Magazine Puts Diversity in Vogue With All-Black Issue

Leslie Casimir, Houston Chronicle, July 24, 2008

On eBay, the $17 copy sold late Tuesday for $38. Some sellers were offering a package of the four different covers for $400.

For more than three weeks, local fashion stalwart Tracey Ferguson of Jones magazine has been scouring the city for the taboo-breaking issue of Vogue Italia, which dazzled the international fashion world this month with its issue featuring only black models.

This is unheard of: An unprecedented 100-plus glossy of the fashion and entertainment world’s top darker-hued faces, wrapped up in a stunning four-page foldout cover of supermodels Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn, Liya Kebede and Sessilee Lopez.

Ferguson, the editor-in-chief of the fashion and lifestyle quarterly, recently got so desperate for a peek at the international fashion bible that she convinced a friend in New York to scan and e-mail the pages of the magazine to her. She hasn’t stopped gushing about the photo spreads.

“They’re beautiful—I didn’t realize it would be this hard to get a copy,” said Ferguson. “I’ve been to Borders, I’ve been to Barnes & Noble, to Issues—all sold out. I’m like, ‘What?’”

Ferguson should have known better. The issue was the brainchild of Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani, who was inspired by Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and the lack of diversity on the fashion runways.

She decided to do something about it, teaming up with top fashion photographer Steven Meisel, who shot the models. The fashion and the media worlds haven’t stopped talking about the July issue ever since.

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Ferguson and Smiley said that they were disappointed that it took a European magazine, not an American one, to deal with the hesitancy the fashion industry has long held to hire black models, claiming that they “don’t sell.”

Hopefully, that myth has been debunked.

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Tran said he thinks it will. He has never seen so many black fashionistas walking into his Montrose shop before, plunking down a good chunk of change for the magazine. His distributor, Speed Impex, has imported thousands more of the issue for the U.S. market.

Additional reprinting

Greg Allen, Impex’s Midwest regional manager who covers Texas, said he has gotten requests from newsstands and stores that normally don’t carry Italian Vogue, including black-themed bookstores. Allen said the American demand has been so great for the Italian issue that Conde Nast in Europe has done an additional reprinting of the magazine due to arrive in the States today.

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