We’re all aware that the world of high-end fashion certainly isn’t representative of everyday life. High billboards and glossy magazine covers of flawlessly Photoshopped models barely little (if any) resemblance to the average individual in the street. It’s an industry built on luxury and beauty, one that caters to the narcissistic side of our personality and more aspirational side of our psyche.
But whilst the vast majority of people understand that high end fashion lives within the realm of fantasy and fiction, few have stopped to think at just how cliched and predictable it can be. We’re not talking about the designers or their endlessly changing array of seasons and styles – we’re talking about the models themselves.
There’s a worrying lack of ethnic diversity among the major fashion houses. Aside from Namoi Campbell (who peaked in the 90s) can you name any present day black supermodels? Why do designer brands continue to ignore black culture, black men and black women?
Time and again they are shunned, ignored and disregarded without any explanation.
For all their creativity and unique ideas, when it comes to race the fashion industry seems intent on continuing with the status quo. A cliched converter belt of Caucasian and seemingly anemic models roll out one after the other, an unrelenting expression of the white monoculture that has swallowed the industry whole in recent times.
To highlight just how severe the lack of diversity is, Liberian model Deddeh Howard embarked on a series of portraits titled ‘Black Mirror’ where she recreates some of the largest fashion campaigns by the world’s biggest brands.
In each shot, the lead model was white (and more than familiar to most of us Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen all feature) – it begs the question, why can’t these brands feature someone like Howard instead to help promote their product?
“I would walk into various fashion model agencies and I would immediately be compared to that one or two black models they had on the roster. Even though I was told by those agencies that I have an amazing look and wish they could represent me, they already have a black model. Besides having an abundance of white models. It seemed as if one or two black models on the roster are enough to represent us all.” says Howard.
“For this project I decided to re-shoot several of the inspiring and famous campaigns out there and try to show what they could look like with a black model. Why can’t the big brands not embrace our diversity more and give all of us visibility?” she explains
It is racism? Its is laziness? Is it because only “white people” buy their goods?
As for the project itself, Howard has one single aim “To show the world it is time for all of us being seen.”, here’s hoping the fashion industry is listening.
2. Victoria’s Secret
3. David Yurman
6. Calvin Klein
8. Dolce & Gabbana
9. Louis Vuitton