Photo: Katherine Lowe
Every ready-to-wear season, much is made of the monoculturalism present in fashion – specifically, the lack of models of colour versus the omnipresence of their Caucasian counterparts. The men’s shows are no different. Of the 20 or so shows that I personally attended in Milan and Paris, only one (Ermenegildo Zegna) included a large number of non-white male models (the collection was inspired by China and approximately 30-40% of the models booked were of Asian heritage). While there were models of colour who walked a lot of shows, the vast majority, like always, were white.
I met Kindergarten teacher-cum-model David Chiang, one of the Chinese boys who walked for Ermenegildo Zegna, at the Comme des Garcons show in Paris. He’d scored the best job of the week, a Dior Homme exclusive, and had come to Comme to watch a friend walk. Before it began, I asked him a few questions about life as an Asian male model, and here’s what he told me:
“It’s really hard to get work if you’re not blonde and blue eyed. There were so many Asian models in Milan but only three of us seemed to get any work. It’s really hard to get exposure because the majority of collections are inspired by American or European style and it’s difficult to represent that if you don’t look like that. [That said], last season Louis Vuitton was inspired by Asian culture but they didn’t book any Asians. To book jobs in Paris you have to either be unique or really well known. If you’re neither, it’s really hard to get work.”
What’s most ironic about all this is that China represents one of the few growth markets in the luxury industry right now. You’d think designers – or their CEOs – would be doing everything they can to cater to those markets, both in terms of their product and their marketing campaigns.
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