Published on The Daily Femme – Friday, June 17, 2011
Contributed by Annamarya
One would think that, in a country like Brazil where over 50 percent of the population is black and multiracial, the models in its fashion week would be reflective of that cultural make up. But that was not the case in São Paulo this week. According to The Guardian, protesters are bringing attention to the lack of indigenous and Afro-Brazilian models featured in the city’s fashion week and are calling for a 20 percent quota of Black models.
The numbers reflecting the obvious white-wash on São Paulo’s runways are disturbingly cruel: A 2008 inquiry by São Paulo public prosecutor found that only 28 out of 1,128 models booked for fashion week were black, reports theGuardian. This statistic sparked the organizers behind fashion week to institute a 10 percent quota for black models, which, according to reports in Brazilian press, has been ignored this year. Furthermore, the Guardian notes a Folha de São Paulo article by its fashion editor Vivian Whiteman that claims bookers aren’t hiring black models because “research showed their clients still reject the combination of black [models] and luxury clothing.” Bruno Soares, an Afro-Brazilian São Paulo fashion week casting agent, told the Guardian that “‘cruel rules’ imposed on models” by the fashion industry has resulted in the absence of diversity on the runway, and that the casting of fashion week is reflective of the historical poverty (thus not fashion consumers) faced by black Brazilians.
While I can write paragraphs upon paragraphs of why racial and cultural diversity in the media and arts is undoubtedly important and necessary in reinforcing empowerment and unity, and advancing populations, I believe protester Frei Davi Santos put it best when quoted for the Guardian:
“We cannot accept the world of fashion insisting on being a stronghold for the Eurocentric…An event which presents a majority of people with typically European characteristics does not represent the beauty and wealth of Brazilian ethnicity. Brazil is a country that still insists on emphasising its European side and discriminating against its beautiful indigenous and Afro-Brazilian populations. We do not want catwalks that look like catwalks in Switzerland or England.”