by Morgan Robinson
Fashion houses are usually the pioneers of innovation and experimentation. One of the first ways people begin to express themselves and embrace their identity is through exploring fashion. We become more and more inspired to cultivate our own look after seeing unique, bold clothes and accessories on the runway or in advertisements. Despite the powerful, creative role fashion plays in empowering the individual, it can be hard for everyone to become inspired when most of the campaigns produced these days are rather…unrepresentative. It may come as no surprise, but the fashion industry is still lacking in progress in one area in particular: diversity.
Even though the lack of diversity in the fashion world may be unintentional, not much has been actively done to rectify the issue. The canon of ideal beauty in the industry for the most part has been aligned with western beauty standards. Women of color, plus size models, and other minorities are mysteriously absent from fashion advertisements. When more diverse models are included in these campaigns, the tokenism is very apparent and the representation seems more forced than anything.
With the lack of inclusion in industry, some brands are making it their personal duty to break the status quo. Get ready for a game changer…Gucci’s new Pre-Fall 2017 campaign only features black models.
Gucci is finally giving the marginalized and underrepresented black community a chance to play out their fashion fantasies vicariously with a campaign full of melanin. As reported by Essence, the Pre-Fall campaign titled “Soul Scene” is influenced by black youth in the 1960’s and the England Northern Soul movement. Creative director Alessandro Michele (who has singlehandedly refreshed the brand) was inspired by photographer Malick Sidibé who was famous for his dynamic pictures of the party culture in his hometown Bamako in Mali. As quoted from a press release, the campaign “explores the freedom of expression found in music and dance.”
The exclusively black cast includes models like Nicole Atieno, Elibeidy, Bakay Diaby, and Keiron Berton Caynes. Photographer Glen Luchford shot the campaign in the Mildmay Club in London. In a Business of Fashion piece, casting director James Scully confidently stated that this work “has the potential to be a game changer. This could reset the damage done and start the business back on the road of inclusiveness.” In the past, Scully has been critical of the modeling industry’s “cruel” and racist treatment of models. Even though we live a fairly progressive era, there still needs to be more attention to and consciousness towards race and identity politics. Unfortunately, discrimination still runs rampant in the modeling world and women of color find it harder to secure the same opportunities as their white peers. A diversity runway report from Fashion Spot calculated that only about 24.75% of models on the Fall 2016 runway were people of color.
So, will this Gucci campaign really live up to its claim of changing the game? In some respects, we have to give credit to Gucci for making an assertive statement about inclusion in the fashion industry. Black models proudly take center stage, and we’re really excited about that.
Having diverse races in advertisements isn’t just a social or political question, but also a question of artistic inspiration. More diversity broadens the ideas of what is fashionable and what is beautiful. We are bombarded with images on media all day long, and they play a big role in shaping our mindset. Having more advertisements that appreciate various types of beauty could be a catalyst in changing the previously exclusive culture.
However, this campaign also leaves room for a lot of other questions. Is Gucci’s use of only black models too forced in its attempt to send a shocking message? Is the campaign somehow implicitly exclusive? Is the funky, soul vibe of the campaign too gimmicky by showing the most derivative, stereotypical depictions of black culture?
When depicting minority cultures, brands still have to be aware of whether the representation is fun and accurate or borderline offensive or appropriative.
Each viewer will ultimately have a different reaction. For now, we’ll wait for other brands to step up to the plate and follow suit with Gucci by producing more creative, diverse campaigns.
Is this Gucci pre-Fall 2017 campaign a YAY or NAY for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts on BopTalk.
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