Sunday, September 28, 2008

The "Historical" All-Black Vogue Italia: What’s Next?

Alrighty now, let’s get right to it. The all-Black Italian Vogue was nothing short of a phenomenon. If you recall, I certainly had my doubts about the concept initially. And as far as the motivation and philosophy behind it goes; I still kinda do. Again, Black women are not novelties. Although I sorta felt like one when I visited Italy back in 2000 and every third man I passed in the street was calling me "bella" and seemingly undressing me even though I wore jeans and loose tees most of the trip. However, even I can’t deny the significance this issue has made (and continues to make) on the fashion and publishing worlds.

There was a bunch of hype and buzz about the issue from the moment it first hit the world wide web. Then an even greater reaction when it finally got here. (Remember how EVERYONE was losing their minds looking for it?) And now that it has come and gone, I think we’re seeing a significant domino situation. We Americans are great at following… Are we really surprised that Italy beat American Vogue to this? Nah. Think back to all the folks like Josephine Baker who went across the pond in order for their careers to flourish because the U.S. didn’t embrace them. For the record, Europeans most definitely have their share of racial hang-ups. The colorism that exist even between Northern Italians and Southern Italians is real. (Folks in the north tend to be lighter than those in the south.) But back to my point - I wasn’t at all surprised that Italy did something like this before American Vogue. Anna did try to save face with that Is Fashion Racist? feature in the July issue but it was a day late and a dollar short.

The issue itself actually wasn’t all-Black at all which I found umm, interesting. But what I find even more interesting is that it sold more issues than ANYONE expected. As I mentioned here on PPT before, the "J" months are typically slow times in publishing. In January, the perception is everyone is all spent out from the holidays and in June and July, folks are traveling/on vacay. So, advertisers don’t spend a lot of money to be in these issues. The fact that this was a July issue and is reported as being the best-selling issue for Italian Vogue - ever - is amazing. Not to mention, it kills any and all myths about Black faces not being able to sell on mainstream covers. Not only can they sell, but they can sell-out! No longer can a Conde Nast, Hearst or Hachette editor sit in an edit planning meeting and utter the words that people of color "don’t sell". Folks, that is MAJOR!

Below are the biggest and most noticeable events that have taken place since the now infamous all-Black Vogue Italia hit newsstands:

- Dominican model Arlenis Sosa landed the coveted gig as the new face of Lancome. It’s about time the industry recognized that Latinas can be dark brown too.
- Sophie Theallet used all Black models for her Spring 2009 show in NYC earlier this month.
- Chanel Iman scored the cover of the current issue of Time Style & Design.
- People mag put the Obama family on a cover in July. Original photography too, not pick-up. Apples and oranges? I don’t think so. Remember, "trends" in fashion are usually a reflection of what's going on in society. I hope this is more than a trend though.
- More and more brown faces are showing up in features for mainstream mags.
- People of color are increasingly hired in top positions (that they deserve and earned!) at major publications, design houses, model/casting agencies and advertising agencies. Okay so this last one is simply wishful thinking on my part. Hey, a girl can dream can’t she?

Do you think I forgot something? Are you feeling my sentiments about this issue or do you think I’m all wrong? Leave me a comment and let me know.

By the way, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the woman who, in my opinion, started all of this: BETHANN HARDISON. I still don’t agree with all of Bethann’s opinions on this matter, but I’m glad she had the courage to start the conversation. Kudos!

P.S. - I’m finally going to see In the Heights this evening. I’m so excited!


Lady P said...

I couldn't have agreed with you more- BETHANN HARDISON initiated the dialogue about the lack of diversity, and her efforts greatly impacted the development of the All Black Vogue Italia. It's an absolute shame, however, that mainstream sources can't grant credit when credit is due. The New York Daily News compiled a list of Fashion's 50 Most Powerful [], and Ms. Hardison was absent from the list. No one will ever deem the NY Daily News as the go-to guide on anything fashion, but you'd think that the success of the All Black Vogue Italia issue would shine some kind of light on Ms. Hardison's impact in the fashion industry.

Food Lover said...

I finally got around to snagging a copy of the magazine, and what can I say--it's impressive! The only disappointment is that they couldn't do advertisements from front to back with Black models--a sad commentary on how far we still have to go...

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I was please to see that the following issue of Italia Vogue did have black models in the editorial.

I agree with you the BS argument that black models "don't sell" was blown out of the water with that July issue.

Now the ads need to reflect what is going on in editorial.

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