Diversity Sells

French Vogue has announced that it will feature Valentina Sampaio, a Brazilian transgender model, on its cover this March. This is a first for Vogue, and the first time a transgender model has ever appeared on the cover of a French magazine.

In the pages of the issue, the editor-in-chief, Emmanuelle Alt describes the motivation behind the decision to include Sampaio: “beyond her evident physical qualities and her sparkling personality, (Sampaio) embodies… a long and painful fight against being perceived as a ‘gender exile’”

However, French Vogue is a bit late to the game. Several American fashion magazines have celebrated transgender models on their covers, most notably Vanity Fair’s July 2015 cover starring Caitlyn Jenner.

“Critics claimed that the shoot was orchestrated…”

This news comes amid the backlash surrounding the ‘plus size’ model Ashley Graham’s shoot, appearing next to Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner; Vogue is under an increasing amount of pressure to show diversity and inclusion. Critics claimed that the shoot was orchestrated so that cleverly placed limbs made Graham appear smaller compared to the other models.

Meanwhile, photographer Mikael Jansson released unpublished images online of supermodel Karlie Kloss posing as a traditional Japanese geisha girl for Vogue’s ‘diversity’ issue. These images provoked a lot of angry sentiment, accusing Vogue of white-washing and cultural appropriation.

“This issue was so coveted that advertising sales went up 30% and it ran out of print not once but twice

But diversity sells, Vogue Italia’s 2008 ‘All-Black’ issue became the best-selling issue in Vogue Italia’s history. The issue showcased only black models. Big names and fashion icons, like Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Yasmin Warsame and newer faces like Jourdan Dunn, Chanel Iman, Sessilee Lopez alike graced its pages.

It’s articles focused on black women within film and media, highlighting wider issues of racism within the arts, entertainment and fashion industries. This issue was so coveted that advertising sales went up 30% and it ran out of print not once but twice. Marking the first time Condé Nast chose to reprint a magazine issue to satisfy its readerships insatiable demand.

There is a long way to go until there is complete fair representation within fashion magazines. It is, after all, hard for a leopard to change its spots. But it is integral to the survival of Vogue, and all other fashion publications in the 21st century, to remember that fashion is for everyone. Perhaps, it is arguable that ensuring this has now even become a responsibility. After all, to stay a leading player within the fashion industry, one must keep up with the times.

Elle Magill

Image Credit: Andrew Ridley via Unsplash

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