‘Elle’ Germany Did Literally Everything Wrong in This Attempt to Highlight Black Models [Updated]

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We’re once again in the unfortunate situation of reporting another failed, deeply offensive attempt by people in the fashion industry to highlight ethnic diversity. And this one is especially baffling.

On Tuesday, Diet Prada posted a page from the November 2019 issue of Elle Germany with a feature on ” models of color” with the coverline “Black is back” at the top. Yes, “Black is back,” as if being Black is a trend that cycles in and out of fashion. “Black is back” appears to be the theme of the entire issue, mostly referring to the color in terms of clothing, but clearly the editors of Elle Germany decided they’d just fold some human beings into the trend.

And it doesn’t end there: As Diet Prada notes, the magazine couldn’t even keep those human beings straight, misidentifying Naomi Chin Wing as Janaye Furman. It also made an odd choice in highlighting Joan Smalls alongside a group of relative newcomers, given that she’s a modeling veteran at this point (and has hardly taken a break from runway appearances).

To make things even worse, the issue features a thin white model on the cover, as is pretty much always the case with Elle Germany, a magazine that clearly has no interest in hiring Black models and only features them in its pages when it fits a trend.

It’s another case of the how-did-multiple-people-see-this-and-think-it-was-ok mystery. And another step backward for genuine inclusivity in the industry. A rep for Elle Germany did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Update, Wednesday Oct. 30, 2019 11:30 a.m.: A rep for Elle Germany provided the following statement by the magazine’s Editor in Chief Sabine Nedelchev, briefly acknowledging its mistakes:

“In our current issue we approach the colour black from different angles. One of our focuses was to feature strong black women who work as fashion models.

In doing so, we were guilty of several errors for which we sincerely apologize.

It was wrong to use the cover line “Back to black” which could be misconstrued to mean that black individuals are some sort of fashion trend. This obviously was not our intention and we regret not being more sensitive to the possible misinterpretations.

Misidentifying the model Naomi Chin Wing as Janaye Furman is a further error for which we apologize. We are aware of how problematic this is.

This has definitely been a learning experience for us and, again, we deeply regret any harm or hurt we have unwittingly caused.”

Additionally, Naomi Campbell addressed the major snafu on her Instagram, writing, “This makes me so sad to see this” and recalling her own experiences of other models being mistaken for her. She also offers the magazine her help in better understanding diversity.

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