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This Controversial Bag Is Making Fashion Week Headlines—Again

By / Published on Wednesday, 24 Feb 2016 12:23 PM / No Comments / 183 views

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Bet you didn’t see that coming. Amid fashion’s usual market of bejeweled, snakeskin, and embellished styles, model Ashley B. Chew’s Black Models Matter tote gives new meaning to the phrase “statement bag”. Her controversial design originally made headlines last September when she took to the streets and was captured by street-style photographer Melodie Jeng, pictured above. But this season, it’s back—and this time, it’s on the arms of major influencers like designer Zac Posen and diversity activist Bethann Hardison.

Chew recently spoke with Fashionista about the ongoing conversation surrounding the bag. And when asked in her interview why black models matter, she said, “We matter because we’re people too. … Fashion is supposed to represent diversity and creativity. Black people buy the clothing too. So why can’t these consumers see people that look like them showcasing the merchandise on the runway and in catalogs?”

She’s not alone on that issue—and as you can see above, she now has some heavyweight support behind her. Posen himself made headlines during fashion week (for the New York Times, CNN, et al) after he presented his fall 2016 collection on a cast of 76 percent black models. Why so buzzy? Because, as Chew aims to change, that is far from the norm. According to the Fashion Spot’s diversity report, black models made up 7.4 percent of the total models who walked the fall 2015 season, and 8.5 percent of the models who walked the spring 2016. While the numbers are far from ideal, the report did praise New York for being a leading fashion capital of diversity with black models making up 10.7 percent of the total models who walked the spring 2016 season.

Hardison, who (according to Fashionista’s interview) was actually responsible for getting Chew’s tote in the right hands, also cheered on Posen’s atypical casting. She told The New York Times, “I haven’t heard applause like that for one of Zac’s shows in a long time. Zac set the tone for the rest of the week.” That week later saw Kanye West cast a largely diverse group of 1,000-plus models for his Yeezy Season 3 presentation (and yes, Chew was in it!) which will likely up the above percentages for the fall 2016 season. Here’s to hoping—and having more people doing, like Chew.

Watch the Yeezy Season 3 show.

Photos: Melodie Jeng/Getty Images

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