Category Archives: Bethann Hardison

Vogue Italia Responds to Criticism

Only days since the launch of the new Vogue Italia, the internet has been abuzz with criticism about the separate and allegedly “segregationist” channels: Vogue Black, Vogue Curvy and Vogue Talents.

A commenter on our post about it described the expansion as “bittersweet,” explaining that she’s thrilled for the attention on black and curvy Fashion, but insulted that it had to live separately from the main website.

Well, Vogue Black, as well as Vogue Black Contributor Afrobella (who Ferocia interviewed about her fab new gig!), took to the web to address the criticism, particularly the Cut Blog post condemning the site. Check out excerpts from their responses below:

From Vogue Italia:

Rodarte‘s success story, as seen in Vogue Talents, celebrates the creativity of the Mulleavy sisters and aims to set an example of how, with true talent, one can succeed in a short time. Vogue Talents is a channel dedicated to young designers: we couldn’t have found bigger encouragement. Or must we keep thinking that young people should not be given space?



Vogue CurvyTyra Banks in her first post for Vogue.it wrote that “beauty comes in many shapes, and especially in many sizes.” Unfortunately, however, there was no magazine – or site- that covered “other sizes” before.

Finally, two years on from the publication of A Black Issue, surrounded by Eastern European models, we ask ourselves: how long will it take before we see more black beauties on the runway? As summarized by Afrobella in her blog, they deserve their own spotlight.

From Afrobella:

Why does Vogue Italia feel the need to separate into different channels? My answer is, because throughout the history of fashion, black and curvy has been overlooked. We deserve our own spotlight. Of course, ideally black beauty and full figured beauty would be part of the mainstream – BUT IT’S NOT. Someone please share a link from The Cut about plus size fashion bloggers or black beauty bloggers. Please. I’d love to read it. Because I’ve been reading them for a minute and I’ve never seen one. And who’s to say that material from Vogue Black or Vogue Curvy won’t make it into Vogue Italia? For me as a reader, I think it’s refreshing to find a channel that exclusively caters to what I’m looking for — beauty and fashion inspiration that relates to my reality.

“We deserve our own spotlight.” I just like the sound of that!

What do you think? Does that explain away the separation of “Vogue Black,” “Vogue Talents” and “Vogue Curvy?”

I get it. I think a spotlight on black culture, young designers and full-figured women in Fashion is deserved and way overdue. And Vogue Black, Curvy and Talents offers just that.

At the same time, full-figured and African-American designers, models, beauty needs, etc. should be incorporated into mainstream publications and sites regularly, as well.

Why? True diversity is showing the work of a black designer and white designer side-by-side in an editorial spread. Featuring a plus-size model and thin model in every issue. So eventually that model or designer surpasses racial/size boundaries and becomes accepted and praised by everyone for their talent alone. And then, everyone can start to see the beauty in different cultures and sizes.

Let’s move toward including black and curvy models, bloggers and designers regularly in Vogue Italia…and Vogue…and V Magazine…and Elle Magazine…and every fashion mainstream publication.

That’s not to say I’m not happy about Vogue Black and Vogue Curvy. I’m glad that the channels exist and agree that the spotlight is truly deserved.

But I would hate for Vogue Black and Vogue Curvy to become sites only visited and produced by women of color…or women with curves. 

And I would love for women of all backgrounds to be exposed to the beauty, richness and enormous talent that exists in black and curvy Fashion…on the main channel AND on the “spotlight” channels…and in every issue of mainstream magazines.

What are your thoughts? Discuss.

Also, I feel I should repeat this, that is not to say I am not thrilled about Vogue Black and Vogue Curvy. I am beyond happy that Vogue Italia—a publication with connections, resources and talent—is paying attention to black and curvy women. In fact, my hero, who I had the pleasure of interviewing at The Magazine, Bethann Hardison has been named Editor-at-Large of Vogue Black. That makes me want to do back flips down my Brooklyn street with my sprained ankle.

But I do believe this discussion, about incorporating black and curvy fashion into the mainstream, needs to be had. 

Okay. I’m done.

Kisses,

Coutura

Fashion Week: Arise Magazine Fall 2010

Hey Glamazons!

When a stunning garment, the perfect model and beautiful lighting come together, it’s like magic. All the editors, stylists and celebrities live for that rare Fashion Week moment. The Arise Fall 2010 show was full of them.

The show that featured Grace Jones on the catwalk in its debut season (a moment I will never forget!) brought out the most powerful names in Fashion on Saturday evening. Featuring three up-and-coming African brands, Black Coffee, Deola Sagoe and Loin Cloth and Ashes, the event was hosted by Arise Magazine, the first global style and culture magazine to celebrate African achievement (Please do yourself a favor and subscribe. It’s one of my favorite books).

In the third row with my girlfriends (see pic below), I sat directly across from legendary supermodels, Liya Kebede, Coco Rocha and Veronica Webb. To the left of me sat the Holy Trinity of African-Americans in Fashion: June Ambrose, Harriet Cole and Bethann Hardison. You could feel the beauty and power in the room before the show even started.

The Glamazons and Elaine from “Meeting in the Ladies Room”
Me, Beautylicious of Suite Suede and Sandrine of LDVAG in the third row

When the show finally began, the energy in the air was palpable.The lights dimmed and a hush fell over the elite crowd. The models were preceded by a lighted display of leaves against the wall. With light African-themed music playing in the background, the models stepped on the runway one-by-one with only their silhouette peeking through the light.

A sole spotlight hit the catwalk and the models, including the beautiful Chanel Iman, began to walk, wearing South African brand, Black Coffee. Taking inspiration from Pablo Picasso’s reinterpretation of African masks, designers Jacques van der Watt and Danica Lepen presented a line of flesh tone cocoon-shaped coats, structured shoulders in architectural shapes and fluid dresses in soft, mint green colors.

The second collection was presented by Tanzanian designer, Anisa Mpungwe, of the brand, Loin Cloth and Ashes. Inspired by her father’s hometown of Ifakara, Mpungwe’s collection was a melange of body-skimming dresses, billowy pants and flowing skirts, energized with touches of metallic gold, electric blue and sharp stripes.

And last but not least, I discovered one of my two new ‘It’ designers of Fashion Week (the other is Laquan Smith, more on him later!): Deola Sagoe. Hailing from Nigeria, the beautiful designer showed her collection of bodycon dresses, slim pants and military-inspired jackets with metallic, embroidered and lace flourishes. Inspired by East African Maasai warriors and 18th century European military uniforms, the looks were sharp, valiant, sassy and strong.

And who better to model that look than my favorite, Sessilee Lopez? Leading the army of models, Lopez stormed the catwalk with the fiercest strut ever (Rae Holiday of Stuff Fly People Like remarked, “Sessilee walked off the runway and took the show with her!”). Each model followed her lead and enraptured the audience, who applauded after every look. At the close of the show, designer Deola Sagoe walked out to a standing ovation from the crowd.

The designer, Deola Sagoe, walking out at the end of the show.

While mingling in the Tents after the show, I ran into the one-and-only, fabulous stylist du jour, June Ambrose! She turned the hallway outside into a catwalk, serving up the most ferocious runway walk while a crowd of bloggers cheered her on. Midway through, she stopped and posed for my pic like a pro. See why The Glamazons love her? Such a fun night!

What do you think of the Arise Fall 2010 designers? Who is your new favorite designer?

Kisses,

Coutura

Racism on the Runways: Bethann Hardison and Naomi Cambpell Demand Change


Hey Glamazons,

With New York Fashion Week days away, the discussion about African-American visibility in Fashion has resurfaced—thanks to Bethann Hardison. The former model and agent, who also happens to be my hero, hosted an informal meet-and-greet with models and casting directors last night called the Paradigm Shift. Held at the Deitch projects, the meeting is the latest effort in Hardison’s crusade to give models of colors a significant presence on the runway.

Designer Sophie Theallet famously used only black models in her Fall 2009 runway show.

The mother of actor, Kadeem Hardison, Bethann is responsible for initiating the discussion with industry heavyweights about diversity in Fashion, which indirectly led to the wildly-popular Vogue Italia issue and the i-D magazine September cover that features four rising supermodels, Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn, Sessilee Lopez and Arlenis Sosa. Hardison acknowledged how her efforts made the i-D magazine cover a possibility: “…the fact that they can find four girls is genius. That means something,” she told Modelinia.com. “It’s much improved from 2007. i-D’s always been cutting-edge. But the fact that you can find four girls? That’s a tribute to the work we do.”

Here are recent covers depicting black models from Trace’s Black Girls Rule! issue to the legendary Vogue Italia “All-Black” issue.



Bethann Hardison’s own career is just as groundbreaking: a successful model in her own right, she’s guided the careers of such prominent African-American faces as Tyson Beckford and Veronica Webb. Though her strides toward diversity in Fashion should be heralded, she acknowledges that racism on the runways persists. For example, Naomi Campbell made headlines recently by asserting that ad execs, in fear of losing consumers during a recession, refrain from using black models for their campaigns: “I don’t see any black woman, or of any other race, in big advertising campaigns,” said Naomi. People, in the panic of the recession, don’t dare to put a girl of colour in their campaign, full stop. Nor of any other race. It’s a shame. It’s very sad.”

When I interviewed Hardison last September, she explained that yet another impediment to creating diversity is that designers don’t see their aversion to use black models as racist. “Though their actions aren’t necessarily racially motivated, there are racially-conscious results,” she said. “Designers claim they want uniformity simply because it’s editorially appealing, but they have to modernize their thinking. Uniform-looking models don’t reflect the world.”


Why aren’t designers using black models for campaigns or runway shows? Do you think it’s a product of racism, because they want uniformity or because they fear that they’ll lose consumers?
Do you think diversity in Fashion increased after the Vogue Italia issue proved that black magazine covers sell? Do you anticipate that more designers will use black models this Fashion Week? Discuss.

Kisses,

Coutura