Naomi Campbell On Women of Colour In Fashion: 'We Don't Want To Be A Trend'

The supermodel and face of H&M's Fall collection campaign praises the brand for being one of the only labels to deliver longstanding diversity.

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'Designers get really big and really rich off of [black] culture, and then you don't see a motherf*cker that looks anything like us in the front row half the time,' Nicki Minaj said earlier this week.

Following her performance of 'No Frauds' at Philipp Plein's SS18 NYFW runway show, the singer applauded the German designer's choice to put women of colour front and centre, but also took the opportunity to shame the fashion industry for a tendency to exploit black culture for its own gain.

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Naomi Campbell - enduring fashion superstar and frontwoman for H&M's latest Autumn campaign - cited Nicki Minaj's words last night, using them to sum up her own feelings about the industry's take on diversity.

'I have to agree with Nicki's quote. Everyone is using [black] culture as inspiration,' she speculates to ELLE, 'but I now want to see whether it's going last or whether they'll move onto something else.'

'I'm going to stay optimistic and positive, and hope that it's not going to disappear,' she says.

Fashion *Still* Has A Diversity Problem

It's no new thing to say 'fashion has a diversity problem.' It's had one for an extremely long time. And arguably, since she shot to superstardom in the nineties, Naomi Cambell has been the exception that's proven the rule. She's often been the star of the show, but she's also often been the only woman of colour on the catwalk.

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For every designer that invites an inclusive cast to walk in their shows - including the likes of Marc Jacobs, Ashish, Zac Posen, Demna Gvasalia, and Prabal Gurung, who have made women of colour a mainstay - there are a host of others who seem to completely disregard the need for representation.

Last year, the Diversity Report found that less than 25 per cent of the models cast in the Autumn (Fall) fashion month were models of colour. It's a marginal improvement from the previous year which saw 80 per cent of white models cast, but still, it's a shameful statistic.

Everyone is using [black] culture as inspiration and I now want to see whether it's going last

More recently, the issue has muted into a different form. As Nicki Minaj implied and Naomi Campbell upholds, some brands are now seeing women of colour as zeitgeist and a way to tap into a popular cultural trend, casting a small handful of women of different skin shades in a bid to win press attention for the courtesy of them doing so.

It's tokenistic at best, and insulting at worst.

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Naomi Campbell's Challenge

Alluding to the idea that this latest inclusion of women of colour and the appropriation of their cultures in fashion could just be a passing fad, Naomi issues her warning to the fashion world at large.

'We don't want to be a trend,' she says.

'It's the skin we're born with and will spend the rest of our lives with until we leave [the Earth],' she affirms.

When it comes to the fashion magazines, Campbell is as emphatic in her plea to these other industry insiders.

'You've got to really think ahead now,' she says. 'Think differently and think what readers want - that's the only way to keep their interest. People want to see multi-cultural women of all colours, shapes and sizes.'

Some Get It Right

This morning, Campbell was revealed as the star of H&M's Fall campaign. In promotional footage for the new collection, the 47-year-old can be seen strutting her stuff with the usual Campbell flair down a Tokyo high street in a cool black power suit, while miming along to her late friend, George Michael's, 1983 hit Wham Rap!.

Featuring alongside a brilliant and unique cast of models - the likes of models Adwoa Aboah, Chiharu, Devon Windsor and Camille Rowe - the advert sends a clear message about catering for all sorts of women.

'I was one of the first models to work with H&M back in the '90s and they're one brand that has always been diverse. It's great,' she notes.

'I love what they're doing for Fall, it's a smart move,' she reiterates.

You can read more about the campaign here.

Models Have To Stick Up for Themselves

Since launching her career at the age of 15 and landing her first magazine cover on British ELLE at the age of 16, the model has had a reputation for asserting herself and her importance in the industry.

It's lucky that she had it in her to do so, considering the industry was so tipped against her.

We don't want to be a trend

'I've always believed you've got to work hard, no matter what. I kept my head to the ground and got [the job] done,' she says.

In the early days, she admits thinking to herself: 'If they don't have my make-up, then we'll find a way - we'll mix the colour, we'll go: 'we're about solutions, not problems' and I wouldn't back down.'

'It's not a fight, rather, not backing down on self-commitment,' she adds.

Naomi is quick to applaud the industry's new generation of models of who are pushing to be represented and heard.

Speaking of her H&M Fall campaign co-star model, mental health campaigner and feminist activist Adwoa Aboah, the supermodel notes: 'I think she's doing everything just right. She's being herself, she's got a voice.'

'I love the girls who speak up and have a personality - it separates them from the others. Adwoa is now in a league of her own. I'm very proud of her.'

'Adwoa feels strongly about what she does and that's why it's genuine and authentic,' she adds.

But when it comes to the girls who feel insecure in an industry that's not quite sure how to cherish them yet, Naomi has some clear advice:

'Do not give up or give in. Speak your truth and take action on it.'

You heard the woman.

H&M's Fall Fashion collection will be available in store and online from 21 September.

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