White models dominate runways, White women land ad campaigns. Yes, it's 2013, and we're still talking about this. In the New York Times, Eric Wilson breaks it down thusly: Five years ago, Vogue ran a lengthy article titled "Is Fashion Racist?" (This was one year after veteran modeling agent Bethann Hardison hosted a panel titled "Out Of Fashion: The Absence Of Color.") And, as Wilson puts it: And since then, almost nothing has changed.
It's true that Prada has a Black model in an ad campaign for the first time in 19 years. It's true that DSquared's fall 2013 campaign is all Black men. But the numbers, in terms of diversity on runways, are not good. Why does it matter? Because it does. Because 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 color are not seen as beautiful, that women of color are not deemed worthwhile. When aspirational looks — the images to strive for — are only White, there's a far-reaching, damaging, socio-psychic brainwashing at work.