“Everyone is using black culture as inspiration, but I now want to see whether it’s going last or whether they’ll move onto something else.”

~Naomi Campbell

For decades, there have been all-white catwalks, all-white advertising campaigns, and all-white fashion shoots. Traditionally, big fashion houses haven’t targeted black audiences in the past, because the community wasn’t making up a huge share of the consumer market. With that being said, the fashion industry is a highly lucrative business. Because of this fact, it has historically been perceived as a culture reserved for one demographic- the rich, thin and white. As a result, there has been a common misconception that people from diverse backgrounds don’t do fashion, yet this idea couldn’t be any further from the truth.

In 2013, three fashion icons- Naomi Campbell, Iman and Bethann Hardison, formed an organization called the Diversity Coalition. Among the limited number of black female voices in the high-fashion industry, they have used their platform to address these issues.

In an open letter to designers, they wrote:

“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. It can no longer be accepted, nor confused by the use of the Asian model.”

Lets fast fast forward to New York Fashion Week’s (NYFW) Spring 2018 show, where models of color accounted for 36.9% of the runway. This was the most racially diverse show in NYFW history. Given the increased visibility of black models on the runway, it is clear that Robin Givhan, fashion editor for the Washington Post was right, when she said that,

“the question of diversity not only entered the spotlight but became a sustained topic of conversation.”

To discuss this subject further, we caught up with Haitian and high fashion model, Aube Jolicoeur. Recently Aube graced the pages of VOGUE magazine, where she was praised for her breakthrough performance at the Marc Jacobs’s Spring 2018 show.

Despite her humble beginnings, she is taking the fashion world by storm. Aube was born in the mountainous countryside of Haiti and then moved to the United States when she was 9 years old. When describing one of her experiences of culture shock, she said:

I never knew racism until I came to America. I never knew such thing existed. I’ve experienced racism from all sides; not just with people who are white but also my own skin color. It’s very strange here! My whole mentality is different from kids I grew up with in America.

Increasing the visibility of black women in the fashion industry, is crucial to how they are represented in society. In our interview with Aube Jolicoeur, we got her take on what it’s like to be a key figure representing black women.

Shes Debonnaire: Provided that there aren’t many black models in the fashion industry, in what ways do you think your experience has been unique?

Aube Jolicoeur: I think it was all about timing for me. Thankfully, I happened to come into the scene just as the industry started taking black girls seriously. I have the universe to thank, as well as many veteran black models who paved the way.

She’s Debonnaire: The tagline for She’s Debonnaire, is “Beauty with Substance” when you hear that, what does it mean to you?

Aube Jolicoeur: To me it means, you are not just beautiful, but you have a brain, values, a purpose, and ambition. Beauty with substance is the power to influence people for generations.

-As told to She’s Debonnaire 

 

 

Written by Kaci Gregory
Kaci Gregory is a senior, double majoring in Media & Communications and French & Francophone studies at Muhlenberg College. Because of her interest in women's studies, diversity and her passion for cosmetics and fashion, she founded the blog "She's Debonnaire." Her objective is to facilitate dialogue among women on issues related to gender, race, culture, and sexuality and how they impact perceptions of beauty.