By Eromosele Patrick Eidusi
The latest Comme des Garcons show was one for the brand’s history books, and not just because the fantastic dresses on show were some of the most memorable to appear on a Paris catwalk in recent years.
No, the show was momentous because it was the first time creative director Rei Kawakubo hired dark-skinned women to model her clothes in more than 20 years.
Earlier this week, the online fashion website, Heroine, asked a good question: “why won’t Comme des Garcons hire black models?”
At a time when fashion is finally beginning to fully embrace diversity on the catwalk, the revered and critically adored independent brand founded and run by Rei Kawakubo seemed like the last hold-out, a fact that seems especially odd when you consider Comme des Garcons is widely considered fashion’s most progressive and revolutionary brand.
When the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute celebrated Kawakubo with a retrospective exhibition last year, the longstanding lack of diversity on her catwalks threatened to overshadow the entire event; Comme des Garcons hadn’t used an identifiably black model since Chrystele Saint Louis August in 1994. This is 2018.
And yet the sad irony: Comme des Garcons is a brand loved, worn and supported by highly influential people of colour. As Heroine pointed out, most of the celebrities who actually wore Comme to the Met Gala in Kawakubo’s honour were black including Rihanna, Pharrell Williams and Tracee Ellis Ross.
So with a decades-long stretch of racial homogeneity – excluding Kawakubo’s regular casting of Anna Cleveland, who is biracial and the fabulous daughter of iconic black model pat Cleveland – it was a refreshing surprise to finally see inclusive casting in Kawakubo’s show.
Four out of the 16 models who walked were black (a tremendous jump from 1 in over 20 years), with two black models getting the coveted spot of opening and closing the show. May this be the first diverse Comme show of many.
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