Gracing the cover of a fashion magazine is a big deal – and a big risk. A big risk for the editor who picks the cover, never knowing whose face will attract and sell record copies of magazines as the world of mainstream publishing continues to be impacted by the digital age.
As the fashion industry itself is based on numbers and profits, choosing the right cover girls and cover boys is crucial. Historically, the fashion industry’s known predilection puts mostly Caucasian faces and bodies on the front row, often neglecting other racial ethnicities. It is well-documented that black faces are seen fewer times on those covers; until recently, anyway.
The September Issue is the most important of any major fashion magazine worldwide. Putting a model on its cover can launch a career in the industry. It is the best introduction a model, it-girl or a uprising celebrity can ask for.
Let us speak plainly: There have been many black faces gracing the covers of major September issue in the past, but what occurred this year on these covers was truly and surprisingly unprecedented. More black faces than ever were on the covers of our fashion Bibles, from Beyoncé for Vogue U.S. to Rihanna on the cover of the British version of the same magazine franchise to Zendaya graciously setting the tone for fall sitting pretty in animal print coat.
Not only were the number of black faces doubled on magazine covers this year, but it was even more striking to find them on the most important issue of the year. Whether it’s a renouveau in fashion or simply time for black faces to get the recognition they deserve in the industry will be left to history to decide.
Hopefully this growth goes beyond one season and much further than just on the covers.
Stanley Pierre-Etienne follows the world of fashion from his bases in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.