….lest we forget that racism is an ongoing issue in fashion, W magazine’s September issue’s editorial “Super Normal Super Models” shows us a pretty clear picture about what kinds of women can be successful in fashion: those who are thin and white. Hello, are there any women of colour in this spread?
People are going nuts over this spread, and it’s easy to see why–it features some of the most famous female models from the last couple decades all together in one editorial.
While the models may have blonde or dark hair, gap teeth or unusual cheek bones, they represent a look in fashion that has long reigned supreme, and despite the varying ages of these models, we can see that precious little has changed in fashion whether it be in magazines, on the runways, in ads, etc: successful models who we know by name are white and thin. That is what has become ‘Super Normal’ in fashion, and though we may call it iconic, drool-worthy, memorable, or impossibly chic, it’s still Super Racist.
In fact, it could be argued that this shoot in particular celebrates something quite distinct from fashion–if you look closely, what is really being shown in the editorial? It’s not the clothes–the styling is hardly memorable, if present at all (some of the photos in the spread are NSFW). More than anything, it is a celebration of the faces and bodies of women who are so famous now in fashion they don’t need remarkable clothing.
This is tricky because we don’t want to discredit the hard work of the women in these photos in a notoriously difficult industry for women to work in (then again, which industry isn’t?)–they are famous because they have worked for themselves to build up their career.
This editorial and what it represents seems to be further complicated because it is not as if Kate Moss, Lara Stone, and Canadian favourite Daria in particular claim any such feelings of racism. However, these models have had more than a little help. Their privilege, their faces, and bodies happen to be part of a long-standing tradition, which supermodel and Victoria’s Secret Angel Cameron Russell comments on in her now-famous TED talk. They represent fashion’s extremely thinly-veiled obsession with skin that is not dark, hair that is not textured, and bodies that have no fat where it’s not acceptable for women to have it. Is it Super Normal? Sure, but only insofar as the fashion world continues to purport these images as such.
All images found here.