Race and the Runway: Does Houston Have a Problem?

Categories: Fashion

fashhouston1.jpg
Photo by Keith Luter, Jr, JAXON EP
Well, there's diversity in dress colors
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.

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.

Continued on the next page.

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11 comments
Future Legallaire
Future Legallaire

That's why Houston Fashion Week > Fashion Houston because we portray more ethnicities. We had an African Fashion Summit and a Flamenco Fashion Show... can't say the same for Fashion Houston 

kjeffries002
kjeffries002

It's a quick buck Concert ( Fashion Houston) with old fashion values that take advantage of young professional minorities (like myself) that was hired of thinking that they will being apart of a Entertainment Runway Showcase that passes through Houston once a year, hand picked models from a panel of judges, which half of them have old values or no value at all. Not only that it's unbalanced with diversity on the Catwalk, but it starts with the Creative Director and Founder/President of Fashion Houston using professional minorities to complete the roster to show diversity which they were out of touch to provide. In 2010 and 2011 i was Photography Media Director (i give myself that title) for Fashion Houston until they saw the ropes on how things are put in place and performed properly from a International Professional Photographer of 12 years and CEO/President of a Fashion Media Group perspective, i was hired. It's not always up to a panel of judges to hand pick models, but designers play a part in chooses what skin tone they perfer to showcase their garments on. So the money stays green, and diversity is hand picked on one hand. This type of rhetoric goes on still Worldwide, but it's gotten a lot better else where, but this isn't New York, Paris, or London where everything counts and have changed for the better. But Fashion Houston have to want to make that change here also to involved better Leadership and try to lead by example  So, there is still NOT a Fashion Week in Houston that i know about yet that can collaborate well and not so quickly to take your money and say "Deal With It" it takes more then just a city, it takes whole village to make it happen. So, until there is some new young blood of diversity ON and OFF the Runway in this Organization or any other Organization, you will be looking at the same thing once a year. Later

IM2Models
IM2Models

@95gmcslt1)  What you allege about a FUBU fashion show may or may not be true.  Let's assume it is.  We don't agree with reverse discrimination in the fashion industry, either.  But, this show to which you refer, was that an isolated incident or does FUBU have a history of producing fashion shows lacking diversity?  If it was an isolated incident, then no harm done.  However, if there's consistent history of such a practice, then that should be perceived as a problem.  But, since you brought up FUBU, you have to remember:  "FUBU is a clothing company...for the hip-hop community in the sense of economic investment but not to be exclusively worn by African Americans. The name is considered an acronym for "For Us By Us," IMPLYING the product line was produced for a primarily African American market. The alleged original meaning of FUBU was "Five Urban Brothers United," but the "For Us, by Us" line later took root as the clothing line expanded."  (Source:  Wikipedia)  So, though some assume FUBU is a clothing line just for African Americans, it is not.  

2)  Not sure where you got the "...complaining about Affirmative Action..." bit from.  That's hardly the case.  The issue is about balancing diversity, not the filling of quotas.  

3)  "...for a show meant to show the best of the best...", well if that's true (and we suspect that that ISN'T the goal of Fashion Houston) then including only two black Fashion Designers within a four-year period could be perceived as Fashion Houston sending the message that there are no "best of the best" among black fashion designers.  Definitely not true.

4)  Lastly, Illusion Model Management is far from being a "black agency", a point we seem to have to clarify often since our Founder is African American and many, but not all, of our talent is African American.  But, we're glad you took the time to visit our website. Wish you could've gleaned more from it than it just being a "black agency".

95gmcslt
95gmcslt

Who was that white Model at the FUBU fashion show, oh wait, no there was no white model because FUBU isn't for white people. You see business works like that. So does talent, I think its pathetic you are complaining about affirmative action for a show meant to show the best of the best only to plug an all black model agency. You go Malcom x, ill let you know when Tyler Perry makes a movie to target more then just chip he knows is on your shoulder.

IM2Models
IM2Models

@Rae Lee M True. Casting Directors are hired by Fashion Designers to choose models to fit the particular image of their company. If the Casting Director chooses models of all or predominately one ethnicity (following the instructions of the Designer) it just sends a negative message.  We at Illusion Model Management believe very strongly that there should be a more conspicuous attempt to balance diversity in all areas of the industry...models, designers, stylists, etc.  Our disappointment with Fashion Houston lies in the fact that there doesn't seem to be a conspicuous attempt to balance diversity among the Fashion Designers included in their annual event...not with only TWO Black designers featured in a 4 year period.  

Rae Lee M
Rae Lee M

When I was younger and walked the runway- on many occasions I was one of two Caucasians on the runway. All the other ladies were African American and Hispanic. It really depends on the designer.

missdelta42
missdelta42

Great article Mrs.Luter. I can't wait to read your next one! Something needs to be done about this issue. I believe inclusion is the solution as well.

missdelta42
missdelta42

Great article Mrs.Luter !!! Can't wait to read your next one!

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

"I thought this was a designer thing, not a skin color thing..." So buy our products and shut up? Or is it more like "You can buy our products--we don't have a problem with that--just don't expect ANY representation in the world your money supports?" As for the Forbes list, it's moot.  Wealth does NOT translate to spending. Gates/Buffett/Zuckerberg do not keep labels afloat. The doctors, lawyers, and accountants who buy--from the rack these shows advertize for--do. 

Good article, Ms. Luter. 

jehay143
jehay143

What is continually a missed viewpoint is that when someone points to the few black successes as being exclusive and therefore, reverse anything.  Here's the thing, and I'm not just talking about fashion, but you see it everywhere success in the black-line stems (fashion, television, radio, health care, education, etc.).  We as regular black folk see exclusion from the main trends of society - non-blacks.  Successful doctors, lawyers, designers, media, just life. Okay.  It becomes a motivator to drive and succeed when and where ever possible for black folk.  Then, we try to help each other up.  We smile with pride when we see our black folk, because they made something of themselves, when many are still trying to figure all of it out (and many do not).  We are not saying, exclude the rest of the white this or that, we are saying (in my opinion) that we can do this too and if you want to exclude us, we will form our own. (I hope this makes some sense to the readers).

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