be inclusive or is it a marketing ploy and trend?
Think back to the 1970’s when afros were all the rage and thus everyone was looking to have a kinkier texture to their hair in order to achieve the style. Or now, when voluptuous figures are “in” and women are doing more squats than ever before, buying butt-enhancing underwear and even resorting to cosmetic surgery. In junior high school, I remember hairsticks being must-haves and every girl under 18 was wearing them despite the fact that none of us were Asian or even really knew the purpose and symbolism behind the hair accessories. All are instances in which ethnic fashions were popular and thus labeled as trendy, though in reality they were really just pieces of those cultures brought into the mainstream, so much so that we stopped associating those trends with ethnicity and when they were over, it was onto the next one.
These all-Asian and all-black spreads feel just like hair sticks and afros and we have to ask whether or not they are promoting and advancing diversity or if they are as much a trend as “going tribal for Spring.”