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 happened to be on the tube train, yes I did take public transport – sadly, no car to drive as I am just visiting and I just did not feel like hiring a car and then having to pay congestion charges and have nowhere to park it – what a city. As I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, I was on the train and someone left behind a copy of the Evening Standard and as I had a long cold ride on the tube I decided to flick through it and have a read and I came across an interesting article on page 20/21 entitled "Where are all the black models on our catwalks?".
In brief Iman, Naomi Campbell and Bethann Hardison have teamed up to launch a campaign to combat fashions 'virtual white-out". It is a sad state of affairs when she states there were more models of colour used in the 70's when racism was rift then now in 2013. An in depth research was done across all four of the big fashion weeks (London, Paris, Milan and New York) and only 6% of the total models used were models of colour.
HERE WHAT NAOMI CAMPBELL HAD TO SAY ABOUT IT ON SKY NEWS
The figures above do not surprise me in anyway whatsoever and I could have saved them money by not paying to do the research as you can see that models of colour are not being used anywhere. Similar to when I did the Italia Vogue All Black Issue it was simply about having the necessary facts needed to back up their arguments. I love Iman as she shoots straight from the hip and says it is blatant racism.
The coalition goes on to list the designers and fashion houses they say are "guilty of this racist act" and I can't say you would be surprised at the names listed which include, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Chanel, Armani, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Victoria Beckham ( sorry I have to add an extra comment here but to me from time she allegedly looks like a racist – I apologise to any Victoria Beckham fans that I have offended), Roberto Cavalli and Marc by Marc Jacobs.
The above is a very impressive list, one that I would not want to be a part of. I will come back to all of this later but I want to briefly talk about London Fashion Week. At the moment there are three big main shows, British Fashion Council (on schedule), Fashion Scout (off schedule) and Fashions Finest (off schedule). The first two shows are seen as mainstream and feature mainstream designers and rarely have any black models, Fashion Scout has at least one or two more than British Fashion Council shows, but listen to this our Show Fashions Finest was described as a "black" show (this was said by a white person). Was I surprised by this, yes I was and I was surprised because as far I was concerned I did not see our show in terms of the colour of our designers but simply that we had a good designers. Then again I suppose I am being naïve as the moment you have more than one black designer and two black models at a show then duh it must be a black show. It's irrelevant that we had white designers, Polish and English models at the show and the ratio of black/white models and designers was evenly balanced in the eyes of mainstream our shows are black shows.Mr Mahogany's Commentary:
I applaud the three super divas (said in the nicest of ways) for their initiation of this campaign and I applaud Iman even more for her stance that she would not spend her money with any designer that refuses to use black models. I just wish that more of us would take that stand and stop putting money into the pockets of those that refuse to use us in their shows or campaigns but are very happy to take our money and grow rich.
I do hope that one day especially our women will wake up to this slap in the face and stop spending money with these designers, the only way to teach them a lesson is to hit them where it hurts them the most - in their wallet.
It is absolutely outstanding that Iman and co have the courage to actually name and shame the designers and as far as I am concerned it's about time too. The beauty of it all is they can't be sued because there is documentary evidence to prove their claim.
Fashions Finest has no regrets for being viewed as we are because we have become and I can say it categorically the biggest and only multicultural show during London Fashion Week.
Even though the black community is not vocal about their outrage at the lack of recognition for people of colour on the fashion catwalks of the world, either by the showing of models or designers at the big shows at least black people particularly Africans have started trying to do something about it. This can been seen by the wave of independent fashion weeks that are springing up around the world particularly the Africa Fashion Week's such as Africa Fashion Week London and Africa Fashion Week New York to name just two of the biggest amongst the 10 or more shows there are around the world. The message is we can do bad all by ourselves.
I don't think things will ever change amongst the designers and the owners of the official big four fashion weeks unless there is a massive public outcry or legislation is introduced and that is never going to happen, simply because unlike Jewish and Asian people black people just accept things, we moan quietly in our homes but don't have the guts and the courage to stand up and fight for what we complain about. I say it all the time and people laugh at me but part of the reason why I don't get any recognition within mainstream despite what I have achieved is because I have and I am prepared to rock the establishment boat, but sadly the likes of myself and Angel Sinclair cannot change the world by ourselves.
It reminds me when I hear black people complain that black people don't win such shows as X Factor, Britains Got Talent etc – very simply put it's because you won't vote either cos you are too damn cheap or just can't be bothered, but you can be bothered to complain (the use of YOU is not aimed at you personally that is reading this blog, it's just a general term I use), however if you do feel you fit the mould then I say no more.
If there is anything I can do to support this campaign you can trust me that I will be screaming from the rooftops and if any of you wish to join me, I have an enormously big roof.
The comments he left underneath the picture were as follows (I have left the comments unedited);
"i thought this was african fashion week so where are the africans... take a leaf out of burberry, calvin klein etc So why dont we see more and its only the token one we see yet on ours we give even a bigger proportion. Im well in tuned with the fashion industry and had friends turned down for syupid reasons. Why call it African week then. Hello well if 95% of your models are African then lets see more of them as those u keep on publishing do tally with your response. I am not being misled by the colour of the skin and fully aware there are whites not only in South Africa but also in the eastern part of Africa. I am not alone who noticed this but friends of mine also but have decided to reserve their comments. In future think about what the African event stands for as if it was European or other parts of the globe this would of been considered and equality would not come into play. Its just an advice not a criticism pls note"
I love it when he says its just advice and not criticism - according to the English Oxford Dictionary Criticism is deifned as "the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes" ok I know I am Nigerian and my English is not very good, but to me it sounds like his comments fall under the definition of criticism but who the hell is he to give us advice; when he is spending the money AFWL spent on the show, or he becomes a sponsor or is one of the 100's of people that worked on the show or better still he actually attended the show, then I would very much welcome his advice but at the moment I take it as criticism.
My View on the above:
Yes I am so going to rant, infact I have already started, as it riles me up big time that after all the effort that was put into AFWL and the money spent, the only thing this man could pick up upon was the fact that in his view we had too many non-African models or AFWL was purposely only putting up pictures of the nonblack models on the website and Facebook page.
Before I go on let me break it down for all of you with some hard core facts about the models used.
We had 38 models in total
- 3 white models
- 2 Brazilian (I guest under his definition they are white as well)
- 1 male Asian model
- The rest of the models were either black African/Caribbean or models of dual heritage whom under normal standards are considered as black
I am sooooooooooo confused, so he is saying that we must be like the rest of the world and discriminate against a good model because of the colour of her skin. AFWL is about being inclusive and we welcome models, designers and visitors of any colour or nationality and no matter what people say we would continue to promote all types of models and designers. It just amazes me that people can be so short sighted. I believe that if you have nothing good or positive to say then just SHUT YOUR MOUTH, it's not by force that you must say something especially if it is rubbish.
If he thinks that we did not do a good job then he should go spend £100k and do his own show. He stated that his friends felt the same way, well to that one I say birds of a feather flock together. I think his comments are disrespectful to all of the models not just the non-black models and gives the impression that we don't value our black models.
I have been working in this industry for over 35 years and I have fought hard to the detriment of my business and financial benefit (and I also think that is why I have not yet received my MBE), to make sure that black models, designers and black businesses are given a fair chance to succeed and to have someone say that we are favouring white people over our own, seriously pisses me off (I guess you can tell from my blog).
However I may be wrong and maybe when I was selecting the models I did have far more non black models than models of colour and if that is the case I am man enough to take the criticism, so please feel free to leave your comments on the AFWL page with your honest thoughts (this is the link).
I am particularly keen to hear from the models, designers and those that actually attended the show and once I see the feedback – good or bad I will do a part two to this saga.
For now I need to take a cold shower to calm down and for my readers that really let their thoughts go wild please note that is the only reason I am taking a cold shower.