Iman’s Diversity Coalition has called out the designers it thinks are guilty of racism — and few of the industry’s elite remain unscathed. “There were more black models on the catwalk when I started in the 1970s than there are today,” she said in an interview with the Evening Standard . “The absence of models of colour sends a message to our young girls that they are not good enough, they are not beautiful enough,” she said. “Photography and the runways are such powerful tools, and say such a lot about our society. It is so much bigger than the catwalk.”
Iman and Naomi Campbell have joined forces with Bethann Hardison, a former model and model agent, under the banner Diversity Coalition. At the start of New York Fashion Week the coalition sent an open letter to the fashion governing bodies in New York, London, Paris and Milan. “Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of colour,” they wrote. “No matter the intention, the result is racism.”
So who are the main offenders? Well pretty much all the biggies. The designers and fashion houses that the coalition believes are “guilty of this racist act” include Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Chanel, Armani, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Victoria Beckham, Roberto Cavalli and Marc by Marc Jacobs.
Of all the names mentioned, it’s Céline that gets slammed the hardest. “Phoebe Philo—she’s a cool girl. But Céline has never had a coloured person showing in their collection. Ever,” Hardison claimed in the same interview. “And yet they have the best accessories; every black woman who has money buys her accessories.”
Iman added that she’s boycotting the French fashion house’s products for this reason: “Not me,” she replied, "I walk the walk. I can get another It-bag. I have my wallet. I make a conscious decision not to buy that stuff.” Céline’s SS’14 runway show happens on September 29 — so we’ll have to wait until then to find out if the coalition has done enough to improve on the fashion house’s 100% white model count last season…