By Deborah Adeniyi.

  • Anok Yai, 19 year old college student, became the first black woman to open Prada’s runway show in over two decades since Naomi Campbell did so in 1997.  
  • The 19 year old was discovered through social media where a picture of her quickly became viral causing the industry to take her under wing. 
  • Yai was only aware that she would be heading the showcase an hour before the show commenced. 

 

In an interview with Refinery29, Yai revealed, “I’ve always wanted to model since I was young, but I didn’t know how to get into the industry.” Yai was discovered after a photo of her at Howard University’s homecoming celebration went viral on social media platform, Twitter. Voguecontributing casting director, Ashley Brokaw took charge in securing Yai’s booking for the Italian luxury fashion brand. A few months after being scouted she was able to make her ground breaking debut, opening at Prada’s Menswear Fall 2018 show. 

Yai told Vogue, “I will remember the experience of opening the show as my breakthrough moment. Just modelling for Prada alone is a huge opportunity and the fact that Miuccia and Ashley put me front and centre sets the tone for my career.” Yai is now signed with Next Models and is currently working exclusively with Prada this season. This opportunity has allowed the Egyptian born , Sudanese model to quickly build up an extremely strong portfolio which now boasts of three Prada campaigns and two shows. 

 

Yai’s success is a step forward when looking at diversity within the fashion industry. Traditionally, and even up until recent years the fashion industry has struggled with pushing models that show a wide spectrum of culture and ethnicity. It is only now that we have seen a push on diversity within fashion with brands such as Coach, Miu Miu and Dolce and Gabanna recently diversifying their 2017/18 campaigns. Yai told Vogue, It was an honour and I’m proud that I was the one chosen to open, but this is bigger than me. Me opening for one of the top fashion houses is a statement to the world – especially for black women – that their beauty is something that deserves to be celebrated,” she told Vogue of the moment. Despite this step forward, it is clear that more work needs to be done in order to have more racial diversity across the fashion industry as women of colour only accounted for 37.3 % of all castings at this season’s Fall 2018 New York Fashion Week. Essentially the fashion industry is making progress and is heading in the right direction however; it needs to be questioned how quickly will these changes become normality in fashion. Will it be a another twenty years until we are graced with the next Anok Yai? 

 

Deborah is a first year university student studying Fashion Buying and Merchandising at the University of Manchester. Her interests lay in textiles, fashion, contemporary visual arts and fashion business. Her Nigerian roots alongside her upbringing in South East London, have shaped her perspective on cultural issues allowing her to express both liberal and traditional stances on various current affairs. 

Twitter: @deborah_aden