Last week, former modeling agency owner Bethann Hardison made headlines when she let up a battle cry to end racism on the runway.
She posted the following memo on her site Balance Diversity:
Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches fashion design houses consistently use of one or no models of color.
No matter the intention, the result is racism.
Not accepting another based on the color of their skin is clearly beyond “aesthetic” when it is consistent with the designer’s brand.
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.
It can no longer be accepted, nor confused by the use of the Asian model.
She then sent out that exact memo to the CFDA, British Fashion Council, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana in Milan and the Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers and Créateurs de Mode in Paris. In each letter addressed to those governing fashion bodies, Hardison called out several big-name designers as “guilty of a racist act.”
So far, only one of those organizations has come back with a swift and reasonable, if a tad formulaic-sounding, reply. WWD published British Fashion Council spokeswoman Gemma Ebelis’ email, which she sent to the Diversity Coalition:
While the British Fashion Council does not organize model castings for London Fashion Week, as its governing body, we assert that all participating designers should recognize that London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and should consider reflecting this demographic at their shows and presentations. Model representation and welfare is extremely important to us and I would be very happy to meet with you to discuss things further if you wish.
Ebelis makes a valid point: as it stands, there is only so much a “governing body” of a fashion week can do. Ultimately, its modeling agents, casting agents and designers that make the decisions. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be doing more. Hopefully, as more people respond (“It was sent by e-mail. You hit reply. That’s just common sense to me,” Hardison told the trade), and Hardison meets with them, a more effective solution can be reached.