There is no better time to address the idea of diversity on the runway than during Fashion Weeks around the globe. From the presence of models of color to black celebrities sitting front row, there are so many ways that a fashion house can embrace diversity.
One of the greatest steps a brand has taken in the diversity department was made by high-end fashion house Balmain. The label appointed 25-year-old Olivier Rousteing to its coveted designer seat. Rousteing is both African and French, though not the brand’s first designer of color (Oscar de la Renta designed couture for the brand from 1993 – 2002). His appointment shows that the brand is embracing color at its helm and is also welcoming youth. His first collection shown on the runway has garnered much success, demonstrating that the brand will go forward and continue to be as successful as it was. As well, prompting other design houses to give more important and publicized opportunities to the black employees that continue to help their brands to prosper.
In an article on The Huffington Post critiquing Rousteing titled “Olivier Rousteing’s Minimal Changes at Balmain” written by Terrence Phearse, he states:
“Despite his age (and race) Olivier has a myriad of qualifications.”
I had to reread that statement several times just to ensure that I was not interpreting it incorrectly. My conclusion? There is no way to take it but than at face value. Though the remainder of the piece is very positive, and in Rousteing’s favor, that sentence really makes it difficult to even get to the latter part of the piece out of pure confusion. A black designer is qualified despite his race? In 2011, I truly would not have expected to hear that, especially coming from a black writer. None of Rousteing’s qualifications should at all be compared to the fact that he is a black man. responsibility.
Though in bad form, the rest of the article clearly shows that Mr. Phearse applauds Olivier Rousteing’s Spring 2012 collection and believes that he will continue to grow at the creative helm of the brand. But does he truly believe that race is a factor in determining whether or not a designer is capable? Let’s chalk this up to poor judgment and a lack of editing. Let’s also hope that a mistake like this is not made again. A rare occasion such as this for blacks in fashion is too positive and momentous to have it overshadowed by criticism made without foresight.
Read Terrence Phearse’s full article here and make your own assessment.