Chanel Iman Still Hears the Following Words: 'We Already Have One Black Girl, We Don't Need You'


Chanel Iman, one of the most successful models working today, says she still gets the “sorry, we already have one black girl” treatment from certain designers and casting agents. Iman, who has been on the cover of dozens of magazines, including American Vogue, was asked by the Times of London if racism was still an issue in fashion:

“Yeah, most definitely,” she says forcefully. “A few times I got excused by designers who told me, ‘We already found one black girl. We don’t need you any more.’ I felt very discouraged. When someone tells you, ‘We don’t want you because we already have one of your kind,’ it’s really sad.”

Iman says the answer is not all-black fashion shows or magazine issues — “It doesn’t help us; it just puts us into a category” — but more diversity in every show and magazine. And less toleration of all-white or nearly all-white casting. “There needs to be a permanency [about] using black models,” she says. “You still see all-white shows in Europe and New York.”

Fashion photographer Steven Meisel says he often gets negative feedback from clients when he proposes models of color for big jobs: “I’ve asked my advertising clients so many times, ‘Can we use a black girl?’ They say no. Advertisers say black models don’t sell.” [ToL, via The Gloss]
Meanwhile, top casting director James Scully — always a refreshingly frank voice in the industry — criticized the Christian Dior, Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton shows for their overwhelmingly white casting this season. Scully, who casts shows for Tom Ford, Jason Wu, and Stella McCartney, among others, said:

“Some of the biggest names who move fashion to the forefront, like Dior, get a D- on ethnic diversity. I feel the Dior cast is just so pointedly white that it feels deliberate. I watch that show and it bothers me — I almost can’t even concentrate on the clothes because of the cast…Natalie Portman could complain that John Galliano was a racist, but I feel Raf Simons sends the same message.

Scully also calls Calvin Klein‘s habit of putting precisely one model of color in its show every other season what it is: tokenism. “They do it to not get in trouble, they don’t do it because they believe black women should be on that runway,” he says, adding, “Versace will use Joan Smalls in their advertising, but why wasn’t she walking their show in February?”

Scully was contributing to a roundtable with five of the most prominent casting directors in the industry, including Jennifer Starr, John Pfeiffer, and Barbara Nicoli and Leila Anana. Unfortunately, Scully’s thoughtful take on racism and fashion’s construction of race is not a universal. Nicoli, who with Anana casts Gucci and Saint Laurent, among others, explains that the lack of diversity at the Gucci show isn’t intentionally racist — it’s just because Gucci seeks a certain kind of beauty, and, in their opinion, that kind of beauty just happens to be possessed almost exclusively by white models. “Gucci never has a huge number of black girls in the show because in the mind of Frida [Giannini, Gucci’s creative director], she wants this [specific] type of girl,” says Nicoli. This “type” can be black or Asian, or, presumably, non-white Latina, but she just often isn’t. “She wants this girl, then if the model she likes is black or Asian, it’s fine. But when you do a casting, [you see a lot fewer black and Asian models than white models].”

Nicoli adds that it’s hard for designers to cast racially diverse shows, because everybody knows different races have different body shapes:

“It’s also true that, for example, Caucasians have a specific body type, black girls have a specific body shape, and Asian girls have a specific body shape. So I guess there are some collections where it’s more perfect for an Asian body shape because they are more flat and less sexy, in a way. Asians, they are not curvy, so to put an Asian [who’s] very flat [with a] baby body shape in a show where normally the designer knows they love sexy, beautiful, curvy girls, it’s a bit of nonsense.”

And that’s when we started to do this.

This season, the most racially diverse runways were in New York, where 82.7% of the spots on the runway still went to white models. Overall, the big four fashion weeks — New York, London, Milan, and Paris — were nearly 90% white. [BuzzFeed]

Allure magazine did a totally scientific survey and determined that the ideal age for women everywhere to be is 29 (according to men). Or 31 (according to women). Adjust your birthdates accordingly. [Fashionista]

H&M‘s latest “conscious collection” delivery, which the retailer says is sustainably made, is evening wear. The question remains: isn’t fast fashion inherently unsustainable? [The Cut]

Here, Joanna Newsom sings a song and plays the harp in a video for Wren’s fall collection. [YouTube]

Did Phoebe Philo‘s latest Céline collection copy this Geoffrey Beene coat? Yes, yes it did. How you feel about that probably depends on your views on fashion, appropriation, and intellectual property. [Fashionista, WWD, Garmento]

Naomi Campbell threw some shade at Coco Rocha for wearing purple lipstick last night on The Face. [WOW]

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld, in a 6-3 decision, the legal right of retailers to acquire authentic products in foreign countries where they are sold more cheaply and then import those products back into the U.S. to sell at a discount. This is known as parallel importing. The Court held that the “first sale doctrine” — under which a manufacturer’s rights to control the distribution of a product end when that manufacturer sells it to a second party, i.e. that once you buy something you own it and you can sell it to whoever you please — also applies to items sold in foreign countries and imported into the U.S. This has implications for the fashion industry, because many authentic luxury goods are sold for different prices overseas, or are even dumped overseas at extremely low prices. Costco, for example, has sold authentic Omega watches acquired abroad in the U.S. without the authorization of Omega. [WWD]
  • Privacy experts say that you should never give your ZIP code to a store — because in combination with the other information shared when you shop and pay with a credit or debit card, such as your name, it can lead them to your mailing address. And then you get added to mailing lists, you get more junk mail, and you possibly get your information sold on to third parties. Massachusetts just prohibited stores from even asking for customers’ ZIPs on the grounds that it is personally identifying information. [NBC]
  • Stephen Burrows‘ retrospective opens at the Museum of the City of New York tomorrow. The designer is less-than-impressed about the state of fashion today:
  • “”I don’t understand what’s happening with fashion today. It looks very added-to, like everything in the kitchen sink. But that’s just me…The word ‘designer’ is so loosely used today. Of course, I don’t know what the cure for it is. It’s an animal in its own right.”
  • Burrows says he finds the current lack of racial diversity on the runway “peculiar.” [WWD]
  • Justin Timberlake is rumored to be ending his involvement in William Rast, the denim line he founded with best friend Trace Ayala in 2005. Hey, MySpace can’t run itself, people. [NYPost]
  • In further news of the looming event horizon of celebrity collaborations, Kate Moss “designed” a box for a sushi restaurant in Paris. There was obviously a launch party for the Box:
  • Guests listened to the jazz music of Thomas Dutronc, while nibbling on California tuna tataki and tarama maki from the Moss box.
  • [WWD]
  • Naomi Campbell, who serves as the executive producer of the modeling reality show which she co-hosts, The Face, is planning to bring a spin-off of the show to the U.K. U.S. co-hosts Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha will not be part of the series. [Telegraph]
  • PBS, meanwhile, is launching a historical drama about the founding of Selfridges department store in London. Jeremy Piven stars as Harry Selfridge. [WWD]
  • Courtney Crangi, the jewelry executive who is dating J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons, says it feels strange to suddenly find herself in the spotlight because of her personal life. “But,” she says, “I’m proud of my girlfriend. It feels surreal. I don’t think there would be such an interest if I was straight.” [Fashionista]
  • Carla Bruni got a modeling job. She’s now the face of Bulgari‘s jewelry collection. [WWD]
  • John Galliano is rumored to be in talks to take a position as some kind of guest instructor at Parsons. [Fashionista]
  • The modeling agency Elite Paris, which is — for complicated reasons nobody has yet been able to fully explain to us — not actually related, other than in name, to Elite New York, is opening a New York branch. The agency couldn’t call itself Elite New York, obviously, so it went with The Society. It promptly poached Lindsey Wixson from Marilyn and Sigrid Agren from Ford. It also represents Ming Xi, Cora Emmanuel, and Grace Jones. [The Cut]
  • Revenues at online retailer ASOS rose year-on-year by 36.7%, to $302.6 million, during the quarter just ended. [WWD]
  • Fashion power couple Ruben and Isabel Toledo first met in high school in New Jersey. The fashion illustrator fell for Isabel immediately, he says, but as Fashionista reports, at first she did not reciprocate:
  • Uninterested in Ruben, who was younger than her, Isabel actually had art class with Ruben’s older brother. The brother impressed Isabel with his beautiful pieces of art, so she started dating him. “I fell in love with his art,” she said simply. The only problem? That art was all the handiwork of Ruben, who had been doing his brother’s art homework for him.
  • [Fashionista]
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