Tuesday, December 25, 2007

where the sistas at?

let's face facts, fashion is still a business that revolves around the white perception of beauty. think about it, the last time miuccia prada used a black model for her fashion show was naomi campbell for her fall/winter 1997-1998 collection. that was a decade ago and twenty shows after from a woman who is regarded often as the most influential designer of our time. yet asides from korean model hye park, prada models have in many ways looked the same (i.e. white, blonde, easter europeans who are barely in their twenties). with all the talks of racial equality it appears that in a lot of ways, fashion has somewhat regressed during the last decade. consider that during the sixties courreges, cardin, and saint laurent championed the use of black and asian models during a time with so much optimism for the future, they represented their world as one that any woman can wear their clothes, regardless of their racial background. this continued onwards to the seventies with beverly johnson becoming the first black model to appear on the cover of american vogue, and the gracefull pat cleveland becoming the muse of halston and stephen burrows. the commanding presence of iman dominated the eighties and a young naomi campbell began her ascent to the top of the fashion ladder at the end of the decade. naomi is unarguably the most famous of all the black models but during her reign in the late eighties and all throughout the nineties other models of colour also made their mark. namely tyra banks who enjoyed massive commercial success, beverly peele, kiara kabukuro and perhaps the most ground breaking of all, sudanese model alek wek who's face challenged the fashion worlds notion of beauty with her obviously pronounced african aesthetic. in the two thousands, ethiopian born model liya kabede reached the top ranks of modelling and graced the cover of american, french and italian vogue and scored various high profile ad campaigns ranging from yves saint laurent, dolce and gabanna and became the first black spokeswoman of estee lauder. fashion might still be a white man's world, and it might continue to be one for a while, and black models will still be few and far between, but when the next iman or naomi or liya comes around, hopefully she'll come out opening the prada show.

alek wek
a refugee from war torn sudan, alek's story has become fashion folklore. from the dinka tribe in sudan, alek and her family left their war torn country in 1991 and applied for refugee status in england. four years later she was discovered by a model scout in south london and in 1996, made her international runway debut under the ford agency. although her unique features instantly earned attention in europe, it wasn't until she landed in new york and opened the ralph lauren show that her star status was cemented. the following year proved to be busy for alek appearing in janet jackson and busta rhymes' videos and winning the "model of the year" award by mtv in 1997, appearing in editorials in american vogue and walked the runway for calvin klein, dolce and gabanna, john galliano, yves saint laurent and chanel couture. with her new found fame, alek, the forever humanitarian brought attention to the needs of her homeland and has been an ambassador for refugees and is adamant on raising awareness to the causes she believes and has been affected by. as of now, she continues fighting for the causes she believes in, has designed a range of handbags entitled wek 1933, has written an autobiography, and every once and a while works the runways for the designers who are inspired not only by her beauty, but also her story.

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