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Fashion Blackout: Getting Down to the Root?

Tonight, BET Networks will air “Fashion Blackout”, a critical look at the lack of people of color in the fashion industry, on the runways and behind the scenes. Designer Tracy Reese, model Tyson Beckford and American Vogue editor-at-large André Leon Talley are among the commentators and will hopefully add a new dynamic to the debate. The lack of brown faces in fashion is a serious issue that deserves an extremely critical look from the ground up. From casting agents, photographers, fashion editors and agency directors, BET has a lot of ground to cover and psychology also plays a critical role in the lack of black models. However, I bet that there is a segment that BET, or anyone else for that matter, hasn’t focused on– the financial backers that fund the designers. Everyone has a business owner, and behind the scenes the person who is cutting the check is ultimately ruling the world. Here’s a brief breakdown of the companies supporting some of the most notable runway & publication brands:

LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Marc Jacobs Fendi Givenchy Donna Karan Celine & many more

PPR (Pinault-Printemps-Redoute) Gucci Yves Saint Laurent Alexander McQueen Stella McCartney Balenciaga & more

Condé Nast Publications Vogue W Glamour Allure Self Teen Vogue GQ Details Vanity Fair & more

(I could go on but then I’d be late for work and we all would be sad…)

What would happen if the captains of this debate were to focus their attention on not only fashion editors, but the publishing houses, the designers and their backers, etc? One of the reasons that many designers/agents/editors continue to exclude ethnic faces from their projects is because they don’t feel like they have to include them. Initiating roundtable discussions during fashion week, documentaries and articles are all great, but what happens when pressure is not only applied to the culprit, but to their pockets as well? Would we finally see results then?Is BET/Essence/Andre/Naomi/Colures/etc. willing to risk straining relationships with these brands in order to initiate progress?

I applaud BET News and it’s producers Betsy Jones and Catherine Rogers for presenting this issue to a mass audience. It’s only 30 minutes long, but hopefully the beginning of a much longer, international discussion. (On another note, while I totally understand the lack of Black models, this discrimination is also directed at Asian and South Asian models as well…a fact that we need to be cognizant of!)

“Fashion Blackout” airs Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. on BET. Let’s talk about it tomorrow!

– JBaker

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