Is Fashion Racist?

Is Fashion Racist

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Is fashion racist? Bethann Hardison, Iman, and Naomi Campbell seem to think so, and I do too.  Fashion people are always trying to say that it is about aesthtics or that this season’s collection needs a certain look. That is complete and utter bullshit, and they know it! Choosing not to use a black girl for looks is a hot mess! Everyone blames everyone, but every single person is to blame. I blame the casting directors, the editors, the model scouts, the designers. They have the opportunity to hire great models from all colors, yet they don’t.

I remember being left in tears after a person in fashion told me to forget about racism in the industry. They shouted me down, and made me feel horrible. He told me that even though he had experienced racism, I should should ignore it and move on.  They fact that he could openly admit to being the victim of racism and not see the need to fight still boggles my mind.

I have no idea what can be done to fight the deep seated ignorance in the industry. I feel like the most important people don’t care enough and see the efforts of Bethann Hardison, Iman, and Naomi Campbell as a huge nuisance. They statements they issued these past few days after Hardison sent out her letter demanding action shows me that they really just don’t give a hoot. It isn’t surprising, but it is still very sad. Even though she lists designers by name, I feel like nothing will get done. What do you all make of all this?


By thefatandskinnyonfashion

Jai has been helping bring fashion and beauty news to women around the world as the editor of The Fat and Skinny on Fashion for 5 years!


  1. Fashion isn’t racist. They need a certain size. As a white model with black girl curves, I know first hand. People don’t pick me because I’m not a walking clothes hanger. And frankly I like to see the walking clothes hangers on the runway and in editorials. It takes a very specific person to be a successful model. Honestly unless you’re a 00 you’re not going to be picked for most high fashion pieces. It has nothing to do with being a certain race. I see the same amount of Asians, to Hispanics to African Americans in any given piece. People can’t help that British, Australian, American and Canadians etc. all look like they’re the same race. This is 2013. People should take the fact that were seeking it out into consideration instead of pointing fingers at people who are just making art.

    1. Except the fact that there are plenty of skinny size whatever models of color out there that aren’t getting used not because of size but because of race. I too work in the industry and I see a lot less models of color than white. I actually hear designers and others saying that the reason they choose not to pick black models is because they are black. It has nothing to do with size. They simply don’t think black skin is appealing in their clothes. Regardless of whether it is size or race, discrimination is wrong in any profession and actually against the law.

  2. I agree that racism does play a role in the selection of models for advertising and runway work, but it’s more institutional than individual. It’s not about size either. Women who spend money on clothes want to imagine themselves in the clothes. The known designers design to appeal to these women’s esthetic. The magazines tell the masses this is what they should want. The pret-a-porter manufacturers give the aspirational fashionistas knock-offs of what they saw in the magazines. The next season starts it again. It’s a self fulfilling cycle. Remember how upset some people were when they found out Wren was brown in The Hunger Games? They just couldn’t understand how the character could have been of color because they related to her. That’s where the racism in fashion starts, with small imaginations.

  3. Wow Jai, this is hurtful. I haven’t even been aware. I saw a Secret of Fashion week where they interviewed Stacey Benet of Alice and Olivia. Her response was she has a specific look in mind. I found that offensive. I was actually obsessing over one of her fall pieces. After I realized her position I decided to forgo Alice and Olivia. It’s hurtful because I love her designs, she is so talented. But if she doesn’t see us as valuable consumer I have to look to other designers. When we identify those who don’t care about us as a consumer we need to boycott with our dollars. That is the answer Jai. Regarding that guys attitude I understand it, he doesn’t want it to debilitating you. Thanks as all ways

    1. Thanks for your response. You have to send me that Secret of Fashion Week clip. It is very troubling and hurtful to hear that she feels that way.

      1. It was an E special, Alicia Quieries asked, Stacey Benedet of Alice and Olivia. She said, I choose according to a specific look. What look? It was disturbing because I was going to recommend several of Alice and Olivia designs to my clients. I love her line but her attitude was extremely offensive.

  4. Thanks for sharing this video and your thoughts. I’ve also read the comments so far. Fashion is undoubtedly racist. The data on the meager participation rate of black models during fashion week provides clear support for this. Fashion is racist and sexist and sizeist. All of these “isms” co-occur and they are also institutional in nature, which allows them to persist.

    1. I agree. I can’t even begin to tell you about all of the sizist things I have endured. That is another post for another day.

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