This blog post has been a long time coming. You might remember about two years ago I had a look at 52 different sewing magazine covers and disappointingly found that every single one had a white model on the front. Despite the diversity and colourfulness (in every sense of the word) within the sewing community there were no Black, Asian or ethnic minority models on the front cover of any of the magazines that supposedly cater for us.

I was shocked to say the least but more than anything, disappointed. The sewing community is one that is, at its core, about celebrating our individuality and diversity- its one that prides itself as being welcoming and inclusive- regardless of age, gender, size, shape, sexuality. But on one of the most basic of things, they were flat out failing.

So what has happened since then?

Outside the sewing world, magazines and publishers are slowly starting to wake up to the diversity issue. Most notably there was the appointment of Edward Enninful at British Vogue. His predecessor was heavily criticised for her reaction when her final edition showed a photograph of her 54 strong staff- all of who were white.

“Diversity for me is not just about skin colour but of perspectives. It should be part of the language of the magazine always. That’s just what the world is.”- E Enninful

Since being at the helm Edward Enninful has been leading the way with championing women from all backgrounds, featuring them centre stage on the front covers. Across the pond, the 2018 September edition of American Vogue had its first ever cover photo taken by a Black photographer in its 126-year history.

One hundred and twenty-six years. Let that sink in.

While strides have been made by a few notable names, this Guardian report earlier this year reminded us that the rest of the mainstream magazine world had remained significantly white. In fact they carried out a similar bit of research to mine- looking at 214 of the best-selling magazine covers and found that only 20 had a person of colour on the front. That’s less than 10%.

Back to the sewing world:

After I published my blog post, I was lucky enough to have a few discussions with different editors- some referenced a lack of models, others felt their hands were tied by powers-that-be but a few were actively trying to make a change.

So what has changed? Well I decided to do a bumper review of issues spanning over 5 different sewing magazines, from January 2017 until September 2018. That’s 102 issues and…. well, I have mixed feelings.

Out of 102 issues, 6 featured a model of colour on the front. I know what you’re thinking: six is better than zero, so that’s progress right? But then again, zero wasn’t exactly a hard number to beat. I guess the reason why I’m reluctant to jump up and down with excitement is the distribution of the covers. Of those 6 covers, half were from one magazine. The other magazines had only managed 1 model of colour in 21 issues. And even then, two of those magazines went the entire of 2017 without a model of colour. And one (very popular) magazine didn’t even manage that- with zero models once again. So is that progress?

I try to reason it but I feel that underlying it all there’s something more uncomfortable going on: the assumption that people of colour don’t sell magazines. But it’s just not true. In August 2018 The Guardian published the Gal-dem takeover of the Weekend Magazine- a collection of women and non-binary people of colour. It gained so much traction that people reported it being sold-out at their newsagents- but more than that there was a significant spike in sales. Going back to Mr Enninful- whilst he was at Italian Vogue he spearheaded the ‘Black issue’, which featured Black models exclusively. It was such a big hit that it’s the only issue of Italian Vogue that has ever been reprinted. As Liv Little, the founder and editor-in-chief of gal-dem, says: “diversity breeds creativity.”

One of the things that struck me the most from the messages I’ve been sent is the feeling of being undervalued- as a consumer, as a person. Because it is no exaggeration to say that by failing to represent us, they are telling people of colour that we don’t matter. I know there’ll be editors that are horrified at that thought and will be shouting at their screens saying “no way. That’s not me”. But trust me: that is what is happening. More than ever we have learnt the impact of staying quiet and going along with the status quo. It’s no longer good enough to passively stay to the side and “carry on with business”. By not making a positive change in the right direction these magazines are complicit in keeping people of colour on the sidelines.

So we are asking you to be better because we deserve better. And please don’t take a hundred years to do it…

“It is a moment … to do what it has always done best: to offer a bold vision of what the future can – and should – look like”- E Enninful

What can we do?

There’s only so much impact I can make as a single person writing on my little blog so I need your help. You don’t need to be a woman of colour to speak out about this! We can’t celebrate all women if we don’t support and stand up for each other. So here’s a few things you can do:

  1. Lets bring the colour to our timelines! Save this badge and share it on your social media to show your support. Don’t forget to include the hashtag #SewInColour
  2. Share this post! Let’s get this going far and wide.
  3. Tweet/DMs magazines and tell them your thoughts.
  4. Write about it yourself, each of our experiences are unique and the more of us we have behind this, the louder our voices

P.S. If you are an editor or are interested in discussing this further please email me at thelittlepomegranate@gmail.com

14 thoughts on “Sew In Colour- Part 2”

  1. Love, love, love this. Well done. Thank you. Its not hard to get a model of colour really is it. 2 or 3 issues a year out of 12. Representative of the country. It just can’t be that hard..

    1. You’d think so 🙁 But I think it’s also being aware of what they put out. If it doesn’t effect you its easy to not notice.

  2. It’s a shame that Sew Sew Def (digital magazine) didn’t keep going – I never buy magazines myself but it was refreshing to see an option that represented more people in the sewing community. I bet a magazine with you on the cover would sell like hotcakes! Broader diversity would be nice to see, as well – not just a range of skin tones but different sizes, ages, gender identities, etc., even just different kinds of style (although I guess the magazines all have their own ‘look’). The covers you’ve shown are so boring and same-y; “How bland can you take it?!” Representation DOES matter, and how many people really feel represented by those covers?

    1. Oh I hadn’t realised that it had stopped. That is a shame. I don’t think it really took off in the UK? Ha ha, I’m definitely not fishing for a cover girl job 😀 there’s much better qualified people than me!

  3. I agree with everything you have written, but would like to point out another omission….not just from the magazine front pages, but from a lot of major indie sewing pattern makers. The models are indeed mostly white, but they are ALSO slim and young! There are NO plus sized models (although Cashmerette patterns cater brilliantly for this sector). However, NO magazine or pattern company ever shows older models. I am 58 and buy a lot of indie patterns, but it’s like I don’t exist. It’s a problem that has been addressed recently with the #sewover50 hashtag on Instagram, but the pattern companies have yet to respond.
    Let’s hope they wake up and embrace diversity in all its forms, after all we are all joined by our common love of sewing and it’s terrible in this day and age that they don’t reflect this.

    1. Yes, this is so true. Although Indie pattern company seem a bit better with having a good range of ethnicity, I have found quite a few now using different sized models for different versions of patterns. But definitely lacking in older models. It’s real shame.

  4. Thank you for writing and sharing this! As a young black woman born and raised in the uk this really resonates with me. I can’t help but think I may have delved into the world of sewing earlier if I’d seen people that looked like me in the magazine’s and on the patterns.

    1. Yes! It’s all a bit disheartening. Especially as there are nuances in style. Not everyone goes for a pastel/floral hue and full skirts

  5. I am not good at using Instagram but will learn how to share this post. It makes me angry to hear excuses like there have difficulty finding models of colour. How hard did they look. Not good enough.

  6. Hi Rumana,
    I found this post from the “Did you make that?” Newsletter. I agree 100% with what you are saying. I am plus size and disabled and I notice that models on the whole are slim, white and non disabled… When you are in a minority you tend to become aware of all minorities (if that makes sense). The UK is immensely diverse yet so much of our media in general does not represent this. I’ve found my role models in online communities – the curvy sewing collective, blogs and various groups on Instagram for sewers/ knitters/ creatives in general who have chronic illness and/ or disabilities. As you say, change is starting but very slowly. What I have noted is that a few mainstream fashion brands seem to be ahead of the curve in this area, with TV ads with models of all ethnicities, ages, sizes and abilities. I hope this isn’t a flash in the pan and I hope it will spread to sewing magazines soon. Perhaps what is needed is for all of us customers in minority communities to come together to put pressure on these magazines to represent home sewers better- after all, we sew to fit our bodies better, we sew as mainstream fashion does not offer us styles that represent our interests or our backgrounds and we sew to give us a bit of “me” time, time needed for a whole host of reasons. That in itself is diverse! If I can work out how I shall share your badge on Instagram and direct people here x

    Best wishes,

    WheelyBad x

    1. Thanks for the message. Yes I agree! A lot of big brands have made some movement in this area which is great. I know there’s an argument about it being tokenism but hopefully at some point with consistent, persistent representation it will become the norm. Thanks for the support!! X

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