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Monday, October 22, 2007

Is BOSS Black For Whites Only?

Haidee Findlay-Levin offers sage advice...

The last time I went to a party at the Cunar building, it was to an extremely decadent party for Hermès, complete with a garden topiary and maze filled with towers of profiteroles and macaroons. I imagined, with the huge success of Hugo Boss, a similar such experience from their BOSS Black spring collection and after-party last Wednesday night in New York.

The atmosphere at the BOSS event was quite different—black and dark with ultra-violet lighting. My fluoro-orange nails lit up immediately around my glass, which was an easy way for my date to find me, should I have strayed in such a cavernous space. There were multiple nooks and little encased animal skeletons at the tables. I later learned that the whole set and environment had been designed by Bryan Robert Hamecs of Feltetc, who's website I was coincidentally looking at earlier that day. Bryan's work is in "cultivating botanical experiences" for art and fashion events, and he is wonderfully talented.

Out of the darkness, I spotted my friend, fellow stylist and show companion John Hullum. I had arrived late (due to circumstances out of my control) so he filled me in with a full show report. It wasn't so much the clothes he was really reporting on, but the event itself—and he was not pleased. He said the casting featured only white boys and girls, and mostly blondes. A full Aryan cast, as he described it—not even a single person of color. Sure, the mix of Tanya D., Sasha Pivovarova, Katherine McNeil, Ryan Taylor, Fion, Mathias and Jamie looked fantastic, but wouldn't it have looked even more fantastic with at least Chanel Iman tucked in there for good measure?

Yet what shocked my friend most was not the completely white line-up, but what followed. A black girl finally appeared, followed by another, and another, but all dressed as maids, complete with trays of champagne in hand. There was a smattering of white girls in this assembly, but by this point, the effect was already made.

Very surprising, especially considering the recent panel discussion on race in fashion covered in the New York Times and WWD that very day. Last season, the discussion regarding models was ALL about their mass index or weight and about potential eating disorders. But like everything in fashion, the talk and trend has moved. The conversation de jour is a more relevant and important one, that of race. The fashion industry has currently become almost immune to color, in both advertising and editorial, but especially in shows. 

Fashion has had quite a flirtation with the image of Aryan youth in recent shows and collections, menswear especially. But you would think that a multi-million dollar, internationally successful company such as Hugo Boss, originally German and known to have manufactured Nazi uniforms for the SS and Hitler Youth during WWII (see "Fashion Firm Discovers its Holocaust History" by Robin Givhan, Washington Post, 8/14/97), would be a little more conscious of race relations. They should consider their visual impact and image a little more thoughtfully.

- Haidee Findlay-Levin