By Michele Smith
Facebook – MicheleSmithMarketing
Even in recent years, diversity in the fashion industry is still severely lacking and described by many as an extremely slow change. Beyoncé recently graced the cover of Vogue and was the only 3rd black women to appear on the September cover. This is very meaningful as magazine print publications are infamously known for their lack of diversity. Industry changes have however been happening slowly and progress is still moving forward. Fortunately, there are some modeling mavericks that are making the modeling industry more diverse and they are working day-in and day-out, to make sure these changes happen.
Bethann Hardison a former model and fashion activist, began her career modeling in 1967 when she was discovered by designer Willi Smith. She quickly started crossing over from fitting modeling, to runway shows and print. In the 1970’s, she broke some major barriers when she appeared in Allure, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vogue. Hardison changed her focus from modeling to activism in 1981, as she was concerned with the politics of the fashion industry and clearly has made her mark with her efforts. In 1984, she formed the Bethann Management Agency with the mission of diversifying the fashion industry. In addition, she co-founded the Black Girls Coalition with former model Iman in 1988 to provide support and advocacy for African American models. Hardison’s contributions for diversifying the fashion industry have earned her multiple awards, including the First Annual Vibe Style Lifetime Achievement Award, a Distinguished Service Award, a Women of Power Legacy Award from Black Enterprise to name a few. Hardison is clearly a pioneer for diversity in the fashion industry.
Brandice Daniel is the founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row, a company dedicated to showcasing multicultural designers by offering a creative platform where they can present their designs and sell to some of the key decision-makers in the fashion industry. Daniel created her company because multicultural designers represent less than 1% of the designers that are featured in major clothing stores and his mission is to change this fashion industry standard. She has presented over 35 multicultural designers since she founded her company in 2007. Daniel has also been featured in New York Magazine, New York Times, and Ebony magazine, to name a few of the many media outlets recognizing her work.
Nafisa Kaptownwala founded Lorde Inc., an agency representing a number of beautiful women of color, as she was not finding the models she wanted to work with and her industry friends were not styling or shooting models of color either. Her intent is to get major designers to work with models of color and not just work with the favorite faces of the year. Many of the multicultural models she has signed were turned down by other agencies, because there simply wasn’t interest there. Kaptownwala’s niche agency mission to make the modeling industry more diverse, resulting in the major agencies changing their ways, while at the same time applauding every advance in diversity made by the big brands.