Friday, February 8, 2013

HauteTrenta Black History Tribute

Bethann Hardison
 Her Twitter title reads Fashion Activist and Documentarian.
She is many things and definitely a HauteTrenta woman and a part of modern Black History.
In the late 1960s and the early 1970s "Fashion" a multi billion dollar industry, the world's second largest employer exceeded only by agriculture was decisively failing to represent the diversity that existed in the modern world of the time. Bethann Hardison a young burgeoning model from the Bronx was a part of a group of African American models who would change fashion history.
Bethann w/ Stephan Burrows
 On November 28th 1973 a group of daring American designers Anne Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Halson and Stephen Burrows faced off with five French major Couture Houses, Yves Saint Laurant, Christian Dior, Haubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, and Emanuel Ungaro in what would become  known as "The Battle of Versailles".

Audrey J. Benard explained (2012)  it was the American designers who dropped a bomb. Their secret weapon — great clothes and a group of explosive Black models that sashayed down the royal runway to R&B music. They turned heads and simply stole the show. The extraordinary evening left an unforgettable imprint on the fashion industry and forever changed the role of Black models in America and abroad.
Bethann featured on the left
This triumphant  event would stand as a perfect example of the form Bethann's life would take. Bethann would go on to found her own agency Bethann Management Co Inc. She remains dedicated to scouting managing and launching the careers of underrepresented models of color. She is responsible for developing the careers of  Naomi Campbell, Tyson Beckford and Veronica Webb to name a few.

In 1987 she and her dear friend Iman founded the Black Girls Coalition. The organization is dedicated to raising awareness of the lack of diversity in the fashion industry. There had long been speculation as to the lack of diversity present in ad campaigns and runway shows but a 1991 study would add statistics that would validate these suspicions.
 The City of New York's Department of Consumer Affairs 1991 study resulted in the findings that a paltry 3.4 percent of all consumer-magazine advertisements depicted African-Americans--despite the fact that they comprise approximately 11.3 percent of the readership of all consumer magazines and 12.5 percent of the U.S. population (The Ugly Side of Fashion Business, Essence Sep '93)

With this information in hand Bethann invited over 100 members of the international press to a conference in New York in the winter of 1992. She and 20 members of BGC spoke of the grave injustice they were witnessing. They argued that the 16 Billion dollars that the African American consumer alone contributed to the fashion industry was reason to adjust the lens in which brands and retailers looked out of when creating marketing campaigns. In an industry dedicated to constant change and challenging the rules it was only natural to have a myriad of complexions and ethnicities mirrored back at the consumer.
 Her continuing heroism is echoed in her role as Contributing Editor at Vogue Black, an extension of Vogue Italia. Here she and Tyra Banks one of the young models Hardison helped mentor, run the publication and online fashion website that showcases black fashion talent from around the globe. It does seem that Bethann has dedicated her life to challenging the status quo within the industry she loves so much. You can view her new documentary Invisible Beauty where she speaks candidly about Black beauty in the Fashion Industry.


We are so forward thinking and so progressive in many ways within the Fashion industry. I love Ms Hardison's mission to challenge an industry who otherwise praises the "provocative". We now live in a global society and consider ourselves global citizens who are quite capable of recognizing the many representations of beauty that exists in our world.  Thank you Ms Bethann for all you have done and continue to do.

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