Naomi Campbell has never been scared to call out the fashion industry for its sometimes latent, sometimes blatant racism. In 2013 she partnered with fellow supermodel Iman and former model agent Bethann Hardison to form the Diversity Coalition, which called for an end to runway racism. But, as she admits in this new interview with Nick Knight for SHOWstudio, things haven’t changed. This was proved yesterday by Sudanese model Nykhor Paul who, in an Instagram caption beginning “Dear white people in the fashion world", slammed the industry for its racism. “I’m tired of complaining about not getting booked as a black model and I’m definitely super tired of apologising for my blackness!” she wrote.
But why is racism still an issue? Well, according to Campbell, it's down to ignorance or (as she puts it) “territorialism” – the industry’s refusal to change. This is something that Knight, like Campbell, has not been afraid to call out. “The business people that ultimately control fashion have a moral responsibility that they must not ignore,” reads a slide in the video below. “Profit cannot be a justification for bigotry and racism.”
Here’s our five favourite quotes from the pair’s conversation on racism in fashion.
NAOMI CAMPBELL HAS A WHATSAPP GROUP FOR HER BLACK MODEL ‘BABIES’
“I have to watch out for my babies,” she says. In this group, which includes Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls, Malaika Firth and Riley Montana, the girls can show solidarity with each other. “A lot of them, their hearts were broken this time in Paris. I got the calls, I got the texts,” Campbell goes on.
MIUCCIA PRADA IS A HERO
Many industry figures failed to respond to Campbell’s Diversity Coalition or, worse, took a step backward. However, according to Campbell, “Miuccia has been amazing.” At Prada's AW15 show she championed some of the best new faces of colour – Aya Jones, Amilna Estevão, Lineisy Montero, Mica Arganaraz and Dylan Xue.
THE STATS DON'T LOOK GOOD
“2014, we’ve just finished the shows – 6.8% (of models were black). Asian –7.9%. Not great,” says Campbell, shaking her head. Her stats indicate that 85.3% of models walking at the major fashion weeks of New York, London, Milan and Paris were white. As Campbell says, that's not great.
BLACK MODELS ARE NOT A TREND
“What we want to say is, ‘We are not a trend!’ It shouldn't have to be that way,” she says. “I don't want it to be a trend. I didn’t work 28 years for it to be a trend.” Yep, ethnicity is not and should not be a fad that comes in one season and goes out the next.
CASTING SHOULD REFLECT THE CUSTOMER
“You know it's not just one colour walking into a store and buying clothes, it's everybody!” Amen, Naomi.
Watch Naomi Campbell being interviewed by Nick Knight below:
Want to read more about diversity? Read why 2015 is the year fashion's casting is changing.
Follow Ted Stansfield on Twitter here @ted_stansfield