Following a New York Times article earlier this month and a tweet sent during the couture shows by W Magazine’s black style director Edward Enniful, the racism debate within the fashion industry has been fired up once more. Several high-profile casting agents and models have said they will be taking to social media during fashion week to name and shame those who aren’t using ethnic minorities in their shows.
Former New York-based casting agent Bethan Hardison has told the New York Times she will be taking to the likes of Twitter to call out designers still not showing an equal representation of races in their runway shows. Hardison believes social-media shaming can be incredibly damaging to brands, both financially and in terms of consumer engagement.
Twitter has become a key activism tool for such issues of late; feminism is one area where the social media channel has both created and fuelled uproar and opinion, with accounts such as Everyday Sexism continuing the fight on a daily basis.
However, a social media boycott campaign within the world of fashion has more complications than those associated with other industries. Namely, the importance of good relationships between designers and editors/bloggers means many show guests would be unlikely to call a designer out on social media for fear of bad blood and damaged media relations post-fashion week. The situation is similar if not worse for celebrity anti-endorsement. Nevertheless, it’s an important issue to be revisited, with young models-of-the-moment Jordan Dunn and Joan Smalls breathing new life into the conversation.
The re-opening of the race conversation follows recent self-imposed regulations by British Vogue and the British Fashion Council banning the use of underweight models, but the effects of such measures are yet to be seen.