Break out the cubes of cheese and dodge the Naomi Campbell-propelled cell phones: It's New York Fashion Week, Kansas City! It's high holiday for those of us who care way more about hemlines than linemen.
Despite all the preening and superficiality associated with fashion, the industry is candidly grappling with issues of race and racism. It seemed that with all the race talk, the industry was taking steps to bring a few more shades of beauty to its pages and catwalks. Even local women's mag HerLife had a black cover model in its August 2010 issue.
So with all this in mind, I was a little taken aback by Standard Style's largely lily white Spring/Summer 2010 fashion magazine.
Standard Style is a
local boutique that carries high-end designer clothes for men and
women. Along with fashion shows, the store has a magazine. In a
spread called "A Place in the Sun" -- where a model wearing a $400
Diane von Furstenberg dress scampers in a field meant to evoke the
Serengeti, of all places -- there is one brunette. The rest of her safari pals are blondes, ranging from honey ash
to platinum. My race-dar detected only 1.5 nonwhite minorities in the
magazine. To the best of my knowledge, there were no Asian or black
models in the women's section; the guys' spreads were all white.
I contacted Kristin Coulson, a spokeswoman for Standard Style, to ask about the mag's whiteness. She responded quickly with links to images of diverse models used in
fashion shows, videos and ads.
Yet, few of them landed in the pages
of their magazine, available online (a
third issue is coming soon; Coulson said it featured two Hispanics and
one Navajo Indian).
"If you say we
don't have diversity in our advertising and marketing --
that's your opinion and not based on fact," Coulson said via e-mail. "We
use a variety of ethnic models
INCLUDING black models." of 385 Agency 385 Agency.
Nicholas Segura, owner of 385 Agency, says it's questions like
A model represented by
of 385 Agency
these that made him start up his commercial modeling agency, which
represents ethnic models.
"One of the big
white elephants [in the industry] is the complete lack of diversity,"
Segura says. A lack of minorities within a group's staff trickles down
to their advertising and products, he says. If diversity isn't reflected
within your business, it's harder to be aware that it's a problem.
said the "silver lining" is the increasing diversity in this country.
With different races to cater to, it may hit businesses where it matters
most: their wallets.
"I'd love to say, 'Standard Style, you
should be more diverse.' It shouldn't even be said," Segura says. But he
says the lack of diversity at places like Standard gives his agency
more opportunity to represent "beautiful, ethnic people that are in
Maybe it's an issue of the trends happening on the
coast taking awhile to come to the Midwest. But the conversation needs
to happen, especially in a segregated town like Kansas City. Local
fashion publications could stand to be more representative of the people
in their city, who aren't all fair-skinned and blond.