Fashions Finest has announced Congress Centre, 28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS as the new home for their event.
- Congress Center
- Congress Hall
- Spring Summer
- Autumn Winter
- London Fashion Week
- Fashion Week
- Fashions Finest
- Independant show
- Independant Designers
- fashion event organiser
- Fashion show
- fashion models
- Red Carpet
Our SS19 CASTING: #lfw main shows & Closing Catwalk Soirée An amazing day with lots of beautiful models and people.
Video producer @simplyamayzn
The stars of the latest shows in the capitals of the fashion universe haven’t dazzled us only with their bold strut and magnificent charm with which they wear those stunning collections, but they equally amaze us with their physiques! Now, we already know they practice self-discipline in their dietary habits off-season, that’s no secret, but what about their top choices during these fabulous fashion shows?
You may wonder if these gorgeous gals gulp on enormous amounts of coffee just to be able to survive the number of events that surrounds the fashion shows. Yet most of them, including lovely Kendall, focus on water and detox tea – even up to 12 cups per day! The first one being zero-calorie makes perfect sense, but going for tea also serves to keep their complexion pure, and bellies flat.
If in need of an energy boost, then a healthier caffeine option hides in green tea, and other herbal mixes that lower the levels of inflammation in the body, balance their pH levels and help them with their water intake. Now there’s a tasty way to stay hydrated!
Sometimes these ladies have no time for a complete meal, and their shows can deplete their energy levels in no time, so it becomes essential to keep their bodies fueled at all times. As a result, they resort to healthy snack options such as various types of raw nuts loved by Adriana Lima, but this may ring an alarm bell in your mind because they are filled with fats! Yes, they indeed are, but that is precisely what makes them so satiating, and nibbling on a handful can keep supermodels going for hours on end.
They also rely on hefty amounts of raw fruits and vegetables, such as berries which are packed with antioxidants (extremely important for their immune system and their skin health), and Danielle Copperman swears by coconut yoghurt. Brimming with healthy fats and protein, these snacks are ideal for a girl on the go!
But despite their best efforts and all of these dietary guidelines crafted by the world’s best experts in nutrition, supermodels sometimes need an additional boost to their daily meals. When the shows, parties and lack of sleep threaten to wreak havoc on their wellbeing and beauty, models such as Magdalena Frackowiak safeguard their health with the help of micronutrient-dense supplements.
A clear complexion, a strong immune system and flawless hair require a solid amount of vitamins and minerals, and when there’s no time to stick to a meal-plan, using Solgar vitamins and similar supplements to regular meals and snacks ensures all the essential daily needs.
When there’s time, these ladies will not shy away from a veggie-rich omelet, and Anastasia Ivanova even reaches for an occasional slice of bacon to keep her breakfast tasty. Don’t be surprised if you see them munching on an occasional burger, a slice of pizza or even the dreaded pastry such as croissants, because the need for a convenient energy source sometimes trumps your current dietary limitations.
Written by Sophia Smith
The sun was shining but it wasn't just hot outside as models turned up in force to attend the highly anticipated open casting for Fashions Finest SS18 during London Fashion Week, in Central London on Saturday 8th July.
Models brought their fiercest walks and strongest poses as they took part in a dual casting and photoshoot. Hosted by the elite Fashions Finest team, casting directors, photographers, choreographers, influencers and PR ran a successful day, scouting some great new faces whilst also giving some great advice and tips to up and coming and experienced models. In true Fashions Finest style, the team even managed to find time to get up to some behind the scenes shenanigans including a dance-off and walk-off proving that not only do they work hard but they also play hard!
Tanya Beresford - Casting Agent
Galye Thompson - Casting Agent
Melanie Jones - PR
Diane Jordan - Influencer
Dayo Awe - Photographer
Mikey San - photographer
Thank you to all the models that came along...watch this space to see if you can spot the new faces in our upcoming shows!
Last Saturday saw myself and my talented team working our magic at the 2nd edition of Tama Ra Soiree. The event is held every first Saturday of the month in the heart of London at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury.
Guests are treated to a night of music, art and live entertainment with an all you can eat Caribbean buffet – yummy!
Fashions Finest teamed up with with CEO Of Tama Ra Soiree Hazel Jordan to bring a showcase of fashion at the event. Each event features a different designer with their latest collections modelled by models in a catwalk showcase around the grand luxurious event room.
My job is to design a suitable makeup and hair look to match the designer that month and their wonderful collection.
Last Saturday we had the pleasure of working with Helen Woolams of Hellavagirl and her sequinned collection. Glitz, glam and glamour are just a few words that spring to mind when thinking of Helen’s collection.
To match her designs I knew I had to create a look that was as equally stunning as her glorious gowns. GLITTER!!
I chose glitter as the main focus for the makeup. Sparkling colours to match the sparkling sequins in the designs – perfect! I talked to my team about picking colours from the designs and incorporating one colour into the glitter eye makeup. Keeping the rest of the makeup minimal so that the eyes really popped with the dresses, I chose a natural nude lip with lots of gloss to enhance the glamorous look even more. Fresh dewy slightly highlighted skin and a pop of blush is all that was needed for the skin. Hair was kept simple popped back into a bun or pony or left natural.
- Mehron UK Celebre pro foundation
- Sleek contour, blush & highlighter
- Inglot lip colours
- Mac clear gloss
- Glitter from brands, Kryolan, Helen E, Stargazer and Beauty UK
HAIR & MUA TEAM
Me, Rose Taylor, Bev k & Rosita Baiamonte
I know I keep apologising for not doing a regular blog but believe it or not I am so busy at the moment that even finding time to breathe has been just so difficult, I can only thank God that I am still alive as really I should have ran out of air by now.
Please excuse my manners, I should have started by saying Happy Easter to you and I hope you are having a lovely holiday.
There is soooooo much to talk about but I decided that for this blog I will only mention one topic and I wish to seek your views or comments. I don't care where you leave them, but just leave them on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, graffiti, on a banner etc I think you get the point.
In Lagos Nigeria on the 19th April we had a model casting to select models for two big shows, Africa Fashion Week Nigeria (AFWN) and Nigerian Student Fashion & Design Week (NSFDW). For AFWN we needed 12 Female models and 3 Male models and for NSFDW we needed 22 female models and 8 male models.
On the day we had over 500 models show up with about another 300 turned away cos they were late. We had two separate panels, one for AFWN which consisted of the CEO of Shuga Kane Bili and whom was also a former Mahogany Model, the assistant stylist for AFWN - Bimbo and the head stylist for AFWN – Jide. For NSFDW the panel consisted of the co founders of NSFDW Abiola & Marcus and the head stylist for AFWN – Jide. But it must be said that both sets of panels worked together and gave their views for either show. I remained as a neutral arbitrator and ensured that I got the good mix of models that I wanted in the show, which included overruling some of the panel members when I needed to. (but very rarely did).
I wake up early Sunday morning to find a BB message from one of the models that attended the casting and this is what it said (UNEDITED);
Good morning Mr Mahogany, I am so sorry to disturb u on this issue, but because of the previous relationship I have had with u I was compelled to let u know, well yesterday some things were noticed by one of ur judging staff that was placed among three to select models, I won't call his name but I am very sure u know who I am talking about, this guy among two other lady's was were d ones judging and instead of being professional in selecting models, he was ensuring all his friends/boyfriends were chosen at the expense of what the two other female judges wanted. I find this appalling mr sola, I can only tell u dis because ur a professional and I respect you, the sentimental selection that was done by that guy was too much, it was clear and evident from all models dat that's what he was doing and for some strange reason he had a major influence on the other two female judges despite their own desires to select what dey felt was best.
Mr sola I say this with Humility I felt insulted to have been chosen as stanby/maybe in the presence of those 3 that we're chosen as Yes, judging by my walk and appearance to me it was laughable, despite the the fact that the two females were penchant on picking me first as Yes, they were compelled by the other male judge's sentimental plea to pick his friends over me and another who was placed as maybe. Now mr sola why I am sending u dis is not to change ur decision on anything but let u have a knowledge of what I and others saw yesterday, it was so bad dat a few of ur staff noticed it. I say this to u sir, the only free show I have done in my career is the show I did for u last year (NSFDW), a show I was compelled to do because of the professional structure u gave it, I did it for free despite u said a few from der will be chosen paid for dis show. I am not saying I am too big to a show for free for u, but I cant do a show wit those models selected as priority on pay list with me in standby unpaid, to me that is an insult and all who know me will be astonished.
Left to me I can do both shows free for u, but me being put on standby side by side with those 3 selected as Yes out of which 2 were placed der on the sentimental decision of them being boyfriends to a male judge there is a shocker to me. the two female judges overtly said my walk was better that the chosen Yes and I was told not to worry, but I still worry because the truth is if this doesn't stop in Nigeria we won't go anywhere in dis fashion industry, models on the runway are the prime reflection of the quality of any show and if weak models are being chosen on sentimental basis then I feel sad for our industry. I respect you sir and I am ready to for u anytime, anywhere, but I just had to tell u this.
Out of respect for how he wrote the BB I decided that I would omit his name from the blog. I have responded to him privately, but I wanted to put some questions to you my enlightened readers.
1. Based on the facts above does he have a point or is it sour grapes?
2. Based on the BBM should I still let him do the show if he wants to or remove him?
3. Are the accusations easy to verify and prove bearing in mind we only wanted 3 male models, and he was one of 2 additional male models that was put on standby and it must be noted that over 180 other male models were not chosen, so can they make the same accusation against us?
4. As the head stylist (second in command to me) and as the head of the two judging panels, is it wrong (if it is the case) for him to say certain models should be selected?
5. Does it mean that I and the other two panel members were forced into this by the head stylist (please note that Bili is a very very strong woman whom has her strong views on anything and is no pushover)?
6. If I did not manage it well, what should I do next time to ensure that these types of accusations cannot be levelled against a casting that I do again in the future?
7. Any other comments that you may have?
I know you want to know how I responded and what my views are but I want to see what you all feel about it first before responding.
I can't wait for your responses and as always I expect you to be honest in your views, no holding back the punches.
I know a lot of you don't like to read nowadays, so I will attempt to keep it short and do it in chapters for you, so that you can take your time and read chapter at a time.
I was recently informed by someone that the publicity for Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) was not very good as lots of people had not heard about it, so just in case you are one of them I thought it best to let you know what AFWL is. However if you are of African descent, love fashion and live in the UK and have not heard of AFWL – you need to get out more and get some friends.
I have no intention of writing something from my head about what AFWL is about, so being honest I just went to the website and copied what AFWL is about – "Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) is the biggest African event of its kind in Africa. A collaborative fashion exhibition, highlighting the industry's established and emerging African designers, AFWL is at the forefront of capturing the surge of the African inspired trends in the fashion industry. Our annual event aims to celebrate the work of African and African inspired designers in the UK and worldwide". In short, it is a fashion week and exhibition that showcases African or African inspired designers/exhibitors – the last bit was written by me – not a bad summation, even if I say so myself.
Now let's get to the juicy bits.
Chapter One - Fittings
I arrived in the UK about a week before the show, "hold on wait a minute" (not sure if you know that phrase in a famous song – you need to say it like that if you know the song – I am not telling you what it is, go figure it out), I am sure you do not think that I just started work on the show a week before the event, trust me I have been working on the event for the past 9 months.
Normally I would be in town much earlier but there is just so much going on in Nigeria that I could not leave any earlier, so I get straight into town and start the fittings. We had two very intensive days of fittings. Let me break it down for you 40 plus models, 20 plus styling team, and over 65 designers to fit in two days that is a lot of work. Now I am not really talking about the actual fittings I am talking about it is a lot of work to deal with sooooooo many women. Thank you Lord for patience, by his grace I got through it - JUST!
Before I go on, to all the men that are reading this and are envious of me that I am around all these women and you have the wrong kind of thoughts going through your one track mind – behave - but more importantly you need to bear two things in mind –
One, for me it's like being a doctor – no big deal (stop calling me a liar) and two, most of you men as bad as you think you are, you know you can't handle two women at the same time, so imagine me having to deal with over 100 different women and every single one of them thinks she is something special (before I get into any trouble, ladies you were all very special – hopefully by saying this I have escaped with my life).
We had a few drama's but we got it done. Before I go onto chapter two I must talk about my fantastic Nigerian designers, i am referring to those that came from Nigeria not Nigerian designers that live in the UK. We are in season 3 of AFWL, so I now know the score, so when I was scheduling the fittings I moved most of the Nigerian designers that were coming from Nigeria all to the same day and I warned the team of what to expect and they did not disappoint me.
Despite them being sent the model board and them picking their models in advance, they arrived on the day and completely changed all of their models, I should ask for money back for my ink and all the wasted paper from printing off their model lists. it does not stop there, I had some designer that were given a fitting slot for Tuesday afternoon and they arrived on Wednesday evening – I am not joking I had a few like that. I had one designer who called me at 10am and said she would be there in the hour and she arrived at 7.30pm – for those of you that know me well – you already know what happened, before I even say it. I said sorry I can't do your fitting you need to come back the following morning at 8am and if you are late I won't fit you and you won't do the show.
Thats right, yes she was on time the next morning. Some of the designers were extremely rude, but I do understand why they were so and that cos they were trained by Alexander McQueen and are making millions of pounds every month. I say no more. As expected the second day of fittings was extremely more stressful. as i say this i must also be fair and say not all the designers took 2 hours to fit when they were only alloted 30 minutes and a number of them were on time, extremely professional and very well prepared.
It would not be fair to only say the designers were divas, as some of the models were no better and I had to ask a few to leave and the number one reason is this - you are booked to do a job and you take it voluntarily, no one held a gun to your head and then you arrive at the fitting and tell me that you want to leave by 3pm (we were to finish by 6pm), so that you can go to another casting – it's a bit like you being at work and telling your boss that instead of leaving work at 6pm you want to leave at 3pm so that you can start your other job early but you still expect your boss to pay you for the 3 hours that you are working somewhere else – I don't think so. The good thing is after sending a couple of models home we were left with the best and the two days of fittings went smoothly.
Chapter Two – Backstage
On the Thursday the day started very early for everyone as we had to be at the Old Truman Brewery (the venue) by 8.30am. The day started with some fittings for the designers that missed their fitting slot earlier in the week, then onto hair and makeup. As for me I was putting the final touches to the set design, sound and lighting working with the technical team and making sure everything was on point. I also did a walk through with the models and ensured they knew their routines and would walk like top models, we also did some filming for Arise TV which went out live. Hair was done by Mizani (L'Oreal – I know some of you would know that name better) and makeup was by Fashion Fair which was led by my main man Mr Gorgeous. So I had a great team behind me.
Throughout the entire 3 days of shows we had numerous film crews doing interviews and it seemed like 100's of photographers were always backstage taking pictures. Backstage this year was great as we had plenty of space so it was far easier to work and Malaika Mwaniki our head stylist was super well organised and ran it like a military camp.
Chapter Three – The Show
Our first show was at 4pm on the Thursday and the last show was at 8.30pm on the Saturday, throughout the 3 days we had 10 different shows and showcased over 60 plus designers. The range of designers was vast and the catwalk was an array of colours and styles ranged from street, to swimwear, to couture and was a mixture of student, new, aspiring and established designers. the youngest designer being 14 year old Tumisola Ladega, designers came from across the world including Switzerland, Zambia, Ghana, USA, Nigeria, the UK and South Africa. South Africa sent over a fantastic delegation of 9 of their best designers and in addition AFWL was privileged to have the phenomenal Thula Sindi showcase and it was nice working with one of Nigeria's hottest designers Zizi Cardow. I try not to mention designers individually but I loved working with Didi Creations, Moofa and Steve Mandy Designs who actually created a hand painted dress live on the catwalk whilst his collection was being showcased.
However in terms of producing a show, for me the one that I had most fun with and the designer that took it to another level in terms of the production of her designs, the thought behind her original music and me putting the finishing touches to her show was Elegante by tiannahstyling. It was one of the best shows I produced throughout AFWL and based on feedback, those that saw the show were blown away.
AFWL received press from across the world and was featured on the BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, Arise TV, the Flyer Newspaper, Naija Swagger and so many more media outlets, way too many to mention.
I must briefly talk about the music which was produced by AFWL music director Dj Homeboy of Homdiggy Muzik one of the top music production companies in the country, he had people on their feet throughout the whole show and people did not want the after party to end.
Chapter Four – What Else?
There was just so much going on, in terms of the exhibition – I managed to go round the exhibition area on the Saturday and I was amazed at the array of clothes, bags, shoes, food and services that were on display. The exhibition area was lively and vibrant, with music being played by DJ Abass. The women (and men) were dressed to kill and made sure that they would be noticed and they were. I saw men suffering from double vision as they did not know where to look when it came to the women that were at AFWL and those attending with their wives were being slapped around the head for comitting lookery.
This was generally a stress free show (not that any show can really be stress free) but I did not shout much and I think we had it locked down in terms of producing the show.
Chapter Five - The Dorchester
I bet some of you thought that it ended at the Old Turman Brewery on the Saturday, it did not as on the Sunday we had the African Arts & Fashion Exhibition which was a prestigious gala event hosted by AFWL life patron Princess Fifi Ejindu. The stars were out in force with the likes of Alexandra Burke, Bianca Jagger, June Sarpong, Nadia Buari, super model Noella Musunka, Singer Shingai Shoniwa, Misha B and was hosted by Sky TV presenter Lukwesa Burak and a great performance by the CEO Dancers, everyone seems to love them.
The event could not be complete without a fashion show which featured 8 of Africa's hottest designers – Zizi Cardow, Thula Sindi, Adebayo Jones, Sally Itiego, Moofa, Ella & Gabby, Gisella Boutique and Kitiko.
It was a very glamorous affair with a sumptuous three course dinner, I can only say that it looked sumptuous as I didn't get to eat any of it, but it looked good and it definitely made me hungry. I cant believe I did an event at the Dorchester and did not get to eat – Ronke I am upset oh.
Overall AFWL was amongst the best events I have produced in recent times and I must commend Ronke Ademiluyi the founder of AFWL and her team for a fantastic job that they did. More importantly she must be given credit for assisting designers that would not normally be given the chance to showcase at an international standard fashion week and she was able to bring the eyes of the world to the event.
Check out the album below as well as the different pictures and comments on my FACEBOOK PAGE – feel free to leave your comments.
It's enough now, go and do something else I am tired.
The biggest problem I am having is I don't really seem to have anything that is worth talking about, this is partly because all the things I really want to talk about would upset some people and bearing in mind nobody wants to invite me anywhere anymore I have to be careful not to alienate people any further so that the one invitation each year I get to an event won't be withdrawn as well.
I think by now you have gathered that I have absolutely nothing to talk about.
You do however deserve something so let's get down to some nitty gritty and back to a former favourite old subject I use to cover called Moan & Groans.
Moan & Groans...
You Have To Work To Be Successful...
Some promoters and organisers of competitions may be able to relate to this one. What is it with competition winners, such as those that compete in beauty pageants, modelling or talent competitions that feel that once they have won a competition that all they have to do is sit at home and watch East Enders and success would just drop on their lap. Wake up, nothing ever comes for free and without hard work, even if you win the lottery you still have to go and buy a ticket at the shop, check the result and if you did win you would have to go and collect your winnings – so you still have to do something.
Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh, what makes some of them think that once they have won they would become superstars and make loads of money by doing nothing, then to make it worse they get upset and jealous of other contestants that decide they are going to use being in the competition to progress their career.
I have seen this happen so many times and I guess that it would be unfair to name particular competitions but I have seen people that have placed second runner up do 100 times better than the person that won, got immense publicity, mixed with the stars , got numerous jobs and became a household name and I admire this particular young lady for her tenacity, strength and perseverance especially bearing in mind the winner and others tried to shut her out of things.
My advice to the organisers is that if you wish to promote your brand you have to adopt the Simon Cowell / Mr Mahogany attitude which is only work with those that want to go places and DUMP those that don't as it a waste of your time and energy.
On this particular issue I will end by saying that jealousy and envy is not good for the soul, since Nana Afua Antwi won season 6 of Top Model of Colour, alongside her admirers she has had a lot of criticism and nasty comments from wanna be and some established models that are jealous of her success, people like Nana and a model I will name as Sro work very hard for what they have achieved, as much as possible they have nice demeanours, are professional, courteous, ambitious, they make the calls, they attend events when they have no money, they talk to people and sell themselves, they market themselves and try and attract positive publicity – they pay their dues. Models, they have not got their success from just sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring, so look towards people like Nana Antwi, Sro and Rachael Williams as inspirations and stop hating.
I Don't Know You, So Stop Talking About Me...
I think age sometimes has a negative effect on people and in this case I am actually referring to myself as I cannot believe how much I have calmed down and that I have been so nice as not to be naming names in my blog, but it is getting to that stage that is enough is enough and if people want to continue slandering my name all over the place I will have no alternative but to declare war and people I fight dirty.
On one hand I take it as a compliment that people feel I am worthy to be spoken about whether it be good or bad however the problem I have is when people say I said something and I didn't. Some of you know me very well and know that I say it as it is (this may not always be a good thing) but at least I am honest and if I have something to say about you I can and will say it to your face. At that point if you disagree with what I say you have the right to cuss me out, slap me or agree with me, I don't feel that I am horrible for the sake of it and hopefully I just say the truth.
Recently I have had a couple of different people, who will remain nameless talk about me to people I know and have lied blatantly to them, saying I said what I didn't say and there is one woman in particular that has been doing this – now before you start thinking that it is the fury of a woman scorned, I can assure you I have never met this woman in my life, I know of her but if I walked passed her on the street I would not know her. To a variety of different people she has said I have said things about them which has caused problems for me with regards to our relationship (o by the way if someone says I said something about you, pick up the dam phone and ask me if I said it and if I did I would tell you or put it into context and if I say to you I did not say it then trust me I did not). Sorry back to this woman, she also has been running down my business and what I do, which is cool as all businesses get criticism but this is different, this is just nasty comments for the sake of it and trying to take away business from me, my friends, my family, my village and anyone else I have ever bought Macdonalds for.
Enough is enough and if I hear one more thing from this woman I am putting her on notice I am coming for you. For those of you in the fashion industry I will give some clues as to whom I am referring to – she is a designer, a stylist and I think she claims to be a show producer (MEOW) and she sees a lot, the last one is cryptic clue.
I would like to congratulate the Mahogany and Fashions Finest team on the multiple awards that either our models or our companies have been nominated for and they include
Magazine of the year: Fashions Finest
Best Events Promoter: Mahogany International and Fashions Finest
Best Photographer: iDeLick Media (official Fashions Finest Photographer)
Best Female Fashion Designer: Adopted Culture (Design Label of TMC Season 6 Winner & Mahogany Model Nana Antwi)
Best Male Model: Ibukun Jegede (TMC Season 3 Winner) & Jason Daniel Best (TMC Season 5 Winner)
Best Female Model: Nana Afua Antwi, Samantha Watson, Gisela Wanjiru Greiner & Abie Koroma, (All Mahogany Models)
Best Modelling Agency: Mahogany Models
Best Wardrobe Stylist: Samantha Watson (a Mahogany Model)
Across the board including models and TMC winners we have a total of 13 Nominations.
Please VOTE FOR US
The Beffta's will be taking place on 22nd October (BEFFTA stands for Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television & Arts Awards)
Don't forget not to miss out on the biggest event of the year, The Screen Nation Film & TV Awards 2011 annual ceremony aka the 'Black Baftas', celebrating outstanding achievements and diversity on the British screen, will take place on Sunday the 16th October 2011 at the indigO2, hosted by one of TV's favourite couples Angellica Bell and Michael Underwood. PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS HERE
Fashions Finest are pleased to be one of the main media sponsors of this event.
This was meant to be a short blog but I got carried away moaning about people, anyway on a lighter mood watch this video, its a little bit old but it was sent to me by MBD and I thought incase you missed it, its worth the watch.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO NIGERIA FROM A PROUD NIGERIAN!
WRITTEN BY SOPHIA BAKER
In this feature we will be addressing the lack of black model in high end fashion magazines and why that is so. When I first began my research into the black models in the UK and the US, I knew I would come across some unpleasant truths but I did not expect to feel totally deflated by when I concluded my research.
Firstly let us look back to a time when black women were dominant in the media. In Paris 1921, Miss Josephine Baker a performer, with an audience of the rich and white set the standard for others to follow and opened the door for other black women. Of course she encountered opposition and prejudice but generally she was adored, praised, envied and lusted after by both men and women. Paris was more open to different races it would seem and there were black models gracing the runways in the 1940s and 1950s. But although all appeared well, Josephine and other young black women were still subjected to racism and seen as freaks or savages. Similar to what Sarah Baartman experienced when she was brought over from her native South Africa in 1810 and paraded as a freak in a circus because of her big bottom. You might ask well how does that relate to black women today, why is it relevant? Well it helps for us to understand what the audience viewed black women as. Why were they subjected to abuse while their white counterparts were not?
It goes back to what beauty meant at the time. Beauty was something that could was understandable, something conventional and unlikely to offend. A black woman could be considered completely beautiful, have flawless skin, great bone structure but if her skin was too dark, well that was unacceptable and incomprehensible for blacks and whites. Afua Adom features editor of Pride magazine and a freelance fashion stylist says, 'I know loads of black models who have experienced racism in the industry. Apparently mainstream won't be able to relate to a black model'. Who on earth could change the perceptions of the white gaze in the 1950s? Maybe Helen William's, the model who had the aquiline nose, big oval eyes, perfect lips – not too big. The girl who was offensively described as a white girl dipped in chocolate (by other black women). Although extremely offensive, that did not stop William's from breaking through to 'white' magazines. There was a place for dark skinned woman after all and Helen opened the door.
Black women were breaking all kinds of barriers down. In the 1960s, British icon Donyale Luna became the first black model to feature on the cover of UK Vogue in 1966. Beverly Johnson became the first black model to feature on the cover of US Vogue in 1974. Tyra Bank's was on the cover of the best selling Sports illustrated in 1997. There were many firsts before and after these models and to date the Black Issue of Italian Vogue is still their highest seller. 'It was intended to be the worse selling issue but my campaign on Facebook helped it to sell out twice! I had a point to make', explains Sola director of Mahogany International Models.
French designers such as Givenchy, Christian Lacrois and Yves Saint Laurent preferred to use black models at one time but when Spaniard Paco Rabanne used Jamaican model Kelly Williams in one of his shows, there was outrage and controversy. The reaction from the audience was shock and disgust claiming that fashion was for whites not blacks. Hiro, a fashion photographer who worked for Harpers Bazaar at the time, was given an assignment in Kenya and requested a black model. It seemed logical that a black model would suit the surroundings more than a white model. His request was refused and so he turned down that job. Nick Knight is another fashion photographer, known for using unconventional models. In his video 'untitled' he expressed, 'I am virtually never allowed to photograph black models and usually no excuse is given'. Vivienne Westwood and Naomi Campbell have also expressed their views on the lack of black models represented in the industry. It would seem that this is not a new subject and yet there is nothing happening about it.
What is the real issue with using black models? Who are these high end magazines marketing to? The answer is the white and the wealthy. Sola says 'It is purely about money and opportunistic. When Italian Vogue made their black issue, it was around the time of Obama being elected as President and tied in nicely with current affairs. It was never about promoting black models'. This brings us back to the issue of black models don't sell. At least not to the intended market; how could a white woman relate to a black woman's shape, hair, and the way the clothes appear on them? So is it only about commerce or does race play a bigger role? In, 1976 when Iman appeared wearing clothes made by prominent designers such as YSL, Issey Miyake, Versace and many others, she appealed to the masses and was very successful for 14 years. But according to editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine from 1965-1997 Helen Gurley Brown, black would offend readers. It seemed like there was one rule for runways and another for magazine covers and editorials. Magazines typically stayed within a standard, and didn't stray too far from it. The publications did not want to alienate its audience. When Harpers Bazaar used Elizabeth Princess of Toro on their cover in 1969, they put a white model alongside her just in case they stood to alienate any of their regular readers. This ultimately diluted the presence of Elizabeth on the cover. There seemed to be a kind of Fascism when it comes to the industry. One has to be of the Aryan race, all blonde with blue eyes to exist. Fashion is all about the unobtainable, they don't want everyone to be able to get the nicer things in life. It is all about commerce and has never been about representing the colours of the world. So why not just accept that? I can't...
The world is so behind. Everyone seems to believe that we have more moved forward in terms of acceptance but in reality, it feels like the button is firmly pressed on pause. Sometimes it plays in slow motion and we get a breakthrough. After all, we have models such as Naomi and Alex Wek who have sustained a long career in this harsh business. Then we have the hopefuls, Jourdan Dun, Ajuma Nasenyana, Chanel Iman, Ajak Deng and Rose Cordero. All of which are stunning us and taking our breath away with their beauty. They reflect a wide range of black women and so therefore do not alienate black woman who do not fit the white girl dipped in chocolate mould. But we need more and soon. Of course there is racism in this business. And maybe there always will be in countries that are predominately white. Although we have had high profile figures in the industry who have spoken about it, no one is speaking now. The media has pacified the black public by making them believe that is has changed. They gave us the Black Issue of Italian Vogue (published only in Italian) in 2008. That was nearly three years ago. Hopefully with the exposure of these new black models they will be used more consistently and it is not just a replay of the 60s.
I think it is important that black models are seen as beautiful models and not beautiful 'black' models. Just why can't the model be beautiful and that is it? As demonstrated on the Channel Four series 'The Model Agency', new face Leomie Anderson was told she was 'one of the top breakthrough black models'. In which she replied 'aww that's nice' and appeared grateful for the title. I could almost hear her thinking why she could not just be breakthrough? Why black?
Fashion photographer Oliviero Toscani, had the right idea for his United Colours of Benetton campaigns. He used all kinds of people. He used people from the streets to reflect everyday life and what Benetton represented, their motto being 'All the colours of the world'. One day I hope to see all these colours because they are beautiful being black is not a trend, we are here to stay!