Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fashion has always been, "post racial".

Great fashion doesn't know what the race of it's wearer is. This thought occurred to me as I was browsing an online multi-brand store which was obviously designed to capture young men whose ancestry is other than European. I intentionally avoid using terms like color or race here because they're not really what we're talking about. What we are talking about when we think we're talking about race and neighborhoods are cultures and class. I firmly maintain that these are made up distinctions that are self perpetuating. People whose skin color is not white do not inherently possess any separate abilities or traits than pale skinned people do. Our cultural differences do not spring from anything other than the geography and resources of the lands that we come from. Fashion has always had the ability to be a great equalizer and to erase these myths by exposing them as meaningless. 

Would this dress look less beautiful on a woman whose parents are Haitian? 
Tadashi Shoji Pre-Fall '14

In service to the fear of not speaking to the "right" customer or alienating an existing customer the fashion industry produces images & videos that perpetuate the illogical idea of race. The defense that is usually offered is that they cast the model/actress who is best for the brand. She is almost always white. Why? Because fashion is still primarily centered in the West. That's where white people live. If Lagos Nigeria was Paris all of the models would be dark skinned.

Would this look be less cool on a white kid from Des Moines?
10 Deep Holiday 2013
And so we come to the idea of affirmative action. Should brands go out of their way to cast models and actresses who are not over 5'9, white & skinny? Is that their responsibility? Responsibility, no opportunity yes. Let me utter the one word that moves companies without fail; profit. Do you think that the world is becoming more racially divided or are more people living in different parts of the world than where they or the parents came from? Do you think that our cultures are becoming more opaque or are we seeing, communicating, and understanding each other better than ever? 

Because this wonderfully quirky look is designed in Seoul, does it have to stay there?  
87MM Fall '13
The answer is obviously no. What brands should do to get on top or stay there is show that their designs are meant for their customer, worldwide. Client identification is based on values and the ability to buy, nothing else. Your brand's customer exists in hundreds of places around the globe. To reach them all you need do is create images and videos that show them, "themselves" in your brand. Regionalize it if you like but don't leave money on the table because you'll only cast from agencies in NYC or Paris. Trust me the designs will look just as good.

Are non Muslims prohibited from wearing this?
Pink Hooked Snake Skin Jalabyah
Keswah 2013

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