For Bridge III, my group and I decided to explore racism in the fashion industry, specifically with representation of black models VS. representation of black aesthetic. Through our research, we found that black models are booked significantly less than white models. Yet black aesthetics like African prints, cornrows/dreads, “street style,” and other fashions are used regardless of the lack of black models. To represent this problem, we chose multiple routes: our own photoshoot, an editing of an editorial, reworking a magazine, and creating our own magazine.
PHOTOSHOOT / “GAP”:
For our photoshoot, we tested out the idea of whiteface – the polar opposite of blackface in both its color and its meaning. While blackface is meant to demean, oppress, and ridicule, whiteface is a way to talk about erasure, privilege, and power. My group and I came up with the idea to shoot our models in denim, a classic staple symbolic of American/Western fashion. The design for the face implies a mask, or an empty void (to match the walls behind). We slowly realized the ad was similar to GAPjeans ads, and played with the idea of the word gap: something missing, something not there. The gap is both the design of the face against the wall, and the gap between white and black models in fashion.
BLACKFACE / WE DON’T NEED YOU:
For this piece of the project, I wanted to display acts of blackface in fashion editorials. I took editorials done where the shoot designer painted white models black/brown. Half are from a Numero Mag spread called “African Queen,” and the other half are from the Vogue Netherlands Louis Vuitton shoot. I edited each image to have text related to personal experiences of black models with racism in the industry. This includes discrimination against black visual characteristics (skin, hair, etc.) and the idea of the models themselves. I included quotes from models like Chanel Iman, who was told “we already found one black girl. we don’t need you,” and a quote from a Balenciaga casting director who requested that no more black models be sent to her. I placed these quotes and other expressions in juxtaposition of the images of white models in black face to point out the irony and insult as a result of them in blackface.
I took a Vogue magazine and ripped out all the pages that didn’t feature a black model. I then painted each page that did have a black model white, except for their skin. I highlighted the scarcity of black models in the amount of ripped pages, and the white space from the paint.