Monday, 1 July 2013

19 years on, Prada has cast another black model... yes, this is the 21st century

It feels weird writing about momentous news when it doesn't sound quite as momentous as it should be. I am so glad that Prada has decided to cast a black model in its ad campaigns for the first time in 19 years - the last lucky lady was one Naomi Campbell, when we were in the age of the supermodel, back in '94 - but how on earth has it taken so long? Why has there been no black model deemed suitable in the interim? Unless I'm mistaken, the past two decades haven't exactly been devoid of candidates. 

Prada's first black model in an ad campaign for 19 years
 Malaika's high-profile ad for the upcoming season [Image via]

Malaika Firth, the stunning British Kenyan model used in the Fall 13 campaign alongside famous Chinese model Fei Fei Sun, has now broken barriers in the fashion world for marking the turning point in this designer's campaigns. Miuccia Prada, whilst being a supremely talented woman, hasn't exactly done much for diversity in the past (see Jezebel), until she brought Jourdan Dunn onto the runway in 2008, which was seen as a revelation; please bear in mind, this was 2008, not 1908 - it should not have had to be a novelty. We should have been stamping down inequality on the catwalk decades ago, not just letting it slide because it's the done thing. There's making a trend, and then there's being narrow-minded.

Prada's advertising campaign with Naomi Campbell holding bag, 94
Naomi's 1994 campaign, shot by Steven Meisel [Image via]

In case Prada wasn't sure who would have been good to hire between 1994 and 2013, here are a few suggestions for potential ad campaign stars:
  • Sessilee Lopez
  • Chanel Iman
  • Joan Smalls
  • Arlenis Sosa
  • Liya Kebede
  • Alek Wek
  • Nyasha Matonhodze (I know she's not as high profile as the others, but I think she'd make a great Prada girl - did you see her cover for Love Magazine?)
Basically, as amazing as it is to see Malaika and Fei Fei being given the nod by Miuccia, I think it's really sad that they've had to wait that long for the tide to turn. How can it be that 19 years is allowed to pass, during which we can assume non-white women don't wear Prada, buy into its branding or worship its designs (and, if they do, they're left feeling alienated and ignored)? This has to stop. 

P.S. If you want to read more about my writing on the catwalk's lack of ethnic diversity, check out my blog series. For more on body shapes and equality on the catwalk, click here.

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