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Yet Again Black Designers Lack Representation

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Aug. 10 2018, Published 2:48 p.m. ET

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)/Vogue Fashion Fund is like the Olympics for fashion designers. Fashion Designers from all over the nation come and go head to head for a $400,000 prize. The winner also gets a chance to be mentored by a industry professionals. They are judged by some of the highest names in fashion. Including the editor in chief of Vogue Magazine Anna Wintour and the director of fashion at Instagram, Eva Chen.

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You would think that a competition of this magnitude would be as diverse as possible. Especially given the fact that a lot of trends are started by black people. Apparently not. On Eva Chen’s Instagram she posted the panel of judges for the competition.

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Notice something? There is not a single African American on that panel of judges. Let’s understand the gravity of that. Trends that are classified as “streetwear”: baggy jeans, oversized shirts, hats, things of that nature, were all started by black people. Here’s the kicker though.”Streetwear” trends were seen as thug like and criminal. Individuals who wore these style were unsophisticated and surely jail bound. Yet, now that it’s back in style, it’s trendy and “in.” Classic case of “slapping some blonde hair on it, and calling it something different.”

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The post was called out by several of Chen’s followers. One user, @fennelalikewhoa, said “Where are the Black people that this industry continuously appropriates.” Another user, @de_mprx, said “Not even one black person as a judge,how nice!!!” In response to the comments, Chen clearly missed the mark saying that the finalists chosen by the judges were of all different shades and hues. That is so far beside the point. It’s a shame that after everything that the black community has done in terms of fashion, we still can not seem to get the recognition we deserve. Even the CFDA and Vogue defended the panel poorly. Steven Kolb, the CEO and president of the CFDA stated:

“The members of the Selection Committee are chosen for their leadership roles in fashion and the invaluable insights and resources they can provide to designers who are looking to make their mark in the industry. The current Selection Committee is equally divided between men and women; three are of Asian descent. Over the past three years, three out of the nine winners were designers of color, and the CFDA continues to do outreach across the country engaging regional fashion hubs and fashion weeks, and we are constantly striving for diversity and inclusion in all our programs.”

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Again missing the point or just circumventing the issue. First and foremost saying three out of the nine of the winners were people of color, does not exactly scream diversity. 33% of your winners over the past three years were people of color. Secondly, on both Chen’s and Kolb’s part they completely disregarded the fact that none of the people who get to make the big decisions are black. In fact, the CEO redirected the public’s attention and talked about the gender diversity on the panel. That has nothing to do with the fact that the panel is 70% white, oh and let’s not forget that 3 out of 10 are Asian. Big whoop.

This is not the first time that Vogue has missed the mark as far as inclusion is concerned. The magazine recently referred to Beyonce’s hair as a “hip length afro.” It wasn’t until earlier this month that Vogue, which has been in circulation for 126 years, had it’s first black photographer. And that was Beyonce’s doing.

At the end of the day, the idea of diversity does not always equal African Americans. It means individuals of all different skin tones, ethnic backgrounds, abilities, etc. The point is that people of color have contributed just as much if not more to the fashion community as whites. All we ask for is recognition and that doesn’t mean being chosen in a contest by a bunch of people that look nothing like us. Eventually, the contestant wants to become the judge. Especially when the contestant has contributed so much to the industry. It’s great that the finalists are diverse. At least that shows progress. However, the fact that blacks are not included in the decision making process after we’ve put so much energy into our fashion sense, shows that we have a long way to go.

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