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The Faces of the Season

· Models · , , , , ,

The spring 2016 ready-to-wear shows have just concluded, and with each season comes a brand new crop of fresh faces. Sure, the industry is still a bit behind in terms of diversity, making for less than interesting castings across the board. However, there were a few positives that stood out. On one hand, newcomers who debuted last season, at the resort 2016 shows, and at the fall 2015 haute couture shows really shined; Lineisy Montero walked more shows than anyone else, while girls like Karly Loyce, Amilna Estevão, Pooja Mor, and Aamito Lagum also racked up some seriously impressive résumés this season. With the exciting success of these fascinating models transcending more than just one season, they’ve paved the way for even more captivating beauty during the latest show circuit. Cue the latest group that really broke through this season, some with previous modeling experience, others who took their first steps on the runway at the start of Fashion Month.

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Photo Courtesy BoF

A Problem Worth Solving

· Runway, Thoughts · , , , , ,

Fashion Month just concluded, and according to Business of Fashion, out of the 3,875 model bookings only 797 were models of color. This means about 79.4% of the models who walked in the recent shows in New York, London, Milan, and Paris were white. Only 10.2% were black, 6.5% were Asian, 2.3% were of South Asian, Indian, and/or Middle Eastern descent, and just 1.6% were Hispanic or Latina. Though technically an improvement, there is only a three percentage point difference from the spring 2015 ready-to-wear shows a year ago. And whitewashed runways lead to whitewashed editorials and ad campaigns; out of the 611 covers published by the 44 biggest magazines in fashion in 2014, just 18% featured people of color, while about 90% of advertisements featured white models.

We’re going to drop the objective journalistic act for a second and say that this is bullshit.

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Samantha Wolov for Velour Magazine

The Ones to Watch

· Models · , , , , , , , ,

Every season, countless new faces come down the runways, pop up in ads and editorials, or make other noteworthy appearances that get the fashion world talking. Unfortunately with the fast pace of the modeling world, the majority of those new faces seem to be forgettable, bland, or whitewashed. But there are always exceptions, and exceptions are often where the magic happens. Here’s our selection of some of the most captivating faces of the moment:

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Photo Courtesy swimsuitsforall

Size Me Up, Size Me Down

· Models, Thoughts · , , , , ,

There’s a lot to be discussed when it comes to models’ sizes, and we can start by looking at the recently released Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Of course, the traditional archetype for Sports Illustrated is just as thin as any sample-size runway model, but many are commending the publication for running ads for swimwear label swimsuitsforall featuring size-16 model, Ashley Graham. There’s no denying the progress being made by finally showing the world something other than the traditional imagery we’re given, and Graham looks fantastic. But there’s one thing we can’t help but ask: why do full-figured models have to be represented almost exclusively in a sexual context?

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From Puberty to Prada

· Models, Thoughts · , , , ,

In recent years, there have been major improvements in terms of age regulations within the modeling industry. However, the discussion of age in fashion has almost completely gone silent, even though there are still several girls entering this chaotic lifestyle at a very young age. 


 

At 14, Jane* was told that she could be a star. An enthusiastic talent agent scouted her in a crowded New York City Starbucks on a warm summer afternoon, and she signed with the Ford Modeling Agency less than a month later.

“I felt like I was Cinderella,” Jane says about her initial experience as a fashion model. “Complete with the beautiful slippers.”

However, Jane soon realized that her new career came with an abundance of pressure, and she began to witness the harsh reality of the fashion industry. “I saw a lot of the girls around me change themselves to please clients,” she says. “Most of the girls I worked with were just teenagers, and they were definitely taken advantage of and manipulated to fit in.”

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Photo Courtesy Dolce & Gabbana via Refinery 29

Let’s Talk About Diversity

· Thoughts · , , , ,

There’s a common sentiment these days that we live in a post-racist world; to many, racism is a thing of the past, something that we’ve completely moved away from. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, especially in the context of fashion. It’s something that often goes unnoticed in the midst of the industry’s fast pace, something that seems brushed aside and undermined.

It’s been brought up before, but we’re not done talking.

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On Our Radar: Aya Jones

· Models, The Come-Up · , , , , , ,

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Casting at the spring 2015 ready-to-wear shows was beyond atrocious, with too many whitewashed lineups of forgettable faces. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few standouts. Take, for example, Aya Jones N’Guessan.

Aya first grabbed our attention when she walked exclusively for Prada in Milan. Surprisingly one of the more impressive casts of the season (see Gemma, Malaika, Stam, Lara, Issa, and more), it would be easy for any new face to get lost in the mix. But that’s the thing: Aya’s not just another new face. With a virtually immaculate appearance, reminiscent of early 90s Naomi and a touch of FKA Twigs, this stunner is bringing real beauty back to the runways; no shade to any other models of the moment, but how often do we see a human being this beautiful?

Not surprisingly, her turn at Prada got a lot of other designers’ attention when Paris Fashion Week rolled around. The world was blessed to see Aya Jones at Nina Ricci, Paco Rabanne, Maison Martin Margiela, Viktor & Rolf, Sacai, Giambattista Valli, Sonia Rykiel, Valentino, and Miu Miu (did we miss any?). To debut halfway through the show circuit and garner so much buzz is pretty impressive, so we can hope that big things are ahead for this gorgeous rookie.

Check out some more photos of Aya Jones N’Guessan below, and let us know what you think of this new face!

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Photo: Tiziana Fabi. Source: AFP

The Casting Catastrophe

· Models, Runway, Thoughts · , , , , , ,
Photo: Tiziana Fabi. Source: AFP

Photo: Tiziana Fabi. Source: AFP

The lights dimmed, and the first statuesque figure turned the corner around the massive purple sand dunes at the spring 2015 Prada show. There she was. After six long years since a runway appearance, and even after she allegedly quit modeling for good, Gemma Ward was back. Many could state that her appearance suggests a restoration of the days when models had recognizable names, faces, and personas. Sure, the era of the supermodel was long-gone by the time Ward and her contemporaries had peaked in the mid-2000s, but memorable, unique, and multifaceted beauty was still in. These days, that’s not the case.

Sure, some other notable industry icons walked the runways this season besides just Gemma Ward. Lara Stone made a rare runway appearance at Prada, too, as did Jessica Stam. Stam also popped up at Public School in New York, Mugler in Paris, and many more shows this season. Meanwhile, Naomi Campbell, Mariacarla Boscono, Natasha Poly, Jourdan Dunn, Karlie Kloss, and other established mannequins counteracted the larger trend of the “blank slate.” But aside from a handful of girls who embody what it means to be a model, this season’s casting was the saddest yet.

Is this really what the fashion industry is coming to? While the idea of a model being a “blank slate” was originally intended to place a higher emphasis on the clothes, all-white casts of – for lack of a better word – strikingly unattractive teenagers has become an even bigger distraction.

Of course, the biggest problem with the casting this season was the lack of diversity. It comes as a major shock that after a couple seasons of mild improvements, casts have been seemingly more whitewashed than ever before. The bad habits reared their ugly heads once again: one or two black models was the norm at most shows, with even less Asian models on the runways, and almost no models of South Asian, Middle Eastern, or Latina descent. Some even thought it would be okay to send all of their models of color down the runway at once.

Did we all forget about Bethann Hardison‘s amazing work in an attempt to diversify the runways less than a year ago? Hardison just received a CFDA award a few months ago for her efforts. Has that just been erased from everyone’s memory? The usual perpetrators were back at it this season. Casts appeared whiter than ever at Calvin Klein, Rodarte, Jil Sander, Céline, John Galliano, Dior, Proenza Schouler, and more. Meanwhile, Simon Porte Jacquemus deleted comments and blocked users on Instagram who criticized his all-white cast, stating offense because of his supposed obsession with women who look like his mother. Sorry, but the Oedipus Complex doesn’t qualify as a valid excuse for racist casting.

Even labels with typically diverse casts fell behind this season. Riccardo Tisci previously mentioned his advocacy of diversity on the runway, but at his latest show for Givenchy, that didn’t translate. Nor did Tom Ford’s penchant for a cast of multiethnic sex bombs; does Natalie Westling’s excruciating hobble really represent this label?

This issue poses an even bigger problem that people might not be conscious of. Again, models aren’t the household names that they once were, save Cara, Karlie, Gisele, and their contemporaries. But models are still everywhere. The girls that walk all of these shows will be the ones to snatch up the advertisements, and these large-scale visions of what is beautiful will perpetuate and even worsen the already twisted beauty standards around the globe. Why would a brand want to be seen as a bastion of white supremacy, represented by a hard-to-look-at 16-year-old nonetheless? And for the casting supposedly “based on socioeconomics,” why would you want to alienate yourself completely from certain groups?

On the bright side, there are still a few brands whose presentations should be commended. Of course, there’s always room to be improved in this department, but labels like Balmain, Burberry Prorsum, Diane von Furstenberg, and Rick Owens showed that it is possible to cast a more diverse range of models, while recognizable faces of all ethnic backgrounds don’t take away from the clothes. Meanwhile, relative newcomers like Malaika Firth, Issa Lish, Binx Walton, Bhumika Arora, Leila Nda, and Aya Jones provided a hopeful view of the multiethnic runways and memorable figures to come. The struggle towards diversifying the runway isn’t about all-black, all-Asian, or all-any other type of show. Instead, it shouldn’t be seen as some type of major surprise if a lineup consists of a proportionate amount of models from various ethnicities. There’s a time and a place for Harleth Kuusik, and there’s no reason why she can’t walk the runway alongside girls like Dylan Xue and Emely Montero.

Of course, there is so much more to this issue; we haven’t even touched menswear, and we could get way more in-depth from a sociological and historical framework. To the people getting annoyed by the incessant discussion of this topic in the fashion sphere: it’s just as annoying to have to keep bringing it up. This piece isn’t meant to call out a bunch of designers, cyber-bully models, or cause unnecessary Internet drama within the industry. None of the designers’ immense talent is in question, as even some of the most disappointing casts carried some insanely beautiful work. But it’s time to wake up. If calling out racist actions causes a stir, then maybe that’s what the industry needs. This isn’t the 1950s (not that racism was ever okay), and it’s time for the fashion industry to catch up to the rest of the world. And while this type of change won’t happen overnight, we could at least start seeing more unique beauties like in years past. Let’s hope that Gemma Ward’s return will usher in a resurgence of inspiring, immensely beautiful fashion models, and let’s hope that diversity comes along with it.

 

Tell us how you feel about the current climate of the modeling industry, and don’t hesitate to repost and share this article.

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On Our Radar: Bhumika Arora

· Models, The Come-Up · , , , , ,

 

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When you get discovered based on your selfies, it’s safe to say you’ve got something special going on. That’s definitely the case when it comes to 22-year-old Delhi, India native, Bhumika Arora. A photographer discovered her social media photos and offered to help her develop her portfolio for free, which ultimately catapulted her onto some of Paris’ most prestigious runways; in case you missed her, Bhumika walked for names like Maxime Simoëns, Viktor & Rolf, and Dries Van Noten, putting her astonishingly beautiful face on the map.

We hope to see Bhumika Arora’s runway and editorial bookings quickly increase in the near future, as her look is different from that of the majority of her contemporaries. What’s even more exciting is seeing another stunning South Asian woman being represented in the fashion industry; with the push towards diversifying fashion, it’s important to finally recognize multifaceted beauty. Here’s to a successful career to Bhumika Arora!

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All photos via Models.com

Courtesy Ralph Lauren

A Rising Force

· Models · , , , , , , , ,
Courtesy Ralph Lauren

Courtesy Ralph Lauren

You may or may not recognize stunning Somalian-born catwalker Fatima Siad from the 10th cycle of America’s Next Top Model, Tyra Banks’ insanely popular reality TV competition. Let’s be real, ANTM rarely produces an actual top model, as most of these girls – though beautiful and often full of potential – seldom go on to book legitimate high fashion jobs. But Fatima’s broken that mold, with her presence in the industry becoming more and more noticeable.

After coming in third place during her cycle of the competition, Siad eventually signed to New York Model Management, booking a substantial series of editorials in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Women’s Wear Daily and many more A-list publications. But things really took off in recent years, as Siad began to appear in top-tier runway shows and substantially more noteworthy print work. Along with Arbonne, Aveda, Avon, Armani Exchange and BCBG Max Azria ads, she had an excellent spring 2012 runway season, walking for Dries Van Noten, Hermès, Andrew Gn and Moncler Gamme Rouge, to name a few. Her successful season led to an ad campaign for Hervé Léger and a spot in Giorgio Armani’s “One Night Only” show.

Fatima proved that ANTM contestants can in fact take their potential beyond a television screen, making her mark in just one short season. But that was just the beginning, as she followed up a brief absence from the scene with even more remarkable appearances. Moving to global powerhouse agency, IMG, the fall 2014 shows had Fatima working for the likes of Tome, Emilia Wickstead, J. Crew, Jonathan Simkhai, Dennis Basso and Ralph Lauren. The latter cast the model in the label’s spring 2014 ad campaign, sealing the deal as a girl to keep an eye on.

While the 27-year-old’s ability to transcend age constraints and reality TV recognition is commendable, her bravery in the discussion of her past are even more moving. Siad was a victim of female genital mutilation, a traumatizing practice that still continues in many African regions, while her and her mother came to America when she was 13 years old after her sister’s were killed in the Somalian Civil War. Both a striking face and an influential voice, this is just the beginning for Fatima Siad. Let’s hope to see much more of her during this week’s shows in Paris.

Courtesy Aveda

Courtesy Aveda

Courtesy Arise Magazine

Courtesy Arise Magazine

Left to Right: Alexandre Vauthier, Dries Van Noten, Hermès. Courtesy Style.com

Left to Right: Alexandre Vauthier, Dries Van Noten, Hermès. Courtesy Style.com

Courtesy Hervé Léger

Courtesy Hervé Léger

Walking for Hermès. courtesy Getty Images

Walking for Hermès. courtesy Getty Images

Walking for Ralph Lauren. Courtesy Style.com

Walking for Ralph Lauren. Courtesy Style.com