Race campaigners demand quotas over lack of black models on Brazilian catwalks

One of the world’s leading fashion events is being criticized for refusing to use black models. Critics are furious that despite slightly more than half of Brazil’s population is black or predominantly black, Sao Paulo catwalks are overwhelmingly white. Campaigners have now called for a 20% quota to be imposed on fashion chains, in order to better represent ethnic diversity.

Frei Davi Santos told the Guardian; ‘We cannot accept the world of fashion insisting on being a stronghold for the Eurocentric.’ The Brazilian race campaigner has organized protests at the event to highlight the issue. He added; ‘Sao Paulo fashion week sells the image of a Swiss Brazil where everyone is white and blue-eyed. The organizers… forget that more than half of the country’s population is black.’

A voluntary 10% quota was introduced after an inquiry in 2008 that found that only 28 of the 1,128 models were black. However, campaigners say that organizers and fashion labels have simply ignored the quota and that the only way to make lasting changes is by introducing compulsory rules.

Vivian Whiteman claimed that the reason for the underrepresentation of black models is because ‘research had shown that clients still reject the combination of black [models] and luxury clothing’. Model booker Bruno Soares added; ‘For historical reasons, Brazil’s black population has been poor and not a consumer of fashion. This is reflected in the casting.’ He said that the lack of diversity was due to ‘cruel rules’ imposed by the fashion industry.

Mr. Santos, who has continued his protests during the fashion week, said that the event full of models with ‘typically European characteristics’ failed to represent the ‘wealth of Brazilian ethnicity’. According to Santos, Brazil as a country emphasizes its European characteristics but disregards the indigenous Afro-Brazilian people.