If You Watch One Thing Today, Let It Be Naomi Campbell Talking About Diversity in Fashion

“You’ve seen all shapes, sizes, colors, different hair types on the runway…but now, it needs to go deeper than that.”

Naomi Campbell at WSJ Tech Live
Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Naomi Campbell has schooled us in everything from how to walk the runway to how to clean seats on an airplane (seriously — her YouTube channel is a goldmine), but at the WSJ Tech Live event, the model took on a more serious topic: diversity in fashion and where the industry should go from here.

Campbell, who sat down with WSJ Deputy Editor Elisa Lipsky-Karasz, acknowledged that there has been more representation on the runway, but said the next step is having the same thing happen behind-the-scenes, too.

“You’ve seen all shapes, sizes, colors, different hair types on the runway — we're still in that," she said. "But now, it needs to go deeper than that. We need to see within the actual companies, in the offices, are you going to give the diverse staff a seat at the table to advise and be part of the projects that you do? Instead of when things arise — when there's a hiccup, when there's a mistake, when there's an accident — having to then build these advisory boards."

Gucci, the CFDA, and Valentino were all mentioned as brands who have these types of boards, and Campbell sits on a few of them herself. However, she made the important point that they wouldn't need to exist if more diversity was happening in-house.

While Campbell posted a short video of her answer to Instagram, there was another powerful part of the interview where she spoke about being "the token" model during her career and how it wasn't a good feeling. There were times, said Campbell, where she was the only black model in a show with 70 girls, and she couldn't turn down the job because then there'd be none. She also agreed that she can tell when brands are embracing diversity for "the token" or whether it's authentic.

"I don't want to say names of brands because I'm not going to call people out," the model added. "I have to believe that everybody is coming from a good place. We'll discover, as we go along — we will know who is doing it for the token and who is doing it for real."

Let's hope the fashion industry is paying attention.

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