Jan 22, 2008
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Brazil opens racism probe into fashion show

Jan 22, 2008

Photo : Mauricio Lima/AFP
SAO PAULO, Jan 22, 2008 (AFP) - Authorities in Brazil have opened a probe into suspected racism at the Sao Paulo Fashion Week underway after reports that non-white models were badly underrepresented on the catwalk.

"The object of the investigation is to see if there is racism in the event," said Erika Pucci, a prosecutor from Sao Paulo state's Public Ministry heading the inquiry.

She told AFP that if it was shown that agencies or individuals involved with the show were deliberately discriminating against non-white models criminal charges could be brought.

Alternatively, civil action could occur if it turned out the Brazilian fashion industry was not deliberately excluding blacks, Asians or indigenous models, but was overlooking them because of a marketing bias.

Pucci said the Sao Paulo Fashion Week's organizer, Paulo Borges, had defended the small number of minority models by saying there were fewer non-white models available for the designers.

"We're not convinced," the prosecutor said, adding: "We want reassurances that there are in fact not enough (minority) models, or to find out whether there is in fact discrimination."

The Sao Paulo Fashion Week, the most important fashion event in Latin America, started January 16 and is to close Wednesday.

Although a few black models were seen strutting up on the catwalk, the overwhelming majority of the women showing off the clothes were white.

The Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, which was the first to report on the apparent bias, said Tuesday that of the 1,128 models participating in the event, just 28 -- or 2.5 percent -- were black.

According to official figures, nearly seven percent of Brazil's famously varied population consider themselves black, 43 percent see themselves as mixed-race, and 50 percent call themselves white.

The daily quoted one stylist, Sandro Barros, as saying the winter collections showing at the Sao Paulo Fashion Show were more favorable for pale models.

"It's easier to see black models in the summer (collection) shows," he said.

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