The lack of non-white models and suppression of ethnic diversity in the fashion industry isn’t a new concept. Ever since modelling became a highly lucrative industry in it’s own right, the vast disparity between the booking rate of Caucasian models against any other race has been commented on nearly as much as the dead-horse that is the ‘models are too thin’.
I won’t go into the ins and outs of fashion’s very complicated, abusive relationship with racial issues as there are so many great articles about it already. For every thousand of articles calling out the fashion industry for this blatant racial bias, and for each one there are a slew of industry professionals including editors, designers and casting directors all offering attempts at diplomatic responses that all give off a distinct air of ‘how can I not sound racist whilst making an excuse for something that is probably racist?’. Bad times.
Miles Aldridge, a well-respected, critically acclaimed, British photographer who has shot for practically everyone worth mentioning (Italian Vogue, US Vogue, Numero et al) and has hosted many exhibitions of his own, is the latest to have been called out for racial discrimination in his casting.
In an aptly named interview called ‘The Fucked Up World of Miles Aldridge’ for Bullett magazine, Aldridge attempts to explain why the models featured are exclusively white:
“I’m aware that my type of model that I photograph is a kind of version of my mother: very pale skin, very beautiful. There are no African-American women in my book. There are no Asian women in my book. There’s one large lady, so to speak. The rest are well, they’re beauties. They’re a typical Western concept of beauty, which goes back to what I grew up with: my mother’s copies of Cosmopolitan.”
On the one hand, I’m surprised that he actually was so blatant about his obtuse out-dated artistic concept of beauty, rather than giving a standard “I’m working with my favourite girls, it’s all about personality/casting directors only ever send me white girls” bullshit, but still? Growing up with “a typical Western standard of beauty” (a phrase which I have issues with anyway) doesn’t mean that you can completely write-off everything else that doesn’t enter your incredibly narrow sightline? This “Western standard of beauty” won’t ever catch up with every other aspect of the world if people like Bile Aldridge keep forcing non-caucasian models from magazines. It’s been 57 years since black people and white people could sit together on American buses, yet apparently can’t share a magazine editorial? That might seem like a bit of an extreme comparison, but using non-white models isn’t just an issue of aestheticism, it really is so tied up macrocosm of social and political attitudes to race. Fashion is an industry that relies solely on advertising, not using models that represent multinationalities is basically saying that being anything other than white is not aspirational the ideal, and so, won’t sell. AND THAT’S BULLSHIT, YO.
Anyway, read the full interview here: http://bullettmedia.com/article/the-fucked-up-world-according-to-miles-aldridge/
And here are some interesting links on race in fashion by people a lot more coherent than myself: