Image source: Jordan Casteel / Vogue
FashionThe September editions are always the most anticipated of the year. They are packed with sophisticated advertisements, forecasts for autumn trends and numerous photo series. That year, the magazine hired two contemporary black artists to paint covers on the subject of hope, and called for racial justice both around the world and in the fashion industry. Fashion selected Jordan Casteel and Kerry James Marshall for the job, giving both of them full creative control to decide who to portray, as long as their subjects wore a dress by one of four specific designers. The resulting covers are just plain beautiful.
Jordan highlighted fashion designer Aurora James, the creative director of Brother Vellies and founder of the 15 Percent Promise, a campaign to support black-owned businesses. "I believe that what Aurora does is hugely important to making the long-term change that blacks deserve, and this country owes us something," said the New York-based painter Fashion. "I see her as light in a lot of darkness and as a potential for hope, as a representative of change in all creative industries."
For her blanket, Jordan painted Aurora in a voluminous blue Pyer Moss dress as she sits on a nearby wooden stool with a single Brother Vellies shoe on. Jordan carefully incorporated various details under the radar to give viewers a sense of hope. For one thing, Aurora's left foot is pressed firmly against the floor of her Brooklyn roof, "propelling her up into the world above her," and helping her "step into the realm of real possibility," she explained. The distant windows are the same light blue color as the sky to encourage residents of the building to take advantage of the limitless possibilities of the outside world.
Image source: Kerry James Marshall / Vogue
Kerry, however, took a slightly different route for him Fashion Cover picture showing an imaginary woman wearing a white asymmetrical dress from Off-White and sitting in front of a window. The Chicago-based artist wanted to portray her as "self-obsessed" by staring into the distance rather than directly at the viewer. "I try to build into her expression that she does not depend on the viewer's gaze." I'm here and you can see me, but I'm not there for you, "he said Fashion.
"When you say 'black is beautiful' you have to show it."
However, the skin tone of his fictional subject is the most important detail that Kerry focuses on. "[Your skin is so dark it is] on the verge of visibility," he said, adding, "The point is to show that the blackness is rich and complex within the blackness alone." He mixed different colors while painting her face and added an orange eyeliner that was only noticeable when zoomed in. "When you say, 'Black is beautiful', you have to show it. And what I do is on the extreme. Yes, it's black – very black – and it's very beautiful."
The two September covers are meaningful, but not deleted Fashionpast missteps in terms of inclusivity. Only last month did the publication trigger criticism of the portrayal of August cover star Simone Biles. Many believed that the photos Annie Leibovitz captured and edited did not accurately celebrate Simone's skin color and natural beauty, and that the magazine should instead put a black photographer in the spotlight. The release still has some work to do to encourage different voices, but the September 2020 covers are certainly a step in the right direction.