• France's news in English

Paris fashion ducks dearth of black models

AFP · 29 Sep 2013, 12:45

Published: 29 Sep 2013 12:45 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Designers told AFP their only concern was to find models who embodied the spirit of their creations irrespective of skin colour.

And one industry professional put the lack of black faces down to a minimalist trend that has sparked a demand for Asian models.

"I don't only do shows for white girls, but I don't do quotas (either). I choose girls that please me," said Belgian designer Anthony Vaccarello, whose show included Asian and mixed race models.

Another designer, Damir Doma, told AFP: "I never judge anyone by skin... I'm looking for the right personality."

Doma's show featured one black and two Asian models but the number could me "be more or less", he said.

"It depends on the season and the girl that comes to the casting. If she's right for the clothes I would definitely take her," he said.

Their comments follow a letter sent earlier this month to fashion governing bodies around the world by models Iman, Naomi Campbell and US model-turned-activist Bethann Hardison.

In their letter, the trio condemned fashion houses that used just "one or no models of colour" for a collection, saying the result was "racism", even if it was unintentional.

Virginie Deren of the agency Ford Models Europe stressed the importance of trends in the industry.

"For the last two or three seasons, there has been a real passion for Asian models, especially Chinese ones," she said.

Chinese consumers have become increasingly important to the fashion world as their economic power has grown in recent years.

Other trends down the years had seen black models in demand as well as Belgians and what Deren called "healthy Americans".

"We have black models (on our books) but we are not asked for them for the catwalks (at the moment).

"It's not racism. Things are not like that. Models have to fit in with trends (and) the current fashion is a minimalist one that the designers associate with Asian girls," she said.

In their letter, Campbell, Iman and Hardison named dozens of labels they considered to be most at fault including Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs.

"Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches fashion houses consistently use one or no models of colour," they wrote.

"No matter the intention, the result is racism. Not accepting another based on the colour of their skin is clearly beyond aesthetic...," they said, adding that the issue was specifically a lack of black models, not Asian ones.

Malaika Firth, 19, in Paris for her first catwalk shows, said she had not experienced any difficulties she could link to skin colour but stressed that she was mixed race, not black.

"So far so good..., I support equal opportunities," said the half-British, half-Kenyan model who has appeared in advertising campaigns for Burberry and Prada.

Other models with more catwalk experience, however, were more nuanced.

Brazilian model Muriel Beal, 31, said that there were too few black models working in the industry.

But when asked if the lack of black faces at shows was for this reason or due to discrimination she replied: "It depends."

Story continues below…

Others attending shows who were not employed in the industry expressed more robust views.

Some made it clear that they would like to see a concerted effort by designers to address the issue once and for all.

French visual artist Abby Regis, said he was appalled by the situation. "It is shocking," he said.

"You can do what you want to do but I see some designers using black models," he said, making it clear that if it was possible for some, it should be for others.

Laura Bestle, a 23-year-old German international business student, said she suspected some fashion houses included a single black model as a way of "getting critics off their backs".

And she said described the idea black models were not cast because they were not right for particular clothes as "just an excuse".

"I don't believe it," she added.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
The fantastic new Bordeaux wine museum. Photo: AFP

After The Local France, the Lonely Planet has followed suit by urging everyone to head to Bordeaux in 2017.

Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available