'Why should catwalks be so white?'
Saturday 16 February 2008
Of all the models who sashayed down the catwalk at London Fashion Week, one stood out from the rest. But it was not only Jourdan Dunn's stunning looks which set her apart.
Dunn, 17, who is being hailed as the fashion world's "next big thing", has managed to defy industry conventions by joining the small number of black models on the catwalks. Predictably, she is described by those in the know as "the new Naomi Campbell".
The description is clearly meant as a tribute to her modelling ability – but the similarities with her fellow Londoner do not end there. Like Campbell, Dunn, from Greenford, is not afraid to speak her mind, especially when asked about the scarcityof black and Asian models in the fashion world.
"London is not a white city, so why should our catwalks be so white?" said the teenager. "I go to castings and see several black and Asian girls, then I get to the show and look around and there is just me and maybe one other coloured face. They just don't get picked. I hope it's because the designer just did not think they were good enough as a model, but I don't know."
Campbell, 37, the Streatham-born clothes-horse who has been an international star since she was discovered at 15, has also voiced her concerns about the lack of black models. She declared this week: "Women of colour are not a trend. That's the bottom line."
Despite the apparent struggle faced by black models, Dunn has triumphed. She was spotted in 2006, while trying on sunglasses in the Hammersmith branch of Primark, by a scout from the Storm model agency – home to Kate Moss, Lily Cole and Eva Herzigova. In less than two years, she has become one of the hottest properties in the industry.
Last year, she modelled for the designers Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Tommy Hilfiger in New York and Milan, as well as starring in campaigns for Benetton and the British couturier Alexander McQueen.
Dunn was also chosen by Kate Moss to launch her Christmas collection for Topshop, and has appeared in Vogue. The 5ft 10in teenager is currently the face of Gap.
Sarah Doukas, the founder and managing director of Storm, said of Dunn: "Every so often, a girl comes along that shakes up the industry – a girl who is uniquely beautiful with a great attitude.
"Jourdan is a modest girl from west London. She had never left England before we took her to New York but she is loving it. She has such a powerful presence as a model and just comes alive on the runway and in front of the lens. It is no wonder everybody is clamouring to book her."
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