Why Elle Germany has been called out over 'back to black' issue

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Why Elle Germany has been called out over 'back to black' issue
Joan Smalls, pictured on the catwalk during Milan Fashion Week in 2016, was one of the models in the feature. Photo: DPA

Fashion magazine Elle Germany has issued an apology over a 'racist' issue which features a tagline that appears to suggest models of colour are back in fashion.


People across the world have been reacting furiously to the November issue of the magazine, which has 'back to black – black is back again – irresistibly' written on the cover, next to a picture of a white model.

Meanwhile, a feature in the publication shows the profiles of six black 'new' models, including the famous catwalk star, Joan Smalls.

The feature says:  "Beautiful, successful, engaged: Never have models of colour been so in demand as now. These amazing women inspire us both on and off the catwalk."

Furthermore, the biography next to the model Janaye Furman mistakenly features a picture of Naomi Chin Wing.

Instagram account Diet Prada, known for calling out the fashion world, posted on Instagram to say it wasn't a good look.

"You can’t make this stuff up!" they wrote in the post.

In a statement, the publication said it regretted "making several mistakes", adding "we apologise to anyone we might have hurt".

READ ALSO: Sharing stories of everyday racism: #MeTwo takes off in Germany


Not a good look, @ellegermany . For their November 2019 issue, the presumably white-led publication declares that “black is back”. Ironic when they, along with much of the fashion industry, have been complicit in denying visibility to black models until relatively recently. Oh, and apparently they can’t actually tell models apart. In the bottom middle, a picture of @naomichinwing is used in place of @iam_janaye . And @joansmalls has been around for a minute/hasn’t gone anywhere lmao. The issue, titled “Back to Black”, also features a white model on the cover. You can’t make this stuff up! • #elle #ellemagazine #ellegermany #naomichinwing #janayefurman #models #blackmodels #modelsofcolor #runway #fashionweek #fashionmonth #pfw #nyfw #mfw #lfw #paris #london #milan #nyc #wtf #fail #magazine #print #editorial #editor #editorinchief #media #sabinenedelchev #dietprada

A post shared by Diet Prada ™ (@diet_prada) on Oct 29, 2019 at 8:10am PDT

On Wednesday afternoon more than 86,000 people had liked the Diet Prada post, while people vented their outrage in the comments.

One user wrote: "What a boring editorial framework on their part even if it wasn’t ahistorical and racist."

Another said: "This is what happens when companies who “want” to be diverse try to speak on diversity and have no diversity in their offices...."

Supermodel Naomi Campbell wrote in an Instagram post that the actions were "highly insulting in every way". She added: "It's ok to celebrate models of colour but please do it in an elegant and respectful way."

Dear sabine nedelchev @ellegermany This makes me so sad to see this, @bethannhardison @the_real_iman and I are here if you are not clear on the guide lines of diversity.. your mistake it is highly insulting in every way, .. you go further to say that BACK TO BLACK, even if you ment the fashion it’s is misleading on your headline and Type !! ! I’ve said countless of times we are not a TREND. We are here to STAY. It’s ok to celebrate models of color but please do it in an ELEGANT and RESPECTFUL way . I too in my career have seen pictures of others models called me just because of the color of our Skin, and recently seen many pictures of models of color being called being @adutakech .. do you know what it feels like to do the job ( @naomichinwing ) and not even be given the right name credit ? . Very disappointing to say the least . If you would like a conversation to know how to have A diverse mind we are here to sit and accommodate . It’s very important for a publication to be culturally sensitive and give credit where it’s due . We all need to unite on this matter NAOMI THANK YOU @diet_prada . #defendingmybabies ♥️

A post shared by Naomi Campbell (@naomi) on Oct 29, 2019 at 2:21pm PDT

The magazine has also sparked a debate over lack of diversity in Germany.

Motsi Mabuse, a South African dancer who has appeared on Let's Dance, the German version of Strictly Come Dancing, said in an Instagram post: "Another day for us black woman in Germany...I am sure Elle Germany meant no harm. Not trying to defend or attack anyone!!

"I do think if there was more diversity in the firm or in the magazine advising this would never have happened!!! Black is not back lol! It was never allowed."

Mabuse went on to thank Elle for apologizing but said it wasn't enough. She called for "more inclusiveness".

In the statement Elle's editor Sabine Nedelchev said: "In our current issue we are approaching the colour black from different angles. 

"As one of the topics it was our aim to feature strong black women who work as models for the fashion industry. 

"In doing so, we have made several mistakes which we apologise to anyone we might have hurt.

"It was a mistake to use the cover line 'back to black' which could be understood as if black persons would be a kind of fashion trend.

"This obviously wasn't our intention and it was our mistake not to be more sensitive about this. 

"Misidentifying the model Naomi Chin Wing as Janaye Furman has also been a mistake which we regret and for which we apologise. 

"We are aware how problematic this is. This has definitely been a learning experience for us and we apologise for anyone we may have hurt or offended."


A post shared by ELLE Germany (@ellegermany) on Oct 30, 2019 at 2:29am PDT




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