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Protest discrimination in fashion houses

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iman, black models, boycott,‘If I boycotted every label that didn’t use black models on catwalk I’d probably be naked.’

Model Iman is calling for a consumer boycott of fashion brands in protest at the lack of black models being employed to promote them on.

She wants a return to 1960s-style direct action to hit brands in the pocket, as she believes there is more discrimination now than when she first started out on the catwalk in the 1980s.

“It feels to me like the times need a real hard line drawn like in the Sixties, by saying if you don’t use black models, then we boycott,” she told Vogue UK recently.

“If you engage the social media, trust me, it will hurt them in their pockets. If you take it out there, they will feel the uproar.”

The New York Times reported that of all the models working for New York Fashion Week only six per cent were black.

And the discrimination is only exacerbated by skin colours being marketed as fashion trends, argues Poorna Bell, lifestyle editor of Huffington Post UK 

“Can we please stop referring to skin colour as a fashion accessory?” Bell asked.

“For a brown woman living in modern day Britain, being told that pale skin is ‘in’ is like being shown to the door of the clubhouse and being asked to leave.”

This autumn, pale white complexions are being touted as a fashion trend, branded as the ‘Downton Abbey effect’.

And in India, thousands of women feel under pressure to bleach themselves to a fairer skin colour to avoid discrimination and become more “attractive”.

An organisation called Women of Worth has launched the Dark is Beautiful campaign to draw attention to this practice and combat prejudice based on skin colour.

Jezebel, which has been documenting prejudice against black women in fashion, agreed with Iman that little progress has been made.

In an editorial Dodai Stewart says the absence of black models has a big impact on how society values and views women who are not white.

Stewart said: “Fashion is about desired aesthetics, visual beauty.

“And when global brands – designers and magazines with worldwide influence – celebrate, and therefore elevate only white beauty, the trickle-down effect is that women of colour are not seen as beautiful, that women of colour are not deemed worthwhile.”

Beginning at Fashion Week in September, Bethann Hardison, a former model and agent, is organising a social media campaign to bring public scrutiny to specific designers who do not use black models.

She wants to make consumers aware of the designers who do not embrace minorities on the runway, and said, “I wonder if that [campaign] would make them have second thoughts about buying the shoes, the accessories and the bags.”

She said that the seemingly indifferent responses among companies to complaints of tokenism and lookism have become too insulting and destructive to ignore.

Glamour magazine is also supporting Iman and raising support via Twitter.

And Twitter user @CherieNoelle wrote: ‘If I boycotted every label that didn’t use black models on catwalk I’d probably be naked’.

To which Iman replied: ‘Better naked’.

  1. Sexism, racism and every other bigotry is marketed as freedom of speech by a generation brought up on Little Britain and ‘whatever’ as a suitable response to anything that requires thought and self challenge to do the ethical thing.Capitalism markets caring as uncool … and we as a nation have gone along with this in a desperate attempt to hang out with the cool kids … we are going to have to work really hard to find a way to show kids that caring is cool … its fundamental to our survival as a species …

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