In a fashion editorial entitled “African Queen,” a model poses in tribal print, headdresses, and bangle bracelets up her arm. What is the problem here? The model, Ondria Hardin, is a young white girl who they made “black” through the use of makeup.
This editorial, along with many others, displays the fashion industry tendency to exploit ethic diversity. Designers, photographers, and stylists use the idea of race as a prop or a fashion statement. For instance, in a 2013 fashion show Dolce and Gabbana used a Mammy or African slave type figure as earrings and as a print on a dress.
First, the use of the Mammy figure is completely racist since this figure is a representation of slavery. One could argue that D&G mocks the history of slavery by reducing it to a print on a dress. If the use of the Mammy figure wasn’t bad enough, in that same fashion there were 85 looks and none of them were modeled by a black model. As Wilson explains in her article, when it comes to the lack of black models, “We can’t decide whether it’s better there weren’t any considering the collections questionably racist embellishments or if the lack of diversity makes it even worse.” The use of questionable black figurines and prints displays the way race is exploited and used as a fashion statement.
Race and minorities are also used in fashion as a type of popular prop. Most recently, this is seen in the swimsuit edition Sports Illustrated where they used many different natives as props for the models. Throughout these natives are depicted as at service of the white model and it causes the white model to always be at the center. These pictures also feed into the stereotypes of each county: A Chinese man pushing a boat down a river, men from Spain as matadors.
These types of editorials use other racial groups as props exploit rather than promote ethnic diversity. This exploitation of race demands for a makeover. How do you all feel about race being used as a prop or fashion statement? Did you even notice that these types of exploitations were occurring?