Idol Worship

There comes a time in your career when an important realisation occurs. You “get” things. You “get” it. Like you get that white people will only buy clothes if they see it modelled on other white people. And that white people will only buy high fashion magazines because they like to see other white people in it. And that token models of colour are just a white model’s accessory. What? Did I just say that? I did and I’m not taking any of those words back. Perhaps I’m young and I’ve only been in this industry for two or more so years, my experience may also be limited but how racist this industry is, is no surprise. It is however disheartening.

Under all the fluff this industry is wired into the capitalist system – it functions so as to make dollars. Billions of dollars! And if that means propagating a certain image – the white model – to earn the dollar, so be it. And this is where I’m crestfallen. I’m a person of colour who works and supports this industry that propagates such an image. What can I do to change it? I am ridden with guilt. Perhaps use more models of colour in my shoots? Sounds like a perfectly acceptable solution but the problem is where are the models of colour at the modelling agencies. Only a select few ever appear on agency websites and the more high profile the agency, the less models of colour. I ask myself, why? Most fashion production is no longer based in the “West” but instead in Asia or South America – yet how many Asian or South American models who have noticeable ‘colour’ appear in the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar or even GQ? And when they do they are reduced to something equivalent to an accessory or a prop in an ethnic setting where a white model has been placed.

So if I can’t request models of colour from agencies…why don’t I street cast and make my own niche agency featuring models of colour? Another question I have asked myself and answered – how big is the chance of this venture succeeding and earning income if the business profits because white people want to see white people wearing nice clothes. I, for one, don’t want to provide anyone with such false hope under the delusion that such a venture would succeed. Now I can hear you calling me a nihilist and someone who see the glass as half-empty. True but it’s better than investing in disillusion.

Then what am I trying to say – you ask. What I am trying to say is this: there needs to be a shift in the mindset of how we Westerners ‘consume’. Australia is first and foremost a country that belongs to its Indigenous population. For f**ksake, it should be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander girl in local Australian fashion designs gracing the cover of Australian Vogue every month!!! Also Australia from its earliest beginnings has always been a multicultral country, can we please reflect that in our fashion magazines, fashion weeks and fashion advertising campaigns!!? The disjunction between what we see in the fashion rags and what we see in the stores and the streets is tiring. Next (and more culturally diverse) phase please!

Now I’ve come full circle. Why I first thought about making such a post, frustration. Being men’s fashion editor at OnTheStreetsofSydney.com I’ve been in the process of casting for some male models for our upcoming editorial and the lack of colour at each agency I have approached has been frustrating. To put it roughly – I’m sick of just working with white faces. One’s creativity is stifled by the simple lack of access. Diversity breeds creativity. Whatever happened to it?

That is all.
Genesis M.

Images are of Yifan @ eMg Models walking for Friend of Mine SS11/12. My favourite model who walked so many shows at this year’s RAFW.
Images credit: Stefan Gosatti at Getty Images AsiaPacific

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6 Comments

Filed under Dandy Projects, Fashion Face, Fashion Week, Promotion

6 responses to “Idol Worship

  1. Martin

    Hey Genesis, I only buy clothes I see modeled on tall white guys because I am a tall white guy and if it doesn’t look good on tall white guys then I have trouble parting with the cash. Not racist, just logical.

    • Hi Martin, you do have a point. Ultimately you are the consumer and fashion is nothing without the consumer – but what about the other consumers who aren’t tall white guys? Don’t they deserve to see models who reflect their colour/ethnicity?

      • Martin

        Sure they do, but do they have any money? And you know about the mass media, surely there should be more Asians on Neighbours and in places like GQ, given that Asian born/background Aussies are growing in income faster than anyone else. But the mass is the mass, one out of ten representations in a given place is an over representation given the dilution of that particular person in the general population – eg, if you have one indigenous model in a shoot involving 10 models, that’s over-representation by 18%. There are wider branding implications. Imagine if Coca-Cola added bright pink to their logo… not exactly the same, but sort of.

        It’s more about who it’s “desirable” to be – in In Sydney it’s desirable to be white, Shanghai of course it’s desirable to be a Chinese (a rich one of course) and in Mexico it’s desirable to be Mexican, because at the moment those ethnicities represent upper-middle class comfort and success.

      • Hel

        I agree wholeheartedly here Gen, and to an extent to which Martin says above. But Martin, clearly Australia is a multicultural country, and whilst you are a ‘tall white guy’ out of many, there are just as many non-white guys and they clearly access media and fashion just like you do. So you shouldn’t be declaring that just because you are one, and since the majority of the current fashion media seemingly reflects what “you are”, that it makes sense to conclude that it is a ‘global view’. Unless I am very much mistaken, our global population is clearly not a white-majority – so no, I disagree with your logic there, because it is illogical.

  2. Martin

    I’m merely saying from a marketing perspective, a mass media perspective, when you do the numbers, that’s the decision most marketing managers will make most of the time. It’s about the brand, not the democratic representation.

  3. Mike

    I just stumbled upon this and think that it’s a very interesting subject.

    I love fashion, but as Martin has graciously pointed out us fashionites are, or are capable of, being inherently selfish people. We devote ourselves and a great proportion of our personal resources to looking good, feeling good and probably more appropriately, looking better or at least as good as those around us.

    We don’t necessarily know what is fashionable, tasteful, elegant or what will be in style this season, but we do have an idea of who does. That’s why we have fashion magazines, so we can be informed of what other people think we should wear.

    This can be a complicated exercise, especially when I’m on my 185 calorie a day meal plan (not diet). There’s lots of designers, colours and styles to choose from and it can take a significant amount of my time to compile all these things into workable and affordable outfits for everyday wear (and special occasions).

    If I then have to look at something worn by a blackie and imagine what it would look like on me – well let’s just say I haven’t put that much pressure on my brain since elementary school.

    Us fashionites are not geniuses, we just look good and have the money (or spend all our money) on the clothes that the magazines, fashion editors and designers tell us to buy. Having to think what I would look like in a goon outfit before I go into the shop and try it on is just laughable.

    Ergo, if we are inherently selfish does it not follow that we can also be inherently racist? Racism would have to be one of the most raw and extreme manifestations of selfishness.

    Further, I don’t think that being racist in the fashion industry is a problem. Some blackies are hot too. It’s just that I wouldn’t waste my time looking at clothes worn by cocoa pops if I had trouble thinking about how it would look like on me.

    You know what I mean?

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