Does race still matter?

After talking to a new designer, I’m wondering if I need a reality check.

This designer -a 40 year old black professional woman with an advanced degree- is new with two collections under her belt. Like many designers today, it’s been hard to get off the ground. She’s wondering if it’s hurting sales that she used a black model for her clothes because a buyer said they weren’t interested in an urban streetwear line. I saw the line, it’s not urban. The styling is definitely architectural, similar to Junya Watnabe.

Without linking to her because I don’t want to put her on the spot, I would say her model is attractive and nicely proportioned. She doesn’t have any obvious tattoos or piercings (that is a turn off for a lot of people, sorry if that annoys you). She’s not a professional in that she’s skeletal but she is taller and thinner than the average woman with some upper arm definition. Isn’t that supposed to be in style now? Michelle Obama has some muscles. I don’t think this model looks “urban”, whatever that means.

I told this designer her problems were more likely related to a challenging economy and to not take the comments of one stray racist to heart. But now I’m wondering if I’m an idiot because I can’t believe that race could still matter to people in this day and age. It annoys me that someone could call this an urban line. I am well aware there is no parity of national origin in design or modeling but do people really care about the race of someone’s model to the extent they won’t buy?

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77 Comments on "Does race still matter?"

5 years 13 days ago

Rereading the thread on recovering a horrifying past, I thought of this beautiful video I saw the other day. Happy dancing in Auschwitz and Terezinstadt and Lodz, by a survivor and his grandchildren.

[…] this season! Another frequent contributor to our site is Kristin Haskins Simms (most notably in this thread). The last PR contestant has participated on Fashion-Incubator regularly but used a pseudonym. As […]

5 years 7 months ago

A line called “strangefruit” evokes Billie Holliday and that famous anti-lynching protest song.

Race still matters, as sad as that is. But it works both ways. If I see ads from a retailer showing several models and there are no black models (African-American or African-Other Origin) or they aren’t prominently represented, in other words, are a token minority I seriously consider whether I want to buy from them.

Sonia Levesque
6 years 29 days ago

This was a “heavy” yet enlightening read. Thank you Kathleen, again, for asking us a good question.

My answer is yes, race still matter. I have nothing new to add… so much has been said. lol
But I must confess that the comments on psychology (type casting in marketing – my studied field in University), staged photo shoots versus plain background, and general passionate views on the subjects of appearance and race characterization made me think/ponder/assess my own truths in a refreshing way.

I’ve always thought opinions and point of views were the spice of life. What a spicy dish we’ve got here!

6 years 1 month ago

yeah…ok. luckily I’ve been on this site for a few years and am quite familiar with Kathleen’s way of taking things personal.

Kathleen, my comment refers to Colorblindness as it pertains to race (sometimes called race-blind). I used it within the context of this post, commenting on Katherine’s comment. It speaks to people who CHOOSE to say they are colorblind, meaning they don’t take into account the race/culture of another person. What I said has nothing to do with any physical or psychological inability to decipher actual colors or social nuances. No offense intended.

ok, this was nice.. I guess. back to work for me. I hope everyone has a great weekend!