Time to End Racism on the Runway

Writing at New York magazine, award-winning fashion critic Robin Givhan endorses former model agency owner Bethann Hardison's recent letter that calls for an end to racism on the runway, saying, "diplomacy has shifted to confrontation."

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Naomi Campbell (Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images for Novak Djokovic Foundation)

Award-winning fashion critic Robin Givhan, at New York magazine, endorses former model agency owner Bethann Hardison's recent letter that calls for an end to racism on the runway.

Diplomacy has shifted to confrontation.

Bethann Hardison, the former model agency owner who has been a leading advocate for greater diversity on the fashion runway, has gone live with an international roll call of design houses whose actions she characterizes as "racist" due to the lack of black models in their fall 2013 shows.

A strongly worded letter, posted at the website Balance Diversity reads, in part:

"Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches fashion design houses consistently use … one or no models of color. No matter the intention, the result is racism. Not accepting another based on the color of their skin is clearly beyond 'aesthetic' when it is consistent with the designer's brand. Whether it's the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society."

The letter continues with a list of fashion houses "guilty of this racist act." It includes some two dozen New York-based womenswear and menswear brands that showed in February, boldface names such as Donna KaranProenza SchoulerCalvin Klein Collection, rag & boneNarciso RodriguezReed Krakoff and Duckie Brown...

The letter, also supported by model Naomi Campbell and model-turned-businesswoman Iman, is aimed at creating some form of public accountability. To that end, individual letters were also sent directly to the CFDA, the British Fashion Council, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana in Milan and the Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers and Créateurs de Mode in Paris.

Read Robin Givhan's entire piece at New York magazine.

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