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Another interesting point to consider is why the fashion industry

is always associated with the question of diversity.

Take a look at other industries like cars, food, traveling, etc.

Have you ever seen a black model advertising German

beer? Probably not, since this would not relate to their target

audience. Would we say that a brand that strives to attract

their customers by booking the respective type of model is

racist? Of course none of the other industries are so much

represented in the media and press as the fashion industry,

and this may be the reason why this lack of diversity

is more evident here than in other less prominent areas of


Anyway, people should not see the fashion industry as inclusive

when it comes to diversity. In the end, the question is

who really is racist? Is it the fashion industry itself or the people

it appeals to? Interestingly, an organisation called “Diversity

Coalition,” which was formed by Bethann Hardison,

Chanel Iman and Naomi Campbell, called out the fashion

industry for their inattention and inaction when it came to

racial matters at fashion shows, but the strange part of their

letter is that they set Asian models apart from other models

of colour. Do Asian models not count as racially diverse

enough? The belief that Asians are not actually people of

colour, or are a “sort of white” is racism because it denies

anti-Asian racism, which has a long and continuing history

in fashion. Asian models are grossly underrepresented and

this is not only visible in our study, but is also indicated by

the fashion history.

If you think back to the 80’s and 90’s, how many Asian

models come to mind? At that time, black models like Iman,

Naomi Campbell, and Tyra Banks were born supermodels

and started to press for a more diverse representation on the

runway, but nobody was asking about the appearance of

Asian models at that time.

Gucci, and Cover Girl cosmetics. She also graced the cover

of American Vogue in 1997. The French biracial model

Noémie Lenoir featured in ads for L’Oreal, Gap, and other

well-known companies; she also did covers for many fashion

magazines worldwide. Nigerian model Oluchi Onweagba

graced multiple ad campaigns, including Gianfranco Ferré,

Victoria’s Secret, Express, Banana Republic, and Ann Taylor.

Liu Wen just signed as the new Estee Lauder face , being the

first Asian model ever. Now in the 21st century, we can say

that the trend for Asian models has officially begun. People

are realizing that there are more racial facets than just black

and white. This is where we should ask ourselves who is

racist, what is racist, and why we actually think it is racist.

Nowadays, the number of Asian models has increased,

and hopefully this is not simply a trend, but an advancement

for more diversity in the world of fashion.

The conclusion of this study shows us that Asian models are

in large part, ironically enough, underrepresented in the

Asian fashion industry more than in others. This leads us to

question if Western companies could really be considered

racist for the percentage of Asian models they book not representing

their revenues in Asian countries. The demand for

Caucasian models is in fact higher than for Asian models in

Asia itself, yet the Asian market is seemingly free of criticism

despite their substantially low number of autochthonous

models. We could say that the fashion industry is not racist

if we consider the obvious fact of the relationship between

Asia and white models. In the end, fashion companies are

also entitled to have freedom of choice to enlist whomever

they believe represents their brands best, regardless of race.

To mention a few very successful moments for black models:

during the 80’s and 90’s there was a high demand

for black models like Mounia, muse of Yves Saint Laurent,

Billie Blaire who was one of the top paid runway models

during the ‘70s and ‘80s, Iman, Katoucha Niane known

as “The Black Princess”, Rebecca Ayoka, Tyra Banks and

many more. They walked the catwalks for big names such

as Yves Saint Lauren, Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix, Thierry

Mugler, Geoffrey Beene, Oscar de la Renta, and Calvin


Donyale Luna was one of the first black models to appear

on the cover of British Vogue even before Naomi Campbell.

Beverly Johnson was the first African-American model

to grace the cover of American Vogue back in August

of 1974. Waris Direi appeared in ads for Chanel, Levi’s,

L’Oreal, and Revlon, while Kiara Kabukuro, an American

fashion model of Ugandan descent, appeared in ads for

17 | loveFMD.com

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