When I scrolled through the websites of some Chinese fashion brands earlier this year, I saw most of the models were white instead of Asian. As an Asian girl who dreamed of becoming a fashion designer, it was disappointing to see the lack of diversity in the fashion industry. But should we simply accept the fact that it is much harder for people of color to win a spot in the fashion world?
In “We Fascinated Them’: Shailah Edmonds on a Golden Era of Black Models,” Alex Vadukul introduces the era of black models that “was brief as it was bright.” Ms. Edmonds, one of the African American models who became successful in the ‘70s, explains that at the time “America wasn’t interested in black beauty, and the agencies were blatant about this.” However, Edmonds describes the success that was possible in Europe for black models like herself. By the mid-1980’s, “the fashion industry got over the novelty of using black models,” and “it just all came to an end,” according to Ms. Edmonds. Black models were just a passing trend exploited by fashion.
To answer the question I raised at the beginning, I’ll say no, we should not accept the status quo since black models do not deserve to be forgotten. The ‘70s proved that fashion could appreciate different standards of beauty by embracing black models. But this beauty will only be witnessed by today if racism doesn’t continue to squash opportunities for black models.