Comme Des Garçons finally cast dark-skinned models in its AW18 show at Paris Fashion Week Advertisement

Comme Des Garçons finally cast dark-skinned models in its AW18 show at Paris Fashion Week

Representation matters

By Kenya Hunt  March 6th, 2018

The Comme des Garçons show was one for the brand’s history books, and not just because the fantastic dresses on show were some of the most memorable to appear on a Paris catwalk in recent years. No, today was momentous because it was the first time creative director Rei Kawakubo hired dark-skinned women to model her clothes in more than 20 years. 

Earlier this week, the online fashion website, Heroine, asked a good question: ‘Why won’t Comme des Garçons hire black models?’ At a time when fashion is finally beginning to fully embrace diversity on the catwalk, the revered and critically adored independent brand founded and run by Rei Kawakubo seemed like the last hold-out, a fact that seems especially odd when you consider Comme des Garçons is widely considered fashion’s most progressive and revolutionary brand. 

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute celebrated Kawakubo with a retrospective exhibition last year, the longstanding lack of diversity on her catwalks threatened to overshadow the entire event; Comme des Garçons hadn’t used an identifiably black model since Chrystèle Saint Louis August in 1994. This is 2018.

And yet the sad irony: Comme des Garçons is a brand loved, worn and supported by highly influential people of colour. As Heroine pointed out, most of the celebrities who actually wore Comme to the Met Gala in Kawakubo’s honour were black including Rihanna, Pharrell Williams and Tracee Ellis Ross. 

So with a decades-long stretch of racial homogeneity — excluding Kawakubo’s regular casting of Anna Cleveland, who is biracial and the fabulous daughter of iconic black model Pat Cleveland —it was a refreshing surprise to finally see inclusive casting in Kawakubo’s show. Four out of the 16 models who walked were black (a tremendous jump from 1 in over 20 years), with two black models getting the coveted spot of opening and closing the show. May this be the first diverse Comme show of many.