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Leomie Anderson talks diversity, feminism and fashion

The model speaks out on fashion's issues and how we can change things

Monday March 13 saw the newly launched ‘Women’s Space’ in Carlos Place Mayfair. Housing a small amount of guests for a conversation with British model Leomie Anderson, around feminism and diversity within the fashion industry.

The two-storey pop-up work and events space by Mayfair Collective aims to facilitate women of achievement, with a series of workshops, alongside talks across the year, open to members and those who are interested in topics around women, fashion and the arts.

The model has gained a lot of attention as a voice for change to the fashion industry’s issues involving subjects such as body confidence and consent targeted at her younger region of fans. These issues were the main reasons why her digital platform LAPP came in to being, with the intention to give women a voice. Anderson aims for it to inspire women saying: “Only women can write for the blog and it can be on anything, be it mental health, relationships – whatever.”

 

 

Anderson suggests that social media can have quite a different meaning when it comes to the following people have, and its power to dictate whether your voice is heard, which is something she wanted to change.

“I wanted to use the following I had to give other people a voice because I feel that people today are so obsessed with having a lot of followers and see followers equalling power or currency, so I wanted to use [LAPP] for people who have something to say but may not have a platform or the biggest following to get it out there in the way they intend to.”

Such changes are happening within retail too. Big brands such as Nike and D&G are implementing change within their products, from selling sports Hijab to using plus size models such as Ashley Graham in campaigns and magazine editorials. Anderson believes that the fashion industry is starting to change more and more every season and this may be due to the rise of social media. “A lot of what the consumer wants is being slowly reflected on the runways now, which is great,” she says but she adds there is still quite a long way to go in terms of diversity and representation.

An issue which she herself often faces, due to the fact that she’s a black model, is that she is at an automatic disadvantage as soon as she walks through the door compared to her white counterparts. If she is cast in a show, the likelihood of any more than four other dark-skinned or black models in general, being cast too is slim. Anderson says: “I’ve had instances where the clients said to me ‘we’re not using any black girls this season’ and I just think that I can’t believe I’ve waited here for hours but they wait until I’m here in front of them to tell me that they’re not going to look at my book and see me walk because of the colour of my skin.”

This treatment is often reflected backstage in the fact that many hair and makeup artists aren’t trained or equipped in handling hair types of women of colour due to them often not being cast a lot, which can make for awkward situations. Anderson has experienced first-hand the struggle when it comes to the relationship of black models and whoever’s chair they’re placed in before a show and their inability to work on all hair types. Whilst working on a campaign with Nivea a hair artist tried to put body cream in her hair as a method of applying moisture.

When it comes to brands incorporating different cultures into their fashion aesthetic recently, there has been controversy around whether representation has gone too far and stepped over into cultural appropriation. During the conversation, Anderson shed light on the most recent activities within fashion to ruffle a few feathers such as Gigi Hadid wearing a synthetic afro wig during Marc Jacobs show and Karlie Kloss dressed as a Geisha in Vogue. Models are often first in the firing line but Anderson says this is wrong; “so many people started attacking Karlie Kloss the model, but one thing I have to put out there as a model myself, is that she had no say in what that editorial was gonna be and that’s what a lot of people forget”.

She describes fashion as often being oblivious to the deeper meaning of things when it comes to editorials, in regard to the Hadid afro wig critics who ask why they didn’t choose a model who had an afro already. Anderson defends this by saying; “people also need to understand that fashion is its own world completely and sometimes they’re just thinking about the look.”

Editors, execs and decision makers are who we should direct our disappointment to, says Anderson. She believes it’s their responsibility to instil change but she also talks about how us all keeping the conversations going can also impact change. “The more we speak about these issues the more that fashion gets pressured to change and I think that social media has been great when it comes to making changes for diversity within the fashion industry.”

With the recent news of Alexandra Shulman leaving the position of editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Leomie hopes that this can helpfully encourage “more young black men and women, other races coming into bigger positions within fashion,” and in result give the industry a fresh spin. “That’s what fashion needs — a little bit of revival!”

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