The need for inclusivity, diversity and representation is more pressing than ever in the fashion industry. Though the last fashion season was the most diverse in history with people of colour making up 47% of all the models in NYFW, there‘s still work to be done. Fatima Abdelwahab showcases eight of the most remarkable and influential Black female models that we need to celebrate every day.
Akech is highly sought-after in the fashion industry. She has opened and closed several Chanel shows, being the second-ever Black Chanel bride. Adut spent the first 7 years of her life in a refugee camp in Kenya and it is for that reason that she not only aspires to represent Black women but also anyone who worked their way up from nothing. TIME recognised her as one of the “25 Most Influential Teens of 2018” and she was named ‘Model of The Year’ at the British Fashion Awards.
The British model was discovered in one of Primark’s stores in London. In a time where Black women were still not immensely represented in the fashion industry, Dunn made history by being the first Black model in over a decade to walk a Prada runway in 2008. Also, in 2015, she was the first Black woman in 12 years -after Naomi Campbell- to be featured solo on a Vogue UK cover.
Halima has battled the traditional definition of beauty and did many firsts in the fashion industry as a hijabi model. Not only was she the first hijabi to compete in Miss Minnesota USA pageant, but she also worked her way up till she got featured on several Vogue covers and walked many fashion runways. She was the first model to get featured on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit with her hijab and burkini.
As empowering as it gets, Woods started her fashion career while in Labour by walking the Savage x Fenty runway back in 2018’s NYFW. She breaks all the mainstream beauty criteria and conquers the fashion world with her buzzed hair, gap teeth and tattoos. Even though Slick is undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with stage three skin cancer she remains positive, strong and empowers us all.
Winnie came out of the gate strong after her appearance in the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model in 2014. She immediately became one of the most successful and profitable fashion models. She is a public spokesperson on the skin condition vitiligo but she refuses to be defined by it.
Borges is an Angolan model who started her modelling journey in Angola. After moving to New York, she walked 17 runways in her first fashion week. She then became a Givenchy exclusive. Significantly, Borges is well known as the first model to walk the Victoria Secret Fashion Show with her afro hairstyle.
Precious Lee is one of the very first Black plus-size models. For years she was not called by her name in the fashion industry as her agents thought that she should stick to a more mainstream name, Victoria. She fought for her own identity and got called back by her name in 2015. Since then, she became the first Black plus-size model to be featured on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
This 70s supermodel broke many boundaries in the fashion industry and was the first Black model to be on a US Vogue cover, in 1974. Johnson is a heroine of the civil rights movement, as she changed the idea of beauty in the US after her appearance. During her modelling career, she starred in over 500 magazine covers.
Header image: Adut Akech, Versace Autumn/Winter 2018 runway. Credit: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images