Last Monday, twenty‐five black models walked for Zac Posen’s Fall 2016 collection at the New York Fashion Week. In an industry where black women are scarce on the runway, this move caught the attention of many, even making headlines in the New York Times. Though the response to Posen’s highlighting of black models has largely been positive, there are those who refuse to let a black girl shine.
The motivation behind Posen’s NYFW collection was Ugandan Princess Elizabeth Bagaaya Akiiki, or Princess Elizabeth of Toro. Born in 1936, she became the third African woman in history to be accepted to and graduate from Cambridge University. She also became the first female East African to be admitted to the English bar in 1965. Princess Elizabeth of Toro even became a highly successful fashion model in the United States and graced the covers of Vogue and Harpers.
Posen was paying homage to Princess Elizabeth of Toro. It seems logical that the models chosen for a show inspired by a black woman would include black women, right? So, what is the problem? Furthermore, the runway could really use this fresh dose of diversity on a more regular basis. Posen made this statement to Harper’s Bazaar:
Since the inspiration was Elizabeth of Toro it made sense to have a casting reflecting this. Their presence and the diversity of the casting complemented the collection and made it more striking. … We live in a diverse world and it is essential it is represented in the fashion industry—it has always been critical to me, as well as a key component of my collections—whether it’s shapes, sizes or skin color—as my customers are global and part of all diverse groups.
What do you think of Posen being slammed for highlighting black models at NYFW?