In 2008, British model Jourdan Dunn broke a barrier that we find incredible in this day and age. She became the first black model to tread the Prada catwalk for over ten years. Having been spotted in London’s Hammersmith Primark in 2006, she stands out instantly for her beauty, so it’s a shame that the fashion industry marks her out as different because of her skin colour.
Once signed to Storm Model Management, it wasn’t long before she made her debut in the autumn 2007 New York shows, walking for Marc Jacobs, Polo Ralph Lauren, and others. In the same year, British Vogue proclaimed her a “new star”, and in 2008, Style.com placed her as one of its top ten newcomers. In November of that year, she was given the title of Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards, so she’d truly arrived. Then it was back to being the exception once more, when photographer Steven Meisel picked Dunn for the cover of a best-selling Vogue Italia issue using only black models.
The twenty-three-year-old has modelled for the likes of Calvin Klein, DKNY, Yves St Laurent, Topshop, Victoria’s Secret, Jaeger and H&M, and if that’s not enough, she was the face of Rihanna’s River Island collection. So it looks as if she’s here to stay! Especially noted for her legs and her walk – she walked in more than sixty shows for spring 2009 – she says that she practises in very high heels.
Editorials have included Vogue in several countries, Dazed & Confused, and Centrefold. A much greater honour, however, awaited when the West Londoner joined other British models in the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, wearing an outfit specially created for the occasion by UK designers. Then last year, she was chosen as Model of the Year at the Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year awards.
In March 2013, Jourdan was the cover story for Net-a-Porter’s The Edit, in which she complained that casting agents said that clients “didn’t want any more black girls”. The excuse given is that a magazine cover of black faces doesn’t sell, but she insists: “There’s no real evidence for that. It’s lazy”. After all, her own covers over the years have included Vogue, Elle, Sunday Times Style, and i-D. In 2013, she took to the runway for Alexander Wang and Diane von Furstenburg in New York, and Burberry and Topshop in London, which we think answers the doubters.
Incredibly, things seem to be getting worse rather than better. However, Dunn asserts that the arrival of social media has changed everything, and this forthright campaigner is pinning her hopes on its ability to give the women a voice. She also points out that some fashion houses now check a model’s Twitter followers, to be sure of selecting the one who will generate most interest in their range. No one can argue with that.
Having been called a trailblazer by agent Sarah Doukas when she was eighteen, we don’t think that Jourdan Dunn will take no for an answer. Here’s hoping that she can persuade the fashion world to get real!
Jourdan Dunn Street Style 2014 At New York Fashion Week Photography By Tim Regas
Jourdan Dunn Photographed By Photographer Cedric Buchet
Model Jourdan Dunn At New York Fashion Week AW 2012/2013
Jourdan Dunn Street Style Tiny Leather Jacket White tee