Model: Alima Fofana | Photographer: Agatha A. Nitecka | via: Flickr
It’s not often that black models are shot in soft colours. In fashion, pinks and pastels are reserved for paler complexions, while black models are mainly used to showcase the bold colours that make white skin appear washed out, or the leopard/zebra/’ethnic’ prints in fashion that season. It might seem strange to complain about this in an industry where black models are chronically underused, and where fashion editors would sooner hire white models and black them up than get a black woman in for the shoot. In this context, the observation that black models don’t wear pink might seem the least of our worries.
But consider that colours like soft pink, baby blue etc. are commonly associated with femininity, delicacy, vulnerability, whimsy and play. While demanding greater numbers of models of colour on the runway, it’s also worth thinking about how limited and limiting the representations of black women can be. Styled as powerful, fierce, sassy, divalike, sexy or imposing, black women in fashion do not appear in their diversity. Where are the gentle, soft, vulnerable, gauche, fawn-like black models modelling pretty spring looks?
This lack is why Olympia Le-Tan’s SS13 collection, modelled by dancing black women miming into hairbrushes and wearing penny loafers and bows and Alec Wek pretty in Jasper Conran pink (as opposed to her oiled skin being used as contrast) were such refreshing fashion moments. And these shots of Alima Fofana also stand out for representing a side to black women that is all too scarce in fashion pages. We know all about black lady divas, but this shot reminds us of the soft edges, the vulnerable underside of that commonly presented face of black womanhood.