Designer Philipp Plein Casts Exclusively Black Models In Runway Show

Another Fashion Week, another heap of headlines reaming out the industry for the lack of diversity on the runway — it’s not to suggest that the conversation is overplayed, but rather that the long-standing issue remains an issue, season after season. Most designers, as a general rule, in a notoriously judgmental climate, cast black and Asian models in “token” slots — as novelties, as gimmicks, as a statement. Prada, for example, went a decade without placing a single black model on a catwalk, and 19 years without a black woman in an editorial campaign.

German designer Philipp Plein, who showed in Milan this week, is no stranger to headline-grabbing statements: he sent male models down the runway with assault rifles earlier this year, and has collaborated with such erstwhile figures as Terry Richardson and Lindsay Lohan. For his Spring 2014 collection, Plein cast exclusively black models, including popular faces like Alek Wek and Liya Kebede. Of the influence behind his decision, Plein reasoned,

“My message is about breaking down barriers and breaking the rules, doing the unexpected and shaking people from their complacence, forcing people to face the future where old prejudices have no place. For example, the public expects to see pallid girls in high heels walking my show and I give them a fleet of black beauties in flats! Not to mention the opening act featuring one of the hottest rappers on the horizon, Iggy Azalea, who also happens to be white in a black dominated hip hop world.”

He has a point! But check out the set design from the show…

Philipp Plein casts exclusively black models in runway show

But is she black?

Um, not so much. So what do we think: a genuine step forward in “breaking down barriers and breaking the rules,” or just another misguided grab for attention? [The Gloss]