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Racism in the Fashion Industry: Was Ajak Deng Canceled from Balmain for Being Black?

Ajak Deng opens Naeem Khan Fall 2014 / Image: IMAXtree

Ajak Deng opens Naeem Khan Fall 2014 / Image: IMAXtree

Yesterday evening, IMG model Ajak Deng sent out a serious of aggrieved Tweets which seemed to claim that she had been cancelled from Balmain's Fall 2014 runway show over her race. 

Screenshot via

Screenshot via

Deng's comments were quickly picked up on social media, in the tFS forums and in the Fashin Livejournal community. 

"Very proud of you Ajak, if you're reading this," said tFSer Firefly216, before other forum members jumped in to show their support. Deng later deleted her Twitter account (some speculate that she did so at the request of her agency), but not before screenshots of her remarks were posted all over the Internet.

The fashion industry has been the target of widespread criticism over its whitewashed runway shows. Former modeling agent Bethann Hardison brought international attention to the issue last September, with a raising awareness campaign called Balance Diversity, which was co-sponsored by supermodels Naomi Campbell and Iman.


Deng's comments seem to support all available evidence about fashion's racist casting practices, however, there are still a lot of unknowns in this instance, and those are worth mentioning: 1) We don't know for sure that Deng had been booked for Balmain, 2) We don't know that she was canceled, 3) We don't know what exactly transpired between Deng and Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing/his staff. 


Making this all seem more complicated is the simple fact that the Balmain show was pretty diverse in terms of casting. This is not just a case of Rousteing, who is half-black himself, filling his runway with one or two token black girls: by my count, eight black models walked the Balmain runway yesterday — including Jourdan Dunn, who opened it. 

That being said, racism takes many subtle forms (this concept is known as 'microagression' in academia and on Tumblr) that are often hard to identify as an outsider, especially if you haven't personally experienced racism (which I haven't). And Deng's darker skin makes her a greater target for the fashion's latent racism than, for example, Jourdan Dunn, who has lighter skin and is better established in the industry. (Of course, Dunn has also been the target of racism over the course of her career.) 

The Tumblr blogger DynamicAfrica put it this way: 

"Whether you want to believe Ajak or not, one thing anyone cannot deny is the fashion’s industry’s racism and their often slick way of dealing with the casting of black models. One or three tokens, black models that look a particular way, or better yet, making all the models black because it’s so ‘fashion forward’ (pun intended). Citing the fact that Balmain opened up with Jourdan Dunn is also step in that direction. It completely negates Deng’s experience. Perhaps I’m naive but, aside from the fact that the fashion industry is racist, I highly doubt a top model like Deng would ‘risk’ her career by going out against a huge label like Balmain. Whether I’m wrong about this doesn’t matter to me. As a black woman who’s is also dark skinned and African, I’d rather give her the benefit of the doubt in this situation – especially knowing that even when not much is said and done, through our very existence as black people we are incredibly well fine tuned to understand when we are victims of racism, even when we can’t exactly ‘prove’ it. When racism is so embedded in a system, when it’s part of a culture, those who have the upper-hand are often blind to, or do not question, their participation in these structures. For starters, just google ‘Balmain’ and let me know when you see a dark-skinned model with a bald head and features that resemble Ajak Deng’s walking their runway."

We have reached out to Deng's agent at IMG and Balmain for comment and will update if we hear back. 

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Saskia de Brauw is Vogue Italia’s Wonderfully Wild March Cover Girl (Forum Buzz)

Vogue Italia dropped its March cover this morning featuring Dutch model Saskia de Brauw, wearing a dress and skirt from Christian Dior. Brauw poses for Steven Meisel alongside some stuffed animals (not something you would expect on the cover of Vogue). The outcome of the 'wonderfully wild' shoot is very striking, with styling by Marie Amélie Sauvé, hair by Guido and makeup by Pat McGrath, it's no wonder we're in for a wild ride. Vogue Italia is in a league of its own!



TheFashionSpot forums couldn't contain their excitement after the cover was posted. "This is A-MAZING," wrote JessicaKarina

Nepenthes enthusiastically posted, "Finally! My initial reaction to this was shock which is exactly what I've been waiting for. I love how off Saskia's pose is and how strange the composition is in general. A definite win from Vogue Italia. Hopefully the content will be just as exciting!"

"Just crazy about this cover image, striking, and cool to see Saskia!" commented Miss Dalloway

A few members didn't share the same sentiments, with Bertrando3 writing, "It looks gimmicky and not good. Are we sure Meisel did this??? It looks really bad."

CATO made members laugh, "Its a joke, isn´t it? for me it's 'Vogue meets National Geographic.'" Member kuli trendy also made a reference to National Geographic magazine: "I thought it's NatGeo magazine… The face painting is too distracted…" he wrote.

Check out the thread and join the discussion here. There's also a behind-the-scenes video to watch too!

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Watch: Can We Talk About Lupita Nyong’o? a tFS Roundtable Discussion [theFashionDish]


Here we go! Today we have another installment of theFashionDish, a new original series from tFS. Last weekend, we brought together six fashion industry experts for dinner and a roundtable discussion recapping New York Fashion Week. In the coming weeks, we'll be bringing you lots of short clips and a full 30-minute episode drawn from the rowdy, hilarious and informative conversation that ensued. 

Below, the panelists talk about Acadamy Award nominee Lupita Nyong'o's appearance at the Calvin Klein Fall 2014 show and also her overall effervescence. "There's not a single pore on her face," says Robert Verdi, bewildered. 

About our panelists:

  • June Ambrose, a leading celebrity stylist whose clients include Jay Z, Missy Elliot and Zoe Saldana.
  • Laurie Brookins, a veteran fashion journalist who has interviewed designers like Tom Ford, Frida Giannini and Alber Elbaz. Brookins was also theFashionSpot's social ambassador this Fashion Week.
  • Katie Cassidy, the star of The CW's Arrow and co-founder of the fashion blog TomboyKC.
  • Jaclyn Jones, Senior Womenswear Editor at WGSN, a leading trend forecasting firm.
  • Chiun-Kai "Chunky" Shih, fashion photographer, Condé Nast creative director and the creator of Hipstamatic's 'Chunky' lens.
  • Robert Verdi, a celebrity stylist (best known for his work with Eva Longoria), television personality and lifestyle expert.

Julie Bensman, theFashionSpot's editor-at-large, moderated the discussion, which was filmed at The Lion in New York City. 


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Sneak Peek: Orla Kiely Teams Up with Clarks Again for Fall 2014

As we climbed inside the old Central Saint Martins building during London Fashion Week in order to see Orla Kiely’s pretty cat and dog themed presentation, there was one thing the fash pack was most eager to see, and that was the launch of her second Clarks shoe collaboration.

Accompanying her beautiful Fall 2014 raincoats, pretty tea dresses and kitsch bags marched a capsule collection which, of course, encompassed her classic signature style with the cool functionality of Clarks’ designs.

orla 1

Often referred to as the Queen of Prints, Kiely is known for her love of colour, pattern and texture, her Clarks capsule collection infuses the classic design of the 60s and 70s with a contemporary twist. Consisting of six different styles, our favourites had to be The Dorothy, a classic, mid-heel Mary Jane and the Dotty, a T-bar, mid-heel platform.

The Fall 2014 collection is set to drop around August, but if you can’t wait until then, scoot over to Clarks and opt for a pair from its Orla Kiely Spring 2014 collection instead. Combining bright pops with a cool, retro-inspired slingback block heel, they’ll make for the perfect addition to your new season wardrobe.

Images: Orla Kiely and Clarks 

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Flashback: Vogue Italia February 2005 with Doutzen Kroes by Steven Meisel

I often find myself going through phases with certain models. This week I have been obsessed with Dutch model Doutzen Kroes. I was on the hunt for images of Doutzen when I came across a photograph which was shot by Steven Meisel. After doing some research regarding this particular photo, I found out it was part of a set of images entitled 'Fresh' from the February 2005 issues of Vogue Italia.

TheFashionSpot is a huge database of fashion images, so I searched for the issue's thread and found the entire shoot (alongside a comment of mine from 2009 which I completely disagree with today)! After seeing a scan of the cover, I knew I had already seen it somewhere before. I searched my stack of Italian Vogue's and there is was…February 2005.

The fold-out cover is a profile shot of Kroes wearing a white Blumarine blouse. It really is something special, and with hair by Guido, makeup by Pat McGrath and styling by Edward Enninful, we couldn't expect anything less.



Steven Meisel's 16-page story with Kroes doesn't disappoint. The story is flawless, consisting of mostly black and white images and shows Doutzen in a classic studio backdrop wearing a range of outfits from Max Mara, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren Collection, Miu Miu and Gucci.

The rest of the issue features Daria Werbowy by Mario Sorrenti, French actress, former fashion model, and singer Emmanuelle Seigner by Peter Lindbergh, Gemma Ward by Craig McDean and a few other hidden treasures.

You can check out the issue's thread and familiarize yourself with the content here.


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Get A Closer Look at Those Ultra-Luxe ‘Shopping Bags’ Alexander Wang Showed at Balenciaga

Images: IMAXtree

Images: IMAXtree

At today's Balenciaga show, designer Alexander Wang presented an unexpected new range of accessories; models walked down the runway carrying a bundle of ultra-luxurious shopping bags, cut in crocodile and patent leather. At first glance, the bags seem like clever commentary on the luxury fashion model: High-end brands like Balenciaga might show clothing on their runways to much fanfare, but in fact these companies make their billions by selling handbags and other accessories. 

However, when asked to comment on the items by critic Suzy Menkes backstage at the show, Wang telegraphed simpler intentions: “I love the idea that something as simple as a shopping bag can come in croc!”

Whatever Wang was thinking, it's easy to read meaning into his Balenciaga 'shopping bags.' They appear to play on both the 'it' bag thing and inherant status conveyed by carrying a shopping bag from a luxury store. Fashion companies invest plenty of resources into producing packaging which delivers on the sumptuous, exclusive quality associated with blue-chip brands. In fact, upscale packaging is such an effective marketing tool that in China, shoppers are even known to buy and carry fake shopping bags printed with iconic high-end logos. 

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