Think About It: ‘Real’ Models & ‘Groundbreaking’ Agencies

Here at The Closet Feminist we’re always keen to hear about magazines and modeling agencies doing things a little differently to challenge the status quo/white supremacy that reigns supreme in the fashion world. Sometimes, however, we see people/projects who say they’re trying to do something different, but if you take a critical look at what is actually being presented you’ll see that there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about what is being shown.

Two recent cases come to mind.

The first is Betabrand‘s campaign to use female PhD students as models, the second is the so-called Anti-Modeling Agency. Both have the common factor of claiming to use models based on their ‘brains’ and/or personality as opposed to their looks. A novel idea to be sure, but its execution was disappointing.

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Above: Betabrand’s Spring 2014 campaign featuring female PhD students–so smart and inspiring. Also so white.

While applause came from all corners of the internet for these ‘fresh’ campaigns, it thankfully wasn’t long before some of our favourite sites sat up and realized, “wait a sec, this is bullsh!t”.

Refinery29 pointed out in their cautionary critique that “real” doesn’t always mean diverse, and while using female PhD candidates as models a neat idea, they were still all conventionally pretty, not to mention 75% of the ‘models’ used are white.

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Above: A screen shot of the Anti-Modeling homepage. As you can see, conventionally-attractive white models are really having a hard time finding work–oh wait, no they’re not!

Jezebel similarly noted that all the Anti-Modeling Agency is really doing is using attractive, thin, white people with rainbow-hued hair in their hilarious headline which read, “‘Anti’ Modeling Agency Dares to Rep Beautiful People with Funny Hair“. The summary of the article leaves with a simple but sharp reminder that many seem to have missed, noting of the agency “Please, don’t frame it like it’s some kind of massive paradigm-shift.”

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Above: Abby is one of the so-called ‘anti-models‘ that is changing the face of fashion. It has nothing to do with the fact that she is thin, white, and very pretty…

Bottom line: next time you see a campaign, agency, or project in the fashion world that boasts of a diverse crop of models or surprising in-your-face twist on fashion norms, ask yourself a few questions about what you are actually looking at. Here are a few questions to get you started:

1. Does the campaign/project feature people of colour?

2. Does the campaign/project feature models who might be considered ‘plus’ models?

3. Does the mandate/mission/vision of the campaign/project speak to diversity, anti-racism, discrimination, anti-oppression in any way?

4. Does the campaign/project feature models who are of age? Or are they just featuring a creepy selection of 13 year olds?

5. Who is behind the campaign/project? Leadership of a given campaign/project often gives you clues as to whose vision, values, and experiences are informing the campaign/project.

Excerpt: Stacey McKenzie in Room

Room: Do you think fashion is feminist?

Stacey McKenzie: I do believe that fashion can empower women, but at the same time there is so much negative in the industry. A girl goes on a casting, say ten castings for the day, and out of those ten castings she’s not tall enough, she’s not beautiful enough, or she’s very different looking. There are a lot of negative things that come with [fashion] and it depends on the person and how they take that. How do they respond to that kind of feedback?


I think fashion can be quite empowering. It was empowering for me. At the beginning [ pf my career] it wasn’t so empowering because it started to get personal. I started to feel less of myself. I told myself that this was the career that I really wanted to pursue and strongly believed that I was meant to be in this industry. I was going to give myself a certain amount of time and if it didn’t work out I was going to walk away from it because I’m not going to continue trying and be put down and told you’re never, never, never. There’s only so much of that you can take. I was able to be strong for myself, I said this is what I look like, this is what I sound like, get over it!

-Stacey Mckenzie in “On Fashion, Professionalism, and Self-Esteem,” an interview by Taryn Hubbard in Room Vol. 37.1

Room is Canada’s oldest literary journal by and about women. Volume 37.1 was just released and has the theme of “fashion, trend, and personal style”. Get your copy here.

Gloss over This: Cobie Smulders


“There aren’t many female superheroes, but Wonder Woman is the top–she’s historic,” Smulders says of the lasso-wielding warrior, going on to note that the new-found trend of strong female Disney characters in movies such as Brave and Frozen is something she applauds: “They are not waiting for a prince to rescue them. These were women who were saving themselves.”

-Cobie Smulders in “North Star” by Elio Iannacci in Fashion April 2014


Majority of Models in “Canadian-inspired” show were White

Last week saw the run of Toronto Fashion Week. Predictably, Pink Tartan was one of the favourites of the shows–designer Kimberley Newport-Mimran’s Fall 2014 collection was indeed quite charming.


Image above found here.

Newport-Mimran told StyleList Canada her inspiration included Canadian winters, and the Canadian aesthetic in general.


Image above found here.

Rather curiously, Newport-Mimran’s Fall 2014 show showed a conspicuous lack of models of colour–of the 39 looks shown, less than a third were shown on racialized minorities.


Mind you, Pink Tartan has a pretty poor track record for runway diversity–the much-lauded Spring 2014 show (pictured above) featured only one model of colour in a show of 39 looks!

Now we love to see a Canadian lady making waves in our fashion scene, but here’s hoping that future “Canadian-inspired” runway shows are as diverse as the country they represent.

Editor’s Spring Wish List: Emily Y.

Last up in our Editor’s Spring Wish List series is founder and Editor-in-Chief of this site, Emily Y. Did you mist Part 1 or Part 2? Check out Lydia O.’s picks here, and Katie D.’s picks here

1. Highwaisted Jeans


I’m looking to steamline my wardrobe. I don’t wear jeans/pants often, but when I do I like them to be highwaisted. I love me some Cheap Mondays–the ones above are not like my typical style at all, but there’s something about them I just like. PS–Vancouver, you can get Cheap Monday Jeans at vintage store Mintage on the Drive!

2. A Classy Purse


There are two things that I really don’t care much for when it comes to fashion: nice bags and nice shoes. I like practical bags and shoes, sans labels s.v.p. I think labels are tacky–the luxury aspect comes from not the logo but a bag that looks timeless and well-made, and Aldo is where its at. I like the purse above cuz its chic and orange–a colour I can’t wear near my face (I don’t look good in orange but desperately wish I did), but holding an orange bag would be fine.

3. Miu Miu forever!


My wardrobe colour inspiration for Spring this year is definitely the Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2014 collection. I normally don’t care much for runway collections however, this show caught my eye for inventive colour combinations that are so fresh and inspired in my opinion. The weights of the fabrics are good for cooler spring days, while the colours speak to warmer days.

4. Something Canadian


The Sarah Stevenson for Target collection is the perfect balance of “professional” and “creative” that I need for my young “creative professional” job. I support lady designers, especially those who are Canadian, and Stevenson’s collection is the one for me! I want this shirt, I’d wear it with tons of gold jewelry for sure.

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