This year, is shaping up to be one of the most imperative years for social justice and bringing light to existing systemic racism in society, however, I can’t help but feel somewhat abandoned by the fashion industry, an industry I truly yearned to be in. A hard pill to swallow is that in many cases the fashion industry can be racist.
Coming into the industry I knew that there weren’t many people who looked like me, I knew that I had to bury my ideas and thoughts deep down in order to not threaten my superiors, and I knew that I had to silence myself in order to not be labeled as the “angry black woman.” I even remember, after reading about the struggles that André Leon Talley faced in the industry, filling out my applications for fashion companies and never self-identifying my race. It wasn’t that I was ashamed that I was black, but more because I thought that my application would be looked over due to the color of my skin.
I was tired of never getting hired or despite being told I was an impeccable candidate in my interview never getting a callback, there were even instances that I’d show up to an interview and they’d be surprised that I was me – not knowing if my race surprised them or the fact that I seemed younger than what my experience on my resume lead them to believe.
I’ve never actually felt welcomed in the industry, I’ve always felt put down or less than for having ideas that were considered too eccentric. I remember going to countless shows as a photographer for my own blog and being ridiculed because I was not only a woman, but a black woman coming into a white male dominated industry – a huge rarity or as people say today a “unicorn.” I remember almost being brought to tears by how disgusting they treated me in the press pit.
I got into the industry seeing that there was a disparity in representation of black and brown models – I wanted to have my own platform that was a multi-cultural blog that not only showcased models of different races, but also different religions, sexual orientations and backgrounds.
I remember going to a fashion show that was extremely vocal when 45 became president. As the models strolled down the runway I tried extremely hard to make out the lyrics to the song that they were walking to, the lyrics started with a strong expletive that started with an ‘F’ and ended with Donald Trump’s name – in my years in the industry I had never heard them curse a president’s name, I even had a pin in my gift bag that stated “We Stand With Planned Parenthood,” which to me, was very bold! Although, I understand that that particular brand or any brand in the industry does not have an obligation to speak out about social justice or racism, I would’ve thought that just as that brand was vocal about their extreme disdain for the active head of state, that they would not remain silent on the current events that are happening in the world.
On the heels of Anne Wintour’s apology to black creators at Vogue, I truly believe that the fashion industry has a long way to go in order to rectify many issues, including: not only racial pay gaps, but also producing stories that are targeted toward other cultures. I feel as though the industry has improved, but we still have a lot of work to do.