It’s no secret. The fashion industry has a race problem. From the total white-out on the runways, to only a few “ethnic” models being able to shine at any given time, fashion hasn’t always been as reflective of its audience as we might have liked.
Over the years, some designers and publications have gone out of their way to showcase diversity. From the legendary 1973 Versailles runway show, to the 2008 sold out, groundbreaking “all black” issue of Italian Vogue, Black models have been popping up in editorials and runways every few years when the industry starts feeling inclusive.
Recently, Vogue Italia released its May issue which included a 15-page spread dubbed a “Tribute to Black Beauties.” Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, the editorial features colorful summery looks, set off by Black women of all hues—from café au lait to deep mahogany, burnt honey to dark chocolate. This issue showcases, yet again, that Black women are absolutely gorgeous.
But do special issues featuring all Black models indicate fashion’s willingness to be more diverse, or is it just another example of exoticizing Black women?
Vogue Italia has not only gone on to jump on the “all black everything” bandwagon in their magazine, but it has also launched a companion website, Vogue Italia Black. Although many have flocked to the site, others have accused Vogue Italia of “ghettoizing” Black models. However, as Jezebel’s Jenne Sauers so aptly points out, “All of Vogue Italia’s — or even all of all the various Vogues’ — all-white spreads still seem to pass without comment.”
No matter what side of the debate you fall on, however, one thing is clear: The fashion industry needs to do a better job of looking like the world it aims to represent.