Racial representation gets boost from Rihanna’s Dior deal

Mar 17, 2015 | Life

By: Christina Succi

Rihanna made history when the iconic fashion brand Christian Dior named her as its first black spokesperson Friday.

Rihanna stars in the fourth installment of Dior’s “Secret Garden” video series as she joins other famous faces including Jennifer Lawrence, Marion Cotillard and Natalie Portman.

The news underlines the under-representation of women of colour in fashion and media campaigns.

Only 985 out of the 4,621 looks that were presented at New York fashion week last fall, were represented by non-whites, according to a study by Jezebel,. Nearly 80 per cent were represented by white women.

Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Shulman of Vogue Britain was even quoted in an interview as saying ‘black cover girls don’t sell as well as white cover girls’.

When there is racial representation in fashion magazines and media campaigns, it is widely noted that the women are largely “washed down” by white ideals- whether it be the lightening of the skin pigment or the placement of a blonde wig that is typically made of Caucasian hair.

Dior’s move is a refreshing change to the industry senior account and social media coordinator for Toronto PR firm, ASC public relations, Carolyn Beaudry told Humber News.

“It’s rare to see Dior cast black models, so I think having an “IT” girl like Rihanna will create a lot of buzz,” Beaudry said.

“Dior is a very iconic brand and we are used to seeing classic faces such as Marion Cotillard and Charlize Theron [two white faces].”

Beaudry represents brands such as Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein and Tiffany & Co. and says that during a time in which fashion is always changing and modernizing, the move was a strategic one that will pay off.

“Having Rihanna as the star of the campaign will give the brand a modern edge, which is needed in order to stay current in this competitive world of fashion,” Beaudry said.

“The decision is still very surprising, but I think it will change the brand and introduce a whole new consumer that they haven’t seen in the past.”

Mira Singh agrees. This is just the beginning of a new trend in the industry, says the founder of the fashion and lifestyle blog Smoke and Mirrors.

“Models such as Winnie Harlow, who’s not only a black woman but has vitiligo, is blowing up right now, and it’s going to drive considerable income not only from Rihanna fans but that community as well,” she said.

“It’s definitely something that’s been long awaited considering the only black model previous to that was Naomi Campbell,” said Singh.

Using an “unconventional” model like Rihanna is a marketing tactic by Dior to be more relevant and present in an extremely competitive industry she said.

But Dior’s announcement still may act as a glimmer of hope that the fashion landscape may undergo a racial shift.

Having coloured celebrities as the face of these sorts of campaigns will help promote equality and potentially transform society in to being ‘more accepting’, Beaudry said.

“Dior has really never done this, and they’re known to have never used coloured women on the runway- so this is actually huge and will really make people open up their eyes,” she said.