The runways in the global fashion capitals (New York, London, Milan, Paris) are notoriously white. For complex reasons, whiteness is valuable in a model, and models of colour routinely negotiate racism at all levels of the modelling industry.
For different reasons, Tokyo Fashion Week has the same problem.
NY Daily News reports:
Tall, white and often blonde young women dominate the runway, with a foreign look that is now commonplace in Japanese magazines, shows and advertisements.
"It's kind of odd," said 24-year-old Rika Tatsuno, one of the few Japanese models appearing on the Tokyo catwalks, where she reckons she is in an Asian minority of about 10 to 15%.
"Definitely we would like to see more Japanese models."
A lack of racially diverse catwalks is by no means unique to Tokyo, which is vying to compete on the global fashion stage. But its lack of Japanese faces is striking.
"I want to show the 'made in Japan' aspect, but the Japanese are attracted to Europe and foreign countries, so in order to promote this brand's image I use foreign models," [designer Hiroki Uemura] said.
Kali Myronenko, a 20-year-old from Ukraine, first appeared on the Tokyo runway when she was 17 and is now based in the city, where the insatiable appetite for her looks gives her a regular stream of work.
As spectators filed out of Uemura's show, fashion PR worker Kaori Yasuike said it was not at all strange for her to see blonde Caucasians strutting down the runway, because she sees them all the time in magazines.
"We want to look at someone who we admire as an ideal body type," she said.
In 2014, Vogue Japan featured only three women of color on 14 covers, only one of whom was of Japanese descent, according to a survey by online forum The Fashion Spot.
In pursuit of their ideal look, Tokyo agents nowadays choose many of their models from Eastern Europe or Russia, according to fashion week casting director Bobbie Tanabe.
Meanwhile, some Japanese youngsters seeking to make it on the catwalk now try their luck in fashion centres such as New York, Tanabe said.
"Maybe using Japanese models can be too realistic for (Japanese designers)," he added.
There is also the issue of Tokyo Fashion Week's global appeal — it still does not attract the prestigious designer names that show in Paris, New York, Milan or London.
Model Rika Tatsuno, who grew up in the United States, thinks this is another reason designers opt for foreign models.
"They want to branch out internationally and so they can't just target the Asian market," she said, although she suggested Japanese models would help to give "a better understanding of how the clothes would look" on their main domestic consumers.
Read the full article here.