Race and the Runway: Does Houston Have a Problem?
Usually the publication of the Fashion Houston designer line up is met with unanimous excitement, but this year there were a few jeers along with the cheers. A blog post by Sunny B. James of Illusion Model Management brought to light one big question, "in a city as diverse as Houston, where is the diversity at Houston's premier fashion event?" Hmmmm.
Photo by Keith Luter, Jr, JAXON EP Well, there's diversity in dress colors
Though the point was well received by many, some in the industry took offense to the implication that Fashion Houston was deliberately shutting out minorities and even took offense to the idea of race being an topic at all. One Facebook commenter quoted in the blog post went so far as to say, "...I thought this was a designer thing, not a skin color thing...Sebastian, you are always free to start a 'skin color fashion week' if skin color is your priority.'" Ouch.
We as Houstonians continually tout how Houston is an international city. We have a flourishing food scene, an active art community and our festivals increase in number and diversity each year. Is it outrageous for citizens to ask the same from the burgeoning fashion community, especially as it asserts itself on the national stage?
Lack of diversity is by no means a Fashion Houston specific matter at all, but industry wide. In the last few months the international fashion weeks have come under fire thanks to a pull no punches letter by Bethann Hardison, a former model turned activist. Sent to every major international fashion council, Hardison's letter goes to great detail describing the industry's glaring diversity issues and how it reflects on the fashion community as a whole.
"Whether it's the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society."
She goes on to name over 100 designers across the world guilty of the most egregious "racist acts," as she calls it. The letter, originally published by Hardison on her blog Balance Diversity, has caused quite a stir prompting responses from Robin Givhan of The Washington Post, Supermodels Naomi Campbell and Iman, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and Gemma Ebelis of The British Fashion Council. The impact of Hardison's letter has already been seen with Hardison herself applauding the number of multi-cultural models during the recent Spring/Summer 2014 shows.
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