The Victoria’s Secret fashion show is one of the most highly anticipated fashion events on the calendar and the hype for this year’s show has been higher than ever. However there is one aspect of the show that is almost never spoken of in the annual run up – the glaringly obvious lack of ethnic diversity on the runway.
The 2015 show featured a cast of almost 50 of fashion’s leading it-girls, including recent flavours of the month Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, but out of this year’s crop only seven of the girls were black and only one model was of Asian descent. The rest of the 47 strong cast was made up of the tallest, leanest and, of course, whitest women in the industry at the moment.
What makes this discovery even more baffling is when you learn that the second act of the show featured a walk entitled ‘Exotic Butterflies’ where the girls donned beautifully crafted lingerie pieces with a notably African influence. Some critics have even gone as far as to say that the collection is an example of cultural appropriation.
With debates regarding cultural appropriation emerging every day, it is hard to draw a conclusion on the topic. It does beg the question however – why does Victoria’s Secret feel comfortable taking inspiration from classic African designs and imagery but yet does not feel any obligation to feature more women in their show who could actually represent these cultures?
One women who was notably absent from this year’s spectacle was Jourdan Dunn. The model, who last February was the first black model to grace the cover of fashion bible Vogue in 12 years, had been walking for Victoria’s Secret since 2012 but did not return to the catwalk this year. After confirming she wouldn’t be back, she tweeted calling the show ‘bullshit’ though the tweet was quickly deleted.
It’s not clear exactly why Dunn left the show but it has been speculated that it was due to not feeling that she was being paid as fairly as her caucasian contemporaries. To add fuel to fire, following Dunn’s departure, Stay singer Rihanna pulled out of performing at the show. The artist claimed her cancellation was so she could finish work on her album but it’s hard not to wonder if, in fact, it was an act of support for her friend.
Whatever her reason for leaving was, it’s safe to assume Jourdan Dunn won’t be tuning in when the show airs on December 8. But for all the millions around the world who do watch the show, how many will notice the blatant racial imbalance that’s hiding behind the feathers and rhinestones?