As bad as high-fashion labels can be when it comes to diversity, Comme des Garçons’ creative director Rei Kawakubo’s record for casting black models has been among the worst, especially given the label’s position as a globally recognized and admired label.
With its fall 2018 presentation yesterday (March 3, 2018), the label showed the artful looks its beloved for and at the same time made statement about race. Among 16 models, four were black, more than the label has used on its runway in the past 25 years combined. Significantly, the fall presentation marks the first time the label has cast models with a brown complexion.
Scrutiny of the label’s casting practices began to mount last year in part because the label was the subject of 2017’s all important Met Gala. Out magazine in May 2017 researched all of CDG’s shows archived since 2007 on Vogue and found no black models among 39 men’s and women’s presentations.
Subsequently, The Fashion Law pointed out the CDG does cast Asian models and also has cast older models, also noting Anna Cleveland (daughter of black model Pat Cleveland) opened and closed CDG’s fall 2016 show. That said, while Anna is bi-racial, one could see how Out would have missed her because she appears to be white.
According to Elle UK, the last time the label cast a black model who presents as black was Chrystèle Saint Louis August in 1994. Prior to Saint Louis August, Veronica Webb walked the label’s spring 1992 show.
While it’s great that CDG cast black models for its runway, the fact that this happened in 2018 is a good reminder that the industry has a long way to go. Runway representation literally is the tip of the iceberg and really the long term solution lies not with hiring more black models whose roles are temporary, but the people who occupy fashion company’s permanent decision-making positions.
Check out the looks from the show below.