The Surprising Source of Spring’s Best Fashion Editorial

As you might know by now, I read a lot of fashion magazines. So you might be just as surprised as me when I discovered the best fashion editorial I’ve seen so far in the spring issues is from Canadian Living of all places! Canadian Living isn’t even a fashion magazine, it’s a lifestyle/cooking magazine with a sliver of fashion in the front every issue.

Here’s why the fashion editorial called, “Basic Instinct” impressed me:

  1. The styling (by Julia McEwen) was just really good, and I actually picked up several styling ideas (noted below)
  2. I loved that they booked Aluad Anei to model. Not only is she a woman of colour, she has very dark skin, which is super important. Learn more about combatting colorism in fashion here (link sometimes NSFW)
  3. The photography is by a woman (Genviève Charbonneau)
  4. All of the items the model was wearing can be purchased in Canada

I have lovingly scanned all the pics for you to enjoy below.



Above: I love those earrings. Also, note the coat with the short sleeves. We’ve also got a collared shirt happening, and an asymmetrical skirt hem.


Above: Grey bottoms, white top–very simple, but punctuated with a hat, killer lipstick, and just the right accessories.


Above: I’m all about mixing prints, and I love this fresh take on the combo–mixing two black and white prints, then throwing in one more print on a small scale (i.e., the shoes), and breaking it all up with one bold colour.


Below: I LOVE this look–the earrings, the bow, the unique silhouette on the shirt… *spends all morning trying to tie a skinny black scarf into an appropriate bow*



Gloss over This: Zoe Saldana


“I handled the role [of Nina Simone in Nina] with the same love, the same respect and the same pride that any other black person would, because I am a black woman, a proud Latino black woman, and nobody’s going to take that right from me,” she says, referring to her roots in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. “And [Simone] was a woman who was never allowed to [reach] her full potential because of her skin.”

-Zoe Saldana in “Body & Soul” by Elio Iannacci in Fashion August 2014

Colour by Numbers: Skin Tone, Diversity, & Major Makeup Brands, Part 2

By: Courtney S.

This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Did you miss Part 1? Check it out here.

Selecting a foundation isn’t just about finding a shade that matches your skin’s surface colour, it is also about finding a shade that complements your skin’s undertones, which are cool, warm or neutral; when your makeup doesn’t complement your undertones, your skin just looks dull or sickly (for a more information on finding your undertones, check out this or this). So when makeup brands only offer 2 or 3 deeper shades in their product lines, they are not only excluding customers that don’t fit the available shades, but also customers that have differing skin undertones. In contrast, customers in the light and medium ranges have many more options to find the perfect foundation — one that doesn’t leave a visible line along their jaws, make them look slightly queasy or force them to forgo the whole makeup exercise entirely.

There is also an economic dimension to this bias, as lighter foundations can be found in a variety of shades and undertones across a number of price scales, but medium and darker colours that offer similar variety can get pricey (the L’Oreal True Match Liquid and Revlon Photoready); makeup counter brands offer more colour and tone options but you often end up with a lot less product for a lot more money.

Scan 3Above: Olivia Wilde for Revlon in a current ad.

So we’ve established that darker skin tones are underrepresented in terms of foundation choice, with the majority of products catering to customers with light to medium skin tones. But how do the brands’ self-images and branding measure up in terms of diversity? More than half of Covergirl’s current spokesmodels are women of colour (including Janelle Monaé, Sofia Vergara, Pat McGrath and Queen Latifah). L’Oreal’s current slogan is “diversity and universality” and features Lea Michele, Beyoncé, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez and Freida Pinto among its spokespeople. Revlon’s representatives include Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Shanina Shaik and Bonang Matheba. In addition to Jessica White, Maybelline features Shu Pei in its advertising campaigns – the only Asian spokesperson for the brands examined. In contrast, Rimmel’s current spokesmodels are Kate Moss and Georgia May Jagger (although Solange Knowles previously repped in 2010 and Ayumi Hamasaki models in Rimmel’s Japanese market).

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While I applaud these brands for representing different types of beauty in their advertising and selection of spokesmodels, I can’t help but wonder if – given my findings at the drugstore – the spokeswomen of colour would be able pick out their perfect shade of foundation from their respective companies’ products if they found themselves wandering the aisles of Shopper’s Drug Mart. Promoting beauty in all its forms has to go beyond marketing and extend to the product itself; if companies are able to make yet another foundation that promises to mattify or turn the clocks back 20 years using crazy space chemistry, then surely they can do something as simple as adding more shade options to break up the monotony of ivories and beiges.

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Above: Cover Girl representing diversity for their Catching Fire line.



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Janelle Monaé POC



Sofía Vergara POC

Ellen DeGeneres

Pat McGrath POC

Queen Latifah POC


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Charlotte Free

Christy Turlington

Erin Wasson

Freja Beha Erichsen

Frida Gustavsson

Julia Stegner

Charlotte Kemp Muhl

Shu Pei POC

Emily Didonato

Jessica White POC

RIMMEL REPS (0%) – exclusive contract with Kate Moss

L’OREAL REPS (30% POC) – slogan: “diversity and universality”

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Julianne Moore

Lea Michele POC

Laetitia Casto

Milla Jovovich

Dianne Keaton

Beyonce POC

Doutzen Kroes

Eva Longoria POC

Jennifer Lopez POC

Andie McDowel

Juliana Margulies

Aimee Mullins

Barbara Palvin

Freida Pinto POC

Claudia Schiffer

Bianca Balti


Scan 2

Jessica Alba POC

Halle Berry POC

Jessica Biel

Barbara Garcia

Marina Jamieson

Natalia Kozior

Elle MacPherson

Olivia Wilde

Bonang Matheba POC

Tiffany Pisani

Shanina Shai POC



Jezebel Has Crunched the Numbers, NYFW is Still Really White

We fill in the gaps of Jezebel’s biannual report on the number of white models who participated in New York Fashion Week, and make a few notes of our own.


Above: Victoria Beckham‘s much-praised Spring 2014 collection. Note the lack of models of colour.

Thank goodness for Jezebel and their ongoing project of meticulously counting the number of models of colour who are hired for New York Fashion Week, completed by their reporters Phoenix Tso, Callie Beusman, Tanisha Love Ramirez, Kate Dries, and Dodai Stewart (names are important, give credit where credit is due). Their latest report, based on the NYFW shows for the Spring 2014 collections that were just under two weeks ago shows that white models made up 79.89% of all models sent down the catwalks. Jezebel says this is a number that has changed very little since 2008.

Their efforts are not to be mistaken with Bethann Hardison’s project to diversify the runway, which we did a four-part series on last week. Hardison took an even bigger project on, looking at all of the Fall 2013  fashion shows not just in New York, but London, Milan, and Paris as well, openly calling out designers who did not hire black models for their shows. Her results were released on Sept. 6th.  Between Hardison and Jezebel’s efforts, both projects show that fashion week has a serious problem with racism.

Let’s take a closer look at Jezebel’s report.

Hardison’s Concerns with Colorism Addressed? 

In our 2nd instalment of our four-part series in response to Hardison’s project, we noted that Hardison seemed to be concerned with colorism more than anything, noting that not all “models of colour” could be represented by Asian models, there needed to be a diversity of skin tones as well.

Jezebel’s project also looked at skin tone, and this year found that for the Spring ’14 shows at least, representations of black and Asian models were pretty even: 8.08% and 8.1%, respectively.

Who is Still Missing from the Catwalk?

Lots of ethnicities, actually. Jezebel made notes on black, Asian, white, and Latina models, but admit that they saw almost no (or in some cases none at all) models who appeared to be of South Asian, Native American, or Middle Eastern descent.

Also, we know this report is focused on race, but it  should be noted that of course there were no plus-size models to be seen anywhere. Eden Miller made headlines for having the first plus-size line shown at fashion week, but apparently only six looks total were shown and no one is talking about it after the fact (it could be possible that the clothes shown were just plain really bad). Plus-size models for fashion week aren’t entirely without precedent–Beth Ditto opened Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2011 show.

What about Mixed-Race Models?

Jezebel admitted that they went by skin tone only to determine whether or not a model was a model of colour, and that they didn’t have the time to investigate the backgrounds of all the hundreds of models that walked the NYFW shows. Reading the presence of mixed-race models therefore might become a bit dicey.


Above: Yumi Lambert was the first model of colour to appear in the Christopher Kane Spring 2014 show.

Our editor Emily Yakashiro gives the example from London Fashion Week–in the Christopher Kane show on Monday, 23 white models were sent down the catwalk before the first model of colour appeared–#24, Yumi Lambert, who is mixed-race (she’s one quarter Japanese). Lambert could have easily passed as white to the untrained eye given the circumstances of that particular show, but Jezebel included Lambert in their NYFW report, noting she walked in 13 shows. Yakashiro further suggests it might be a “takes one to know one” kind of a situation, being mixed-race herself.

Keepin’ it Cutthroat with Models of Colour

Jezebel made note of a disturbing trend where casting agents for shows are hiring the same few models of colour over and over again, opting not to hire any fresh faces for their shows.


Left to right: Jourdan Dunn, Grace Mahary, Senait Gidey

This is really problematic for a few reasons:

1. If they keep hiring the same few models of colour, it would seem that these models like Grace Mahary, Cora Emmanuel, and Malaika Firth automatically become these token celebrities representing All Black Women in Fashion; they can’t simply hire other black models for shows unless they are similarly presented, suggesting that models of colour have to work twice as hard to earn and keep their spot at the top, while white models just have to walk in the door.

2. Hiring the same models of colour over and over again keeps competition especially cutthroat. For instance, if we know Calvin Klein wants only one black model, the competition for this coveted spot would be between the three models mentioned above, as well as Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn. This is a prime example of systemic sexism and racism; it shows how women are constantly pitted against one another, being forced into competition rather than wanting to establish a supportive, helpful community.

3. Repetitious hiring is tokenism and keeps with the status quo, it is like casting agents can’t even be bothered to seek out new talent. It’s like they assume a fashion show’s audience care and interest in models of colour maxes out after a while and so they don’t even try to find new models, so they throw in the One Black Girl Everyone Likes Already to keep the audience thinking that yes, there is diversity even if its conducted in the most transparent way.

4. It puts an enormous amount of pressure on models of colour to represent their race. This is a problem white models never have to deal with. For example, Marine Deleeuw isn’t The White Model the way Joan Smalls is The Black Model. As mentioned in #1, these models become The Black Women of Fashion, and become pigeon holed in a way that a white model never would.

Designers who are doing Pretty Good


Above: A look from Jeremy Scott’s Spring 2014 show, which was relatively quite diverse. Sorry, we’re not sure who this model is, if you know her name let us know!

Jezebel reported that designers who had, ” a respectable roughly 30 percent or more models of color or more,” included:

Anna Sui

Pamella Roland

Jeremy Scott

Dennis Basso

Vivienne Tam,


Rachel Comey

Alice + Olivia

Ohne Tietal

Tracy Reese

Thom Brown

Diane Von Furstenberg

Zac Posen

Designers who are Still Really Committed to their White Supremacy

Despite these strides forward, Jezebel notes that, “there were plenty of designers who featured a distressingly low number of models of color [sic]”, further explaining that, “these designers often had models of color showing between zero and three looks a presentation. Many boosted their numbers only because of a select black or asian model who wore more than one look.” The guilty designers include:



Kate Gallagher

Sass & Bide

Wes Gordon


Theyskens’ Theory

Yigal Azrouel

Band of Outsiders

Victoria Beckham

Jen Kao

Jill Stuart



Racism & The Runway, Part 4: Magazines vs. The Catwalk–Who is More Diverse?

This is the final instalment of a four-part series on Bethann Hardison’s campaign to diversify the runway as seen on her website Balance Diversity. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

Fashion activist Bethann Hardison’s campaign to end racism on the runway has certainly drawn attention to one of fashion week’s most infamous establishments: racism as shown in the ongoing exclusion or underrepresentation of black models.

While no one from The Closet Feminist team was able to make it to New York Fashion Week, we’ve been pondering the next best thing: online coverage of the Spring 2014 shows and September Issues.

In light of Hardison’s letter and our reflections on colorism in connection to her work, we thought an interesting test would be to see who is represented in the glossy pages of the September Issues of the magazines we have subscriptions to (Lucky, Elle Canada, Fashion, and Flare). Most specifically, are black models experiencing the same discrimination in fashion magazines as they are in fashion shows?

Something we’ve already noticed about the Canadian magazines is that for the first time this year, Elle CanadaFashion, and Flare all had editorials in the same month featuring models of colour–yay!

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The Magazine: Flare

The Model: Li Xiao Xing

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The Magazine: Elle Canada

The Model: Bianca (sorry, couldn’t find her last name in the spread)

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The Magazine: Fashion

The Model: Herieth Paul

Scan 1

The Magazine: Lucky

The Model: Atong Arjok


As you can see, models of colour were present in at least these four particular September Issues, evidently faring much better than models on the runway in terms of representation.

It is also great to see that, for the most part, the names of the models are mentioned. Naming models in the editorial is actually a rarity, but a positive step forward to be sure.

Bringing colorism back into the conversation, we can see how something as seemingly subtle as providing a model’s name becomes political. Consider some of the comments made in our first video, where our editor took a look at six issues of Lucky from their January 2013 issue up until and including the June/July issue. In this span of time, the magazine only featured two models of colour for their major editorial. In January, they featured a black model whose name is never mentioned. Contrast this to the June/July issue where Asian model Wang Xiao is named three times. This was suggested in the video to be tokenism, and it still is, but in light of Hardison’s letters, seems to support our suggestion of a “disturbing hierarchy”  in the fashion world where black models aren’t as important as other models, and unfortunately pitted against Asian models competing for the token “model of colour” spot in a given runway show.

So let’s take a more in-depth look at things and test this naming theory against colorism in the September Issues we are discussing here.  It might be like testing apples and oranges since these magazines are all completely different (Lucky is American, Fashion is like Canada’s Vogue, Flare is like Canada’s Lucky, and Elle Canada is obviously part of the Elle franchise), but nevertheless we will persist:

First up is Flare. Model Li Xiao Xing is named in the credits of the photo shoot, which is nice to see.

Next we have Elle Canada, where model Bianca is only named by her first name. Even if she was doing a “one name only” thing like Cher, Madonna, and Iman, it’s actually still quite common for models to just be listed with their first names–could be a safety/privacy thing which is a good idea.

Then there is Fashion. We’ll spoil the ending now by saying it is the only magazine out of these four to not provide the name of the model, who is stunner Herieth Paul. We had to go and research her name elsewhere. Tsk, tsk Fashion.

Lastly, Lucky really steps up its game: not only do they (finally) use a black model for the second time this year, they provide her name, Atong Arjok, and a short profile about her, yay! A big improvement from it’s January-July work, but it should be noted that the September Issue of Lucky landed on news stands with a brand new editor.

It seems that at least for September, models of colour, and specifically black models as per Hardison’s concerns, are represented fairly well in the all-important September Issue of these magazines.–at least in contrast to representation on the Fashion Week catwalks. Let’s hope we continue to see progress in both avenues as the months wear on.


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