Bethann Hardison, Naomi Campbell & Iman, three of the worlds most iconic and important figures in fashion for decades, have recently spoke out in a interview with Vogue on the desperate need for change within the modelling and fashion industry, and the importance of diverse talents which have helped to build the foundations of the world in which they are sometimes mistreated.
Bethann Hardison, Iman, and Naomi Campbell in 2007. Photo: Richard Corkery / NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
As noted in the article, This groundbreaking, history-making trio have been a large part of, and/or created, many modeling and fashion milestones at the same time that they helped forge a path for many BIPOC women who followed in their footsteps.
Vogue Viewers were reminded of some of those pivotal moments, which include the Battle of Versailles in 1973, a charity fashion show at which American designers, and their cast, which included Hardison and other Black models, outshone the French on their home turf. Two years after that, Iman arrived in the USA and, seemingly overnight, assumed her deserved iconic place in fashion. In 1988 Campbell became the first ever Black model to appear on a cover of French Vogue; ten years on, she’d be on the cover of Italian Vogue’s sell-out Black Issue. (Hardison is now on the cover of the magazine’s September issue.) In 1994, Iman, the first Black model to represent a global cosmetics brand, founded her own beauty line aimed at women of ethnicity.
These achievements however were earned through years of hard-work, self belief and, were certainly not given. And there were many obstacles to overcome along the way. Tokenism has been a major issue, as has something seemingly as basic as the availability of cosmetics for Black skin. To avoid looking ashen in photos, Iman made and brought her own foundation on every assignment. It was a way, she said, for her to control her images. And, she notes, for models, “our photographs, our image, is our currency.”
In 1988 Hardison, Iman, and Campbell formed the Black Girls Coalition, which was intended to be a celebratory organization, but, as Cho pointed out, needed to “pivot and become a watchdog group.” Over time, the runways had become not more, but less diverse. Hardison responded with the Diversity Coalition in 2013, writing of such castings, “No matter the intention, the result is racism.”
The Black Lives Matter movement, which is concerned with the same subject, was the final topic of today’s conversation. “This is a time that we should never be quiet,” stated Hardison, a Gucci Changemakers board member. It’s not enough, said Campbell, to use BIPOC models, they must also be equally compensated. Iman urged for us to ask, “What is the change we’re looking for in our industry? Giving us a seat at the table, we have moved away from that,” she said. “Nobody cares about that damn table anymore because we can create our own table, but we need to connect to all of us, not just Black, but white, and to collectively think about what that real change is. Not a tokenism change, not quota change, but real change.”
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