Models walk the runway during the Le Méridien Pool Deck Runway as part of Melbourne Fashion Week in Melbourne, Australia 23 October 2023. EFE/EPA/JOEL CARRETT AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Black models boycott Melbourne Fashion Week over experiences of racism in industry

Sydney, Australia, Oct 25 (EFE).- More than a dozen Black models have boycotted Melbourne Fashion Week in response to experiences of racism in the wider Australian fashion industry.

“For years I’ve been silent to not speak out about the fashion industry in Australia cause I been scared of retaliation or the fear of being dropped or not booked,” wrote model Jeffrey Kissubi on his Instagram.

Kissubi, 30, is one of those speaking out after a collective of models created a support group to talk about their experiences of racism in the industry.

As a result, some of them have refused to attend castings and/or rejected offers to work at Melbourne Fashion Week, which began Monday and will run until Sunday, and which they are using to bring attention to their experiences.

“No one talks about what being a POC [person of color] in this white majority industry takes a toll on your self worth! You’re either tokenized by brands or told that the reason you’re not getting jobs is because you don’t have the Australian look,” Kissubi continued.

“Having people on set saying racially insensitive things, damaging your hair cause they don’t know how to work with it or get makeup artist not doing your makeup properly cause hey they’ve never bothered to get a POC to practice so you become their experiments! Black darkskin women have it 10 times worse! I’m tired !!!!! We are sick and tired!”

The 24-year-old model Awar Malek told Melbourne newspaper The Age, which first reported the story, that “Black models doing Australian fashion is a form of self-destruction.”

Malek said that Australian Fashion Week and Melbourne Fashion Week are when brands usually hire many black models “because we are the cheapest at this time” and it’s “good PR for them,” before they “go back to whitewashing fashion.”

“One fashion week after the next, we are tokenized and then treated badly and hardly ever booked by the industry afterwards,” Nyaluak Leth, 26, told the same newspaper. “You begin to question why you even bother.”

A spokesperson for the City of Melbourne, organizer of the fashion event, said: “All models walking at Melbourne Fashion Week are paid the same rate, with the exception of some higher profile models – including those from diverse backgrounds. The standard rate is comparable or above similar fashion industry events,” according to The Age.

In another post responding to the messages of support received, Kissubi said “speaking out is never easy but indeed rewarding when your voice resonates with many other people who have experience the same thing.”

He also questioned why some industry players have “remained silent” and said the models won’t stop until the issues are addressed.

“I love you all and this is just the beginning!” his post finished. EFE