As a teenager and young adult, I worshipped the pages of men’s magazines like GQ and Details. I fantasized about the luxury fashion detailed in each spread and valued the inside look at the life of the celebrity on the cover. But as I got older, I noticed that, more often than not, there was hardly ever anyone who looked like me on these magazine covers. I wondered why, but my love of fashion often trumped my curiosity about this lack of ethnic diversity in the publications I was reading. And I continued to be a loyal enthusiast.
The fashion industry has been known to pioneer much more than fashion itself. When it comes to tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality, the industry leapt this hurdle before many other business sectors and has served as a high-end haven for those who were shunned by other industries. But the one category in which fashion seems to be behind the power curve is in diversity. Simply put, where are all the black faces (and Asian faces and Hispanic faces and so on and so on)?
Fashion (the runway, the magazines, the blogs, etc.) is still largely dominated by white faces. And you can take a look at any newsstand across America to collect the evidence. Save for the token black face that may pop up on an occasional cover or make a cameo on the runway, there just isn’t a lot of diversity showing up in the fashion world. And this can be said for most segments of mainstream media, but I’m honing in on fashion as it hits close to home.
It’s hard to believe that we’re still talking about a need for diversity or equality in 2015. More than four decades after the Civil Rights Movement, inclusiveness is not second nature. I know there are much bigger diversity battles to fight in the country (as the #blacklivesmatter movement has taught us), but representation in fashion is extremely important because of the influence the industry has on so many kids and adults alike. Many people still look to fashion magazines and media to build their self-image and look for inspiration. If these people still don’t see someone with their skin tone, what message does that send?
Just last year during New York Fashion Week, it was widely reported that 79% of the female models on the catwalk were white. With a customer that’s so much more diverse, why isn’t this being reflected in the presentations of these designers’ collections? NYFW: Men’s seemed more capable of embracing models of all skin tones and sizes, but there’s still great work to be done.
Millenials are known for circumventing the existing systems to find success but we shouldn’t have to do the same for inclusion. I created Uptown Bourgeois to give a voice to a part of the fashion community that’s very underserved and sometimes outright neglected. Of course it's a blog that offers something for everyone, but it was initially created to address a lack of representation. Slowly but surely, high-fashion magazines with a focus on diverse fashion are popping up. Hannah, one such magazine, was profiled on Huffington Post, and is surely the first of many self-published, high profile publications geared toward minority fashion fans.
Though, to be clear, I’m not asking for more publications that segregate ethnic faces from the rest of the world or the fashion industry. I’m simply hoping that fashion sets a pioneering tone for diversity and inclusion that inspires the rest of entertainment, media, and the world to follow suit. I don’t want everyone on every cover to look like me. I just want the publications I’m reading to represent the world I live in. And that’s a world filled with many different skin tones yet tremendous style and talent. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.