Change Begins Today

Barack and Michelle Obama with daughters Sasha and Malia, Inauguration 2009. Image from Getty.

As the MDC crew came back from watching the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, there was an undeniable feeling of happiness and dare I say it, “hope” in the air. What brought me back down to reality was reading Guy Trebay‘s article in the NY Times about the lack of color on the men’s runways. You could count on one hand the amount of men of color that have been seen in Milan for the past 4 days. Paul Stiell, Philip Huang, Dominique Hollington, maybe 2 others at the most. Why is this still true? Fashion must reflect reality. In a world where we have a black American President and highly influential black entertainers obsessed with fashion (Kanye West and Andre Benjamin come to mind) the completely insular world of high fashion needs to be as inclusive as the millions of voters in America. Frida Giannini, the Gucci designer, in the Times article said after the show, “I think it would be great if there was an industry initiative on this issue, because I am always looking for black models, or even Chinese or whatever, for the shows.” As says, it’s time for the boys to catch up to the girls.

  1. I totally agree, there should be more Black Male Editorial models around.

  2. Frida Giannini is a massive hypocrite; every season, without fail, she casts the exact same group of white models. I guess she’s counting Chanel Iman as her token black and token asian. Someone needs to tell her to put her money where her mouth is.

  3. frida said that? as far as i know, the only non-white models i’ve seen her use for her shows are chanel iman and hye park.

  4. Please, this industry is so full of BS. No one wants to make the change. Anna Wintour keeps featuring pale, overly gaunt, and BLAND looking Brazilians(Caroline Trentini) and Eastern-Europeans in Vogue. Grace Mirabella was a MUCH better editor! She featured Black (Louis Vyent), Latina(Talisa Soto), Asian(Yasmin le Bon, Ariane) on the cover an in the layouts.
    Designers, if they use black models or models of Asian or Latino extractions, it’s usually in a stereotypical setting pertaining to their race. Even this website,, keeps featuring same, generic,underage causcasian girls. So if you want change in fashion, we need the bigwigs of the industry to step up! That means you guys, too!

  5. frida is such a hypocrite, doesnt she know a majority now of gucci clients are from asia.

  6. i feel that things can change and that someone really needs to tell Anna Wintor that there is more one type of person in the world. I’m tired of seeing the same old skinny non-ethnic models that they keep using. I also feel like with the new change thats on its way a male model era of supermodels is about to rise.

  7. First of, Congratulations to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

    I don’t know where to start on the issue of black male models with in the industry. I was going to post a comment earlier after seeing footage of the Milan shows. Never before has the onslaught of caucasian male faces on the runway been so blatant. It was good to see a few black faces at Emporio and Versace (which was quite shocking in it’s own right, though Ty was booked last season). But amidst this new era in which we just penetrated, the shows are coming across as a slap in the face.

    So much has already been said in the previous posts that ring so true, from Chanel Iman, to Frida.
    Frida is a massive hypocrite indeed. I can not believe that was said post-show.. can’t believe it! She’s “always looking”? What a crock.
    The show was a disgrace. It’s unfortunate because she really is a fantastic designer, but apparently that talent is only bestowed upon a select few.

    Of course she is not the only person guilty of such actions, but after that comment, she certainly volunteered to be roasted.

    In reference to the last segment of “eye2eye”s comment, is not to be blamed (at least not as much as seemingly suggested) this is what they have to work with. It’s the agents who are not looking for those editorial black males which are out there should they decide to give a fair chance. It would be nice, if not already in the works, for you, MDC to catch up with Dominique and the few others for a “Notes on Milan” segment.

  8. i agree with every thing eye2eye has to say i hope a change comes to fashion i don’t think the industry is getting the message yet but they will fashion is all about change and i am so tried of the same old same old and yes Mirabella was such a better editor that wintour

  9. I agree with the posts thus far…. What are people afraid of? there are so many BEAUTIFUL an INTERESTING models of every ethnicity “around” but no one is booking them!!! and Why? Certainly the argument that ethnic faces don’t sell is not still being used as the excuse, its not true! Just look outside the fashion world for clues: Hip-hop music and Reggae music two of the most widely purchased and emulated music/cultures in the world both black but appeal to so many around the world, Barak Obama; black and appeal to so many around the world, sold out Football and Basketball games in the US everywhere, nobody boycotts the games because the majority of players are not white. I might have been able to use the fashion industry as an example if the fashion world would give itself a chance to be part of the ever growing group of industries that have and are steadily changing with the times. At one point in time music, politics, sports and fashion were all segregated and very much white-only, they are not anymore… and while my examples were from white to black lets remember all the beautiful hues in between. It is quite peculiar that the only modelling stars to come out of such a distinctly ethnic country as Brazil and the so-called “dark” continent of Africa are white? Fashion houses stop being afraid of what you don’t know, you wouldn’t turn down a brown/black/red/yellow/purple person’s dollar, so why do you deny them the ability to be represented in advertisements and runway shows?

  10. Frida Giannini preaches change but yet season after season recycles the same caucasian models however her and Anna Wintour aren’t solely responsible for the lack of Black/Asian/Latino female/male models in the industry. The casting directors, editors, art director and photographers should also be held accountable bc as long as they aren’t casting models of color the lack of representation will remain.

  11. I am so ecstatic for our country, the President and First Lady Obama. But on the issue of no different colors/ethnicities on the runways and editorials, rings such a different tone doesn’t it? In this day and age we should be celebratory of all ethnicities and yet we are still stuck in this 10-year rut of having only Eastern European, and “European” Brazilians on the runways( we need a change in fashion world!! (As Obama says) and all people in the fashion world have to work together to fix that!!i.e. agents, casting directors, etc.) I also think that what Frida said was a pile of bologney! ;)


  13. I’m glad someone mentioned the tyranny of gaunt models. A black woman who’s a very healthy size 14/16 looks amazing in avant-garde designer clothes and sells more clothes than underage, stick-thin models—at last, a female role model girls and women everywhere can look up to and emulate. Maybe her presence, her very existence, can teach us not to hate our own bodies.

  14. Frida said that post-show? The show had 44 looks and every one of those looks was worn by a caucasian model…ehhr? An industry initiative to this issue would be great indeed, but to have that exact same line being said over and over again from people who ARE the industry and then do nothing, is wrong! Franca and Steven dedicated an entire issue to black models, US Vogue has found new favorites in Jourdan, Chanel and Arlenis (it has to be said)….how many initiatives should there be from within the industry for something to change? Maybe an actual law? *shrugs*

    Let’s not pull MDC in this story though…I have to say that MDC has never made any seperation in promoting black, Asian or white models. They rev about Arlenis, Liu Wen or Lakshmi just as they do for Ymre or Anna S. Heck, they even kept Kinee on their Top 50 for almost a year without any reason. At least they try to make the difference by actually overcoming all differences. Kuddos!

  15. This quote by Frida must have been left out.

    “I’m after a specific kind of look,” she added, “and I request the agencies — I asked last season — to send me someone interesting. But they never send me anyone very new.”

  16. Time for the boys to catch up with the girls?… there is only a handful of colored female models that come to mind that are regulars on the runway…
    Chanel Jourdan Sessilee Arlenis Liya Naomi(sometimes)… correct me if i miss any

    there are alot of colored newbies but they arent gettin alot of work. So there isnt much catchin up to do. And if designers really wanted change like they say they do, they would stop talkin about it and making quotes and do somethin about it.

  17. I am so sick of the complaining. The only person who should be complaining is a black MODEL who fits the bill but isn’t getting work. Stop complaining and start BRINGING THESE GIRLS INTO THE AGENCIES or become a booker yourself! and Obama and Michelle you are both beautiful and we can’t wait to see you for the next 8 years!!

  18. To Miyoshi,

    Even though there are few black, Asian and Latina female models compared to caucasian models.. There is still a lot more than the boys, especially in editorials..

    I cannot see any men’s magazine being brave enough to only use all ethnic models like Italian Vogue did.. And one that is super high fashion at that. The only thing that came close was DSquared2 S/S 09 show last fall where they mostly used models of color. That was pretty amazing and inspiring to see. This season, I think they didn’t use one person of color (correct me if I’m wrong). That’s very sad.


  19. They all start blaming the other but in my opinion it’s definitely the designer’s responsibility who is walking in his/her shows or what models are in his/her ad campaigns. So Giannini should should stop being two-faced about this whole diversity thing, her runway shows have always been whitewashed from the start and that’s probably her ‘specific kind of look’ right there. Another thing what has been bugging me is a comment Donatella Versace made. She used two black models in her men’s spring ’09 runway show and added that she did this in tribute to Barack Obama, as though it’s an honour to walk her show as a model of color, PLEASE! What about all those clients of color worldwide who buy her clothes season after season! She doesn’t even KNOW how ignorant she really is!

  20. intressting post i must say. I am an agent and have always tried to come with new exciting ethnicities, though they are very beautiful and edgy. There is not enuff work for them. I push and push to designers, casting directors and photografers.. and they keep telling me that masses wanna see white ppl. WTF.. thats what i have to say.
    But i can promise that til the end of this year we will be seeing more indian, asian, south asian, black and middle eastern models. The economy crises will change the face of industry very soon. I know so..

  21. Let’s hope this change is reflected on the runways, magazines and advertising of high-fashion clients. I’ve heard from so many “fashion” people who are “so excited” that Obama has been elected. Let’s see if they can see past skin color when casting shows and shooting models. That will be the true test to who people really are.

  22. To Betty,

    Although i really appreciate you writing this article, i have to say that the example of Dsquared’s S/S 09 show is not a good one. That show, although using a majority of black models was and homage to black stereotype, that being hip hop culture. It doesnt do anything but further the urban, ghetto stereotype. what would be interesting would to have a show like there cowboy show or even mountain climbing themed show featuring some black models, and not one or two! Also casting directors or scoutes need to stop finding ethnic models that play up on there racial stereotypes, no big, muscular black guy is going to do a gucci show no are they? Not to generalize but the majority of black male models have squared jawed and slightly big and very much Vibe magazine, the most interesting black model was the one used in Hedi’s last show at Dior Homme. Anyway it just a shame that i can walk around and see interesting people of color and the fashion industry cant.

  23. p.s. Funny enough the new Dsquared fall 09 show has ONE black model this season? makes you wonder….

    na vida de muita gente !! adorei a roupa da primeira dama , estava simplismente lindaaa , deslumbrante ela tem bom gosto e classe !! bjs
    e muitas felicidades a vcs DEUS OS PROTEJA SEMPRE .

  25. I Love OBAMA!
    change we need!
    I belive you!
    The gilr they all wanted
    I love Top Model Michelle Carvalho made in Brazil
    Tanks ELITE!
    I ♥ NY
    I have dream…

  26. “YES WE CAN” move past this pettiness that has been plaguing the fashion industry for so long. It’s about time we start seeing more representation of black male models. Beauty comes in all colours

  27. Racial discrimination and prejudice aside….I just think seeing different ethnicities and models of different colours and backgrounds on the runways and fashion pages will definitely look more beautiful, colourful and attractive. Agree or disagree?

  28. I agree with the last statement with that being said. it is all about race in every country from my hometown of Brasil, Mexico, South California(especially) to India. If your lighter it’s better, it’s just not right. I love my brazilian peeps, but I would to see someone like Michele or Darker that represents the true nature of the beauty that comes from Brazil. We have the most futuristic race on the planet starting with such as Carolini Riberio and Adriana (IF They can stop lighten up her pictures.I believe it would so cool to see CHANEL IMAN for either Chanel or Gucci, Arlenis,Liu, and Lakshimi for Gucci, or Jil SANDER. How eering to see Liu, jOURDAN,Lakshimi, LIU AND Kinee for PRADA… Sessilesile and Michele Caravlho for versace. Sessilesle in Dolce& Gabanna or Louis Vuitton (the LV Spring 09 should have went to her).. HAVE Jessica White do Maybeline tv (talking)spots she is the only only girl with two separate beauty contract from two different companies. come Andre, Anne, and the rest of Vogue all contintents.



  30. I totally could not agree with these post any further if I tried! I’m so glad to see that people crave diversity, because that in itself is beautiful. It’s obviously known that there is a shortage of ethnic models in the industry in general, but for males alone the numbers are astonishing! I know for a fact that incorporating ethnic models in garments previously reserved for a more “European look” will give the designs a whole different and interestingly irresistible edge, because it’s not what is expected, and will make you think! In the ever changing face of fashion, everyday the unscaled land of change and innovation awaits. What’s the new trend/ new look/new accessory/new thing! This is a MAJOR change long over due that’s been continuously deterred by the obtuse minds and inane points of reasoning!


    What better time for a change than NOW? If any fashion heads have been waiting for the excuse to make the improvements, here it is! With the world raving over unity and pushing for all peoples beauty to be recognized and not geared by fear of the unknown, what better place than our advertisements and fashion libraries that set the pace for the rest of the world, right??

  31. everyone this industry needs a change this is a bunch of B.S this industry they call fashion is all about change and how knew america would change before fashion there are tons of beautiful different models out there but you still see the same ones and some a lot of the time they look just a like it took me forever to tell the difference between Sasha Pivovarova and Gemma Ward i just don’t understand

    i hope the obama’s help the industry realize that different is beautiful

  32. Seriously, when you want to showcase Brazilian girls, please show more ethnic looking ones instead of those like Gisele, Raquel Zimmerman, Caroline Trentini, and Isabeli Fontana. If I hadn’t known they were from Brazil, I would’ve guessed these girls were either European or white American. However, to Anna Wintour, they represent Brazil and that is such a shame. Brazil is known for its HUGE diaspora of Blacks, Indians, East Asians, and Arabs. So to pick girls from German-Italian extraction is an insult.

    I have Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar archives back from the 80s and I must note that Grace Mirabella was indeed, a better pioneer of representing multiple beauties. She also chose various photographers to avoid monotonous looking layouts. I love seeing Yasmin Le Bon, Gail Elliot, Louise Vyent, Ariane, Iman, Karen Alexnader, Talisa Soto, and Anna Bayle because they weren’t only true ethnic beauties but they also looked vivacious and sexy!

    This may be a bit provocative to say but maybe people out there are now getting threatened by the beauty of non-white models. To me, I reckon that it’s pure envy that these ethnic models aren’t getting booked.

  33. This industry we call fashion should change and change quick fashion is for everyone not just white blonde haired blue eyed 5’11 walf looking girls look at michelle obama she is beautiful and she looks amazing in clothes and rihanna , J.LO, beyonce, mariah carey, janet jackson, many more beautiful women of color they all buy high end clothing and look amazing there should be a representation of them and other women of color and Frida Giannini i don’t know what was taking about “it’s time for the boys to catch up to the girls” the boys don’t have anything to catch up to because there’s still not that many ethnic female models i think the fashion industry is blind to the fact that there are not that many ethnic girls or boys in fashion magazines and high fashion runways this industry should reflect reality.