When Fashion Uses People of Colour as Props

Fashion ads and editorials in magazines have a long, sordid history of using people of colour as props (sometimes literally). Elle Canada‘s June issue is the latest publication to make this tasteless misstep.


The editorial, “Heat Wave” (pictured above and throughout) was styled by Juliana Schiavinatto, with photography by Max Abadian and Art Direction by Brittany Ecles. It starred model Pamela Bernier as the happy imperialist.

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The silly thing (aside from you know, the racism), was that Bernier looked great on her own, as you can see above. With the addition of the other folks in the pictures, she looks like the white person we all know who would describe herself as “worldly,” and enthuse about the delicious “other” cuisine she got turned onto thanks to “the locals.”

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Shamefully, Elle Canada does not name the other folks in the pictures. There is a small note at the end of the editorial thanking “Meliá Braco Village and the Jamaica Tourist Board,” but that, I’m afraid, is it.


Don’t believe that using POCs as props is a thing? Check out the list below.

W Continues Fashion’s Tradition of Using ‘Exotic’ People As Props

Fashion Discussion: Black Men as Props

One Of The Most Blatant Racist Photo Shoots We’ve Ever Seen


Stella Jean: “I want to create new and unexpected cultural messages”

The Fall 2016 Stella Jean collection (example below found here) made me a little nervous for reasons mentioned on The CF’s Pinterest. Still, I’m always inspired by her thoughtful, conscientious creative process and the politics that go into her designs. I read an interview with her from last year and it got me pondering and contemplating all over again.


And while being part of a multiracial family in Italy in the Eighties not only shaped me as a person, but also inspired my professional path, however, it has been neither simple nor painless.  Actually, my cultural background made it harder for me to find an identity. As I am the result of a mix of different cultures and races that could appear completely opposed, but I want to promote a sophisticated and alternative multiculturalism through fashion. Blending traditions that are so distant.  I want to create new and unexpected cultural messages. Fashion gives me ample space to maneuver and find a place where both of these cultures can coexist. This weak point has become both a strength and a fresh start.’

– Stella Jean in an interview with The Fashion Plate Magazine here

Fashion/Philosophy: Girl Gangs


Above: “Fly Sparks” from Flare November 2014 starring Fleur Ve, Julee H, Juliann H, Meagen Callen, and Sasha. 

“So what am I now?” Lee says, teasing.

Dodo sighs. Gives Lee a hard look. “A monster. You and your friends, all of you. Pretty monsters. It’s a stage all girls go through. If you’re lucky you get through it without doing any permanent damage to yourself or anyone else.”

– from “Pretty Monsters” in Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

Fashion/Philosophy: Leaving Self-Doubt Behind

Scan 1Above: Nadja Bender models in “High Style” photographed by Camilla Akrans in Bazaar March 2015.

At first I asked myself what I had learned in the university. I placed all the answers to this question in a corner of my mind. Then for a few minutes I dwelt on the number of things I did not know. Then I compared, and became perplexed. Still, as I walked with my face upturned toward the sky, I thought of all I had to say, of all the things stirring within me. Inexperience, youth, all seem things which I must conquer, alone, and only one comforting thought remains, that I have learned the rudiments of my art and that I shall spend the summer writing […] Why should I shrink and stand back and doubt myself? All around me people are writing my thoughts, my ideals, my observations. I read books of which I might have written a few pages. I thought of the Essay on Self-Reliance, and, tramping through dusty roads at twilight, I formed many resolutions.

-Anaïs Nin, Early Diaries Vol. 2


Fashion/Philosophy: ‘Single, Clever, Lonely Woman’


Above: Joséphine Le Tutour models in “Dresses” photographed by Nathaniel Goldberg in Bazaar March 2015

Let me be strong, strong with sleep and strong with intelligence and strong with bone and fibre; let me learn, through this desperation, to spread myself out: to know where and to whom to give […] to give the small moments and the casual talk that very special infusion of devotion and love which make our epiphanies. Not to be bitter. Save me from that, that final wry sour lemon acid in the veins of a single clever lonely woman.

– Sylvia Plath, Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

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