by Chris Witherspoon
This week thousands of designers and spectators from around the world are gathering in New York City to celebrate the honored tradition of fashion week. However this season, several fashion industry heavy-weights have caused a stir after teaming up to address the industry’s blatant race problem.
Model turned activist Bethann Hardison, along with supermodels Naomi Campbell and Iman, appeared together in an interview yesterday as part of an advocacy group called the “diversity coalition.” The group has taken the unprecedented step of calling out high profile designers Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Armani and others for neglecting to use models of color in their fall fashion shows.
In the September issue of Vanity Fair, Vogue contributing editor, and former long-time editor-at-large, André Leon Talley opened up about his experiences with racism while working in the fashion industry,
“People stereotype you,” Talley said. “What person of color do you know who’s in a position like that [Editor-in-chief], be it a man or a woman, unless it’s Essence magazine?”
During an interview with theGrio Talley opened up about his illustrious career in fashion, and said that silent racism does exist in the industry.
“In the fashion world it doesn’t rear its ugly head, it’s not right in your face, but it’s a silent racism, because everyone is sort of walking around in this bubble on front rows and people don’t talk about substance of things most of the times.”
Talley applauds the effort of Hardison, Campbell, Iman and the diversity coalition, but says he is dear friends with many of the designers accused of perpetuating racism on their runways, and his friends are not racists.
“The designers are not racist.” Talley explains. “The designers are world class sophisticated people. It’s not the designer that’s racist; it’s the system that’s racist. It’s the system of intolerance. It’s silent, it’s asleep, it’s dormant, and it’s a nightmare. It’s not a dream achieved.”
Earlier this year, Talley stepped away from Vogue to focus on his new job as editor-in-chief of Russian style magazine Numéro Russia.
Although Talley spent three decades in a senior editorially role at Vogue, he says he reached a glass ceiling, that he was unable to crack as black man working in high fashion.
“Vogue’s been good to me, but how many people of color have walked through the hallways of Vogue in a position of leadership or responsibility as I did? I can count them on my hand. How many people of color have had positions at the most important fashion magazine in the world?”