Monday, December 13, 2010

The Issue of Diversity

The issue of diversity has been a point of contention in the fashion industry since its inception. It has only been in recent times however that the topic of diversity has been open to discussion within fashion circles. In January 2008, former model agent owner Bethann Hardison held an open symposium to examine why models of colour are so poorly represented on fashion runways and in magazines. The event attended by models, designers, journalists, stylists and industry insiders was aimed at raising consciousness of the need for diversity and the collective responsibility of all to make a change in the fashion industry.

In July 2008, Vogue Italia cast the spotlight on the lack of diversity and the poor representation of women of colour on catwalks and in fashion magazines with it's "Black issue". The "Black issue" was conceived by editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani and featured an all black cast of eighteen new, established and past stars, lensed by photographer Steven Meisel. The response to the "Black issue" was unprecedented, with Conde Naste, the publisher, rushing a reprint and redistribution of 40,000 more copies of the magazine to meet consumer demand in the United States and Britain. The phenomenal response to the "Black issue" has implications for the fashion industry to embrace the diverse cultural and social differences within society and to ensure that all standards of beauty and not just the Western ideal, are represented. 

At the recent Spring/Summer 2011 shows in New York however, models of colour were still poorly represented. Of the 128 shows presented, a total of 4170 runway looks were on offer. A statistical analysis conducted by found that of the 4170 opportunities, 81.8% went to white models and 18.2% to non-white models. Of the 18.2 %, non-white Latina models were used 95 times or 2.3% of the time, Asian models were used 296 times or 7.1% of the time, and black models were used  353 times or 8.4% of the time. Models of other colour such as Moroccan or Native Indian, were used 16 times or 0.4% of the time.

The visibility and presence of a model on the runways of New York, London, Milan and Paris has major implications. The shows provide models with the opportunity to be seen by important stylists, editors, designers and casting directors which influences the faces that will go on to feature in editorials, advertising campaigns and on the covers of magazines in the coming season. The buzz and hype surrounding a model during the shows is all-important and palpable, as industry insiders search for the next new face. With so few opportunities being offered to models of colour during show season, a   model's hopes of breaking through the sea of new emerging faces is diminished.

It is unfortunate that the issue of diversity in fashion is still open to debate in 2010. An industry that is built on promoting beauty has a responsibility to reflect the society and world that we live in, and to celebrate our social and cultural differences. Models such as Iman Abdulmajid, Beverly Johnson, Karen Alexander, Kara Young, Liya Kebede, Liu Wen, Joan Smalls and Jourdan Dunn are amongst my favourite models, not because of their skin tone but because of their undeniable beauty and presence. The following models are stellar examples of the beauty of diversity.

Iman Abdulmajid
Photographer - Francesco Scavullo

Naomi Sims
LIFE - October 1969
Photographer - Yale Joel

Beverly Johnson
Glamour - July 1972
Photographer - Unknown

Sheila Johnson
American Vogue - March 1980
Photographer - Patrick Demarchelier

Naomi Campbell
Source - Harpers Bazaar
Photographer - Peter Lindbergh

Louise Vyent
American Vogue - February 1987
Photographer - Richard Avedon

Veronica Webb
Source - Model's Manual
Photographer - Arthur Elgort

Talisa Soto
American Vogue - April 1989
Source -
Patricia Velasquez
Source - Mademoiselle
Photographer - Patrik Andersson

Kiara Kabukuru
Source - Harpers Bazaar
Photographer - Patrick Demarchelier

Karen Alexander
Source - American Vogue
Photographer - Peter Lindbergh

Kara Young
American Vogue - October 1989
Photographer - Patrick Demarchelier

Liya Kebede
Vogue Italia - October 2002
Photographer - Steven Meisel

Chanel Iman, Sessilee Lopez, Jourdan Dunn and Arlenis Sosa
ID Magazine - September 2009
Photographer - Emma Summerton

Liu Wen
Source - China Vogue
Photographer - Unknown

Melodie Monrose and Anais Mali
Interview - December 2010
Photographer - Solve Sundso

Joan Smalls
Photographer - James Mahon

Fei Fei Sun
China Vogue - June 2010
Photographer - Gem Mitchell

Hind Sahli
Photographer - Seb Janiak

Ming Xi
Photo courtesy of Elite Models

Lais Ribeiro
Photographer - Rony Shram
Source - Fashion gone rogue

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stephanie Seymour

Stephanie Seymour first came to my attention way back in January 1989, when she appeared on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine in a photo taken by the late Herb Ritts. The image was mesmerizing and I remember being rendered speechless by her natural beauty. 

Stephanie was discovered at the age of fourteen in the Elite Look of the Year competition in 1983, alongside Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Tatjana Patitz. Though she didn't win, Stephanie was promptly signed by Elite and sent to Paris and Milan before moving to New York from her hometown in San Diego. 

The early years of Stephanie's career were spent grunt modelling, gaining experience working with the most influential French and Italian photographers including Hans Feurer and Antoine Verglas. Stephanie's career went into overdrive when she was photographed by Herb Ritts for Rolling Stone and Playboy magazine. In an interview for Pop magazine issue no. 18, Stephanie describes how "Herb really changed everything for me. I did many pictures with Herb completely naked but that was Herb Ritts. I considered him an artist and that was very serious to me. I started working with Herb constantly. And I think that really, really changed my career." 

Stephanie was also a great favourite of the late Richard Avedon who photographed her for the first time for an American Vogue cover in 1988. In the same interview for Pop magazine Stephanie recounts how "he (Avedon) really saw how eager I was, and he liked that. And he saw that he could really take me anywhere and that I was able to do anything he wanted me to do. No matter how many times I would fall on my face, I would get up and do it again. And I would try anything he wanted me to try. So it was always an artistic experience. I totally trusted him." The admiration was mutual with Avedon praising Seymour; "she combines a perfect body with a dynamite brain and a heart that's always in the right place."

In an interview for US Hello magazine in 1996, Seymour attributes her success in part to how "In my case, I think I was lucky to be photographed very young by great photographers like Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Michel Comte and Herb Ritts. They force you to move better, to really bring out the best in yourself." This sentiment was reiterated again in Pop magazine; "There's a really big difference between being a great model and a pro, and really knowing how to move and be photographed. You learn and you train yourself to know exactly what things look like even without a mirror in front of you."

Stephanie has had an astonishing modelling career spanning over two decades and is one of the few models of her generation who has been able to combine commercial success with more creative projects. Stephanie's roster of clients include the likes of Victoria's Secret, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, and beauty contracts with Maybelline, Almay, Helena Rubenstein and L'Oreal as well as advertising campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Helmut Lang, Marc Jacobs, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Allessandro Dell'Acqua, Salvatore Ferragamo and the GAP. She is a longtime muse of Azzedine Alaia and was the subject of a photographic book lensed by Juergen Teller. The book entitled MORE was published in 2002 and was photographed over a two year period. In 1996, L'Egoiste magazine (issue no. 13) published an entire portfolio of images of Stephanie, photographed by the legendary Avedon, representing women through the ages. POP Magazine also  dedicated an entire issue to Stephanie Seymour with accompanying interviews and editorials as well as accolades from fashion industry key note players. The following collection of images of Stephanie speak for themselves.

Mademoiselle - January 1989
Photographer - Herb Ritts

US Vogue - March 1988
Photographer - Richard Avedon

Self - March 1989
Photographer - Unknown

US Elle - March 1992
Photographer - Gilles Bensimon
Source -

British Vogue - December 1989
Photographer -  Herb Ritts

LA Style - October 1989
Photographer - Herb Ritts

In Fashion - May 1988
Photographer - Alex Chatelain

Mademoiselle - June 1989
Photographer - Jacques Malignon

Harpers Bazaar - May 1990
Photographer - Matthew Rolston

US Vogue - February 1995
Photographer - Steven Meisel

Self - February 1994
Photographer - Unknown

W Magazine - August 1998
Photographer - Michael Thompson

Cosmopolitan - February 1994
Photographer - Francesco Scavullo

US Vogue - June 1989
Photographer - Herb Ritts

French Elle - August 1989
Photographer - Antoine Verglas

Italia Vogue - December 1988
Photographer - Herb Ritts

Stephanie with Azzedine Alaia
Paradis Magazine FW 2007
Photographer - Juergen Teller

US Vogue - September 1994
Photographer - Juergen Teller

L'Egoiste - Issue no.13
Photographer - Richard Avedon

US Vogue - May 1989
Photographer - Arthur Elgort

Rolling Stone - May 1989
Photographer - Herb Ritts

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Scavullo's Cosmo Girl

The late Francesco Scavullo's name is synonymous with the seductive, head to toe all out glamour that was represented by the quintessential Cosmo girl. Over a thirty year period beginning in 1965, Scavullo captured the essence of the Cosmo girl as a sensuous, confident and sexually liberated woman. During this period, Scavullo together with his long time companion and stylist Sean M. Byrnes, was responsible for the selection of the model, the cleavage revealing outfits, make up and hairstyles that would eventually appear on the cover. Every model wanted to be a Cosmo girl and the Cosmopolitan cover was accompanied by a model profile and interview which provided  an insight into the personality and life of the cover model. Scavullo's stable of beauties included Lauren Hutton, Naomi Sims, Brooke Shields, Gia Carangi, Janice Dickinson and Christie Brinkley. I have many Cosmopolitan covers in my collection and the following selection is a chronicle of some of the most influential models of our time.  

Gia Carangi
Cosmopolitan April 1979

Christie Brinkley
Cosmopolitan June 1977

Brooke Shields
Cosmopolitan February 1981

Kim Alexis
Cosmopolitan June 1980

Janice Dickinson
Cosmopolitan June 1981

Carol Alt
Cosmopolitan September 1980

Patti Hansen
Cosmopolitan February 1979

Beverly Johnson
Cosmopolitan February 1976

Kelly Emberg
Cosmopolitan December 1980

Naomi Sims
Cosmopolitan August 1973

Paulina Porizkova
Cosmopolitan March 1987

Cindy Crawford
Cosmopolitan March 1988

Claudia Schiffer
Cosmopolitan September 1992

Naomi Campbell
Cosmopolitan February 1990

Christy Turlington
Cosmopolitan April 1990

Elle Macpherson
Cosmopolitan August 1985

Stephanie Seymour
Cosmopolitan July 1989

Renee Simonsen
Cosmopolitan April 1988

Rachel Hunter
Cosmopolitan May 1988

Tatjana Patitz
Cosmpolitan August 1989