Fierce

Naomi Campbell And Other Fashion Authorities Slam ELLE Germany For Their Offensive ‘Black Is Back’ Cover Story

Instagram account Diet Prada has become somewhat of an authority in fashion when it comes to holding brands, designers, magazines, and editors accountable for their work —they’ve turned into the industry’s ‘Fashion Police’ if you will. Whether they’re calling out retail giants for plagiarism or spilling the tea on celebs’ copy-cat lewks, Diet Prada has gained notoriety and sparked a lot of controversy in Fashion. Well this week, the famous Instagram page put Elle Germany on the spot for their failed, deeply offensive attempt to highlight ethnic diversity. And the attempt was truly baffling.

Diet Prada has become known for calling out fashion’s biggest mishaps —and this one is definitely making it to the top 5. 

Whether it’s spilling the tea on trivial fashion matters or calling out Dolce & Gabbana for their distasteful chopsticks ad last year, Diet Prada never shies away from shining a light on the inner workings and missteps of the industry. This week, the infamous DP called out ELLE Germany for a problematic fashion feature that ran in the magazine’s November 2019 issue —and as the model Janaye Furman posted on her IG, the tea is boiling.

ELLE Germany’s November issue ran the coverline ‘Black is back’, as if being black is a trend that circles in and out of fashion. 

credit Instagram @diet_prada

DP posted a photo of ELLE Germany to its Instagram page, highlighting a feature titled “Black Is Back.” The phrase seems to be the running theme of the entire issue, mostly referring to the color in terms of clothing, but clearly the editors of Elle Germany decided they’d just fold some human beings into the trend. 

The magazine highlighted 6 models of color with the title ‘Black is Back’ -like the color of a human being’s skin could be a trend.

credit Instagram @diet_prada

The article spotlights six prominent models of color with the caption, “Super, Girls!” Diet Prada wrote, “Not a good look, @ellegermany. […] Ironic when they, along with much of the fashion industry, have been complicit in denying visibility to black models until relatively recently.” 

The magazine couldn’t even keep those human beings straight, the story misidentified one black woman for another.

credit Instagram @diet_prada

And it doesn’t end there, in addition to the article’s insensitive title. ELLE Germany also misidentified one of the models with another woman of color —SMDH. Diet Prada showed that a photo of Naomi Chin Wing was used in model Janaye Furman’s spot. As if “Black Is Back” wasn’t bad enough, the publication somehow confused one black woman for another.

Prominent fashion editors of color weighed in on the matter by sharing their thoughts on Instagram.

credit Instagram @gabriellak_j

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, fashion director at Garage magazine, also took to Instagram to weigh in on the situation, saying, “So, this means that no fewer than four people read the name Janaye Furman, and saw a picture of Naomi Chin Wing and not one spotted the error…those editors responsible for this story do not care enough about it to give it the same attention they would give any other story in the magazine. Or, those editors responsible of this story cannot tell the difference between two black models.”

 “I am horrified, but I am not surprised,” Gabriella added.

credit Instagram @gabriellak_j

The fashion editor even went as far as to explain the editorial process from pitch to print, and the many opportunities the publication had to fix the mistake. Many Instagram users jumped into the comments section in shock, including some notable celebrities and fashion authorities. Model Maya Stepper commented, on Diet Prada’s post; “this is sad,” while the iconic fashion blogger BryanBoy added, “Good intention but poor execution”; creator Donte Colley wrote, “what the actual f*ck…”

The iconic Supermodel Naomi Campbell also joined in on the campaign against ELLE Germany.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4N43dDHJ9P/

In an Instagram post, supermodel Naomi Campbell shared her own thoughts on the issue at hand: “This makes me so sad to see this…your mistake[,] it is highly insulting in every way.” She continued, “I’ve said countless of times[,] we are not a TREND. We are here to STAY. It’s OK to celebrate models of color[,] but please do it in an ELEGANT and RESPECTFUL way.”

Naomi made a point to express her willingness to sit down and talk if people are not “clear on the guidelines of diversity” and that misidentifying a black model is “disappointing.” She finished off her post by saying, “It’s very important for a publication to be culturally sensitive and give credit where it’s due. We all need to unite on this matter.”

“The issue, titled ‘Back to Black,’ also features a white model on the cover. You can’t make this stuff up!” said Diet Prada.

credit Instagram @diet_prada

But hold on, there’s more! To make things even worse, the issue features a thin, white model on the cover —as is pretty much always the case with Elle Germany, a magazine that clearly has no interest in hiring black models and only features them in its pages when it fits a trend. 

Elle Germany Editor-In-Chief shared a weak apology statement on the matter.

credit Instagram @ellegermany

In response to Diet Prada’s post, ELLE Germany editor in chief Sabine Nedelchev shared a statement on Instagram saying: “In our current issue we approach the colour black from different angles. One of our focuses was to feature strong black women who work as fashion models. In doing so, we were guilty of several errors for which we sincerely apologize.”

“It was wrong to use the cover line ‘Back to black’ which could be misconstrued to mean that black individuals are some sort of fashion trend,” the statement continued. “This obviously was not our intention and we regret not being more sensitive to the possible misinterpretations. Misidentifying the model Naomi Chin Wing as Janaye Furman is a further error for which we apologize. We are aware of how problematic this is. This has definitely been a learning experience for us and, again, we deeply regret any harm or hurt we have unwittingly caused.”

The tone-deaf issue is another case of the how-did-multiple-people-see-this-and-think-it-was-ok mystery for the books. And another step backward for genuine inclusivity in the fashion industry. We can’t help but wonder if this would’ve happened had the publication actually put their money where their mouth is and employed people of color to begin with. How’s that for real inclusivity?

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