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About Sao Paulo Fashion Week: Models Still Too White

São Paulo Fashion Week is getting a lot of heat even though it is the winter season there. Amidst the elegant silk dresses and the exotic printed swimsuits, discontent surfaced due to an inadequate selection of “black models and models of African or indigenous descent.”

Anti-racism campaigners previously believed the problem of underutilizing black models on the catwalk was behind them.  Back in 2008, the event’s coordinators agreed to meet a 10% quota of black models for after it was brought to their attention that January’s Sao Paulo Fashion Week booked only 28 black models out of a total of 1,128 models. 

Photo: Reuters

Feeling as though the 10% quota is not being effectively upheld, many Brazilians are now urging for the quota to be doubled to 20%. According to protesters, there were “too many blue eyed and blonde haired” models on the runways, failing to support the diversity of Brazil. Mostly Caucasian, European and other light skinned models made their way to the catwalk for these recent shows. Despite that 50.8% of Afro-Brazilians are accountable for the Brazilian population, there seems to be a lack of leading black models in the fashion world.  However, Brazilian designer Oskar Metsavaht claimed that he could not find a “full line up” of adequately experienced black models.

“Research showed [bookers’] clients still reject the combination of black [models] and luxury clothing,” a Brazilian fashion editor by the name of Vivian Whiteman told New York Magazine.

Bruno Soares, an African-Brazilian booker, added: “For historical reasons Brazil’s black population has been poor and not a consumer of fashion. This is reflected in the casting.”

Should the runway shows be about representing the Brazilian (or regional) population?

Or should it be about fashion designers showcasing models they believe can best represent (and sell) their brand, regardless of skin tone?

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