I love fashion week with all its boundary-pushing conceptualism, but I was a bit startled by last week's Louis Vuitton runway show during Paris Fashion Week, featuring wafer-thin models with super-sized afros. While I'm sure there are some folks amongst us who would take one look and think, "Louis Vuitton has money - why didn't he make those girls get their hair done?!" the hair wasn't the issue for me.
For a show that featured one unapologetically kinky wig after next, I found it kind of insulting that only a handful of black models out of at total of 55 were chosen. In an era when African American models are still starving for runway work, I'd love to know why Louis Vuitton's designer Marc Jacobs used so few models of African descent. To his credit, Jacobs didn't discriminate: there were girls of all races representing on the runway, just not too many that could actually grow a 'fro.
It was encouraging, however, to hear the aptly-named Chanel Iman, who graced the catwalk for Louis Vuitton this year seem so optimistic in regards to diversity in the fashion industry. "It's definitely getting better," she gleefully shared afterward the show, "we had five or six black girls in Louis Vuitton today, so woo hoo!" I guess that's more company than Naomi Campbell had fifteen years ago.
Still, I can't help but wonder if the handful that were just there because of the seemingly post-racial, neo-bohemian, post-apocalyptic theme L.V. chose to go with this year. A world where America's "so cool and edgy and post-racial, we've all got the hair to prove it!" Or if they were selected because an entire runway show featuring white models sporting afro wigs might be a little too…I don't know. A lot of things.
Let's just hope that next season, when all the afro wigs are neatly packed away, the fashion industry remembers that black girls need work, too.
- MEERA BOWMAN-JOHNSON