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How vogue influenced diversity in fashion photography

Models of colour have been an underrepresented minority in the fashion industry for decades.The fashion industry for years have been very specific in the audience they have been trying to target. White skin has been associated with privilege and the industry has generally aimed to target this audience by using white models to relate to their consumers to fulfill a connection with each other. Vogue covers have also been representative of this. 18 out of 288 covers featured women of African descent since 1980’s. This is an astounding figure that embodies the fashion industry on a whole with there being no solo black model on the cover of Vogue between Naomi Campbell in 2002 and Jourdan Dunn in 2014. The women featured on covers often prescribed to European standards of beauty, i.e. slimmer noses, straight hair and slim physiques. The effect of black models having to change their natural beauty to abide by the ‘white gaze’ produced stereotypical images that fed into racial attitudes, often branding black people as “savage” or the “bush”‘ (Wissinger, (2015) These features are seen to be softer, and more relatable with Wissinger describing this funneled selection of women as the ‘performance of race’ for the ‘white gaze’ and a primary consumer. Vogue has previously directed their audience towards white consumers hence the use of the higher percentage of white models.

Fig 22. (British Vogue editorial staff, 2017)

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At the base of these front covers, lies in the vision of the editorial teams. Fig. 22 shows the editorial staff of British Vogue 2017. Kate Phelan who left Vogue as a stylist indicates she felt, ‘When I look back at first starting work for Vogue I was so used to it and so institutionalised about it that it became very normal that that’s what it was. There were no black people working for Conde Nast unless they were in the mail room. It was absolutely rigid in that sort of old school fusty boarding school’(Kate Phelan, Appendix, Interview 1). Kate clearly expresses the lack of diversity she experienced and how there was no influence of cultural difference. Vogue covers branched on tokenism by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce; the ‘use of ‘token black girl, token Asian girl’ in order to protect the industry from accusation of racism’. (Murkel, 2015.)

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Viewing Vogue in the emergence of a new global era, and their representation of a multicultural work space, we are beginning to see change, and this could be achieved worldwide in multicultural societies. For example, Indian Vogue is Asian specific with the interjection of white models and global content.. This demonstrates the continuum of the world changing their approach to the way they view themselves, interlinking across cultures and images of self representation, and this approach is slowly being filtered into British Vogue content and across European covers.

A huge influence that has campaigned and taken part of a large impact of the diversity in Vogue is Edward Enninful. Edward is the editor of British Vogue who has attempted to radicalize the change in the publication with regards to inclusivity through diversity. Enninful worked with editor Franca Sozzani on an issue released in 2008, Italian, ‘Black Vogue’, featuring all black models.

Diversification has increased since Edward has become editor for British Vogue. He proceeded to involve other ethnic minorities in articles. A recent shoot called ‘Within you, Without you’, (British Vogue, 2018), styled by Kate Phelan and photographed by Tim Walker, is shot in India and based around Indian culture with the influence of vibrant colours and incredible styles of Indian dresses and suits. There is a true essence of beauty within this editorial as Tim states in his interview, ‘I as a photographer have never seen a disquality between photographing a man or a women, gay, straight, old, young, fat or ethnic. I think I see someone who is inspiring whatever they are and I celebrate them’, (Tim Walker, Appendix, Interview 1). This approach exaggerates the passion he has for change by combining clothes, props, colours and ‘creating that connection with Indian culture’ (Vogue, Within you, Without you), (fig. 23) with Indian men and women.

Fig.23 (Vogue, Within you, Without you, 2018)

Vogue Australia 2014, shows an editorial shoot called, ‘Tomorrow’s Tribe’ with ethnic tribal clothes on a white model. When models, who do not ethnically identify with the cultures are placed in embellished or symbolic clothing native to a culture, (fig.24, 26 & 27), it is difficult not to address the colonial undertones. The name of the shoot ‘Tomorrow’s Tribe’ delivers the message that Vogue is trying to identify this as a new ‘trend’ but are not morally appreciating the sentimental value these clothes, with respect to many present tribes and communities. In In the images, the stylist has supplied clothes from Tribal arts center in New York but has not focused on a specific tribal attire, but rather blended many cultures into one, without appreciating the fact that each piece of clothing has its own cultural significance. Accessories like the feathered headband, were worn by male leaders of the American plain Indians, ‘’they shouldn’t be for sale as a cute accessory’’ (Deloria, 2002). Native American Adrienne K, the founder of the blog forum, Native Appropriations, claims that, “donning a faux feather headdress offends and stereotypes Native peoples, denies the ‘deep spiritual significance’ of indigenous garments and makes light of a ‘history of genocide and colonialism’ (Wood , M.W. 2018.) It is clear that Vogue is subtly demoralizing these leaders due to attaching little value to highly sentimental garments and possessions. Within a tribe, to wear such attire would be after earning a lot of respect in their tribe, and these would be symbols of an elated status. This demoralizes tribal figures and highlights the lack of extensive research or ignorance on behalf of the editorial team simply to grab a fashion trend and apply this to a viewer in the West. In these series, we can see the representation of African and Indian American cultures combining both into one spectrum of ‘Tribes’. The shell beading, heavy accessories and the patterns on her bangles are representation of their culture, but we are then conflicted with this colonizer mindset with the use of a white model. Fig.25 relates to the term ‘blackfishing’. Blackfishing is for a female of European descent to appear of African, Arab, or Hispanic ancestry. We can see the model has been styled to almost look black. The hair style has been copied from African descent and the way they have lit the model has created a darker tonal palette on the skin. Vogue are possibly attempting to create this connection with a viewer of white supremacy allowing them to have the experience of a black model. This is demoralizing a race as we are conflicted with creating this representation of a race as a trend.

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Fig.24 (Vogue Australia”,’Tomorrow’s Tribe’, 2014)

Fig.25 (Vogue Australia”,’Tomorrow’s Tribe’, 2014)

Fig.26 (Vogue Australia”,’Tomorrow’s Tribe’, 2014)

Fig.27 (Vogue Australia”,’Tomorrow’s Tribe’, 2014)

As Vogue increases its readership to worldwide audiences, this has opened up avenues for coloured models to appeal to unique markets such as Vogue India and Vogue Arabia. Alongside this, covers such as British Vogue are now inclusive of depicting a cross cultural identification with the viewer and reader.

Fig.28 (Vogue Netherlands October 2017)

Fig.28 shows Immam Hammam who is a Dutch model with Egyptian and Moroccan descent. She has been on 13 different worldwide Vogue covers, three of those for American Vogue. This is expressing that Vogue has been trying to influence a lot more models of ethnic descent. Her popularity has grown since 2017 which was an influential period for Vogue and diversity.

Fig. 29 (Nov 14, 2018, Vogue Netherlands)

Fig. 29 is of model Aiden Curtiss ‘is a star to watch’ (Vogue, 2017). She is both a model and singer, and has been a huge attraction to the youth of today. She is from the United Kingdom and Vogue are engaging this influence back to focusing on fame and celebrity status.

Fig .30 (Adwoa Aboah, British Vogue , 2017)

Fig. 30 is of Adwoa Aboah a British model, admired for her activism and ambition for equality not only in the fashion industry but our society at present. She has been on the cover of American Vogue, Vogue Italia, Vogue Poland, Vogue Arabia. She has also been signed as Vogue’s contributing editor for Edward Enninful, hence, she has two major roles in global development for British Vogue.

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Vogue has created a variety of magazine houses across the world for ethnic minorities to express their cultural status using models within their countries. We are also seeing more models across the world beginning to appear on the covers for British and American Vogue, which depicts that Vogue are diversifying in their attempt to progress in the involvement of global development.

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