Barrier Breaking Front Covers Is the inclusivity movement finally gathering pace?

The fashion industry has not always been such an inclusive environment as the one we know today, despite there still being a long way to go. I am here going to be sharing some of the most barrier breaking front covers published over the years, that have helped us get the industry to where it is today.

Halima Aden

Halima Aden on the cover of the 2017 June issue of Vogue Arabia

It recently came to my attention that just last year Halima Aden became the first ever model to feature on the front cover of Vogue wearing a hijab. Halima Aden is an American fashion model who was celebrated as being the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, where she was a semi-finalist. Following her participation in the pageant, Halima was spotted by the former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfield and was then signed to IMG Models. Halima first appeared on the cover of Vogue Arabia and then British Vogue and has since appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. This is, of course, a massive achievement not just for Halima, but for the fashion industry as a whole, as we aim to achieve diversity and representation within the industry.

Donyale Luna

Donyale Luna on the cover of the 1966 March issue of British Vogue

The next front cover to breakdown barriers in the fashion industry, was Vogue's first ever black covergirl. Whilst the decision to use a black model was seen as groundbreaking in the 1960s, personally to me, it seems shocking that this should even have been seen as such a big deal at the time. In todays society, I would like to hope that we have reached a place where a model's race is irrelevant and that there is a place for models from all ethnicities within the industry. However, not so long ago, black models were limited to appearing in certain magazines, such as Ebony and Jet, which are targeted towards an African-American audience. This was until the 1960s, which saw Donyale Luna, who was the "It" girl of the time, appear on the cover of British Vogue in March 1966 and then in 1974 Beverly Johnson became the first Black cover girl for American Vogue.

Beverly Johnson

Beverly Johnson on the cover of the 1974 August issue of American Vogue

Here you can see the first issue of American Vogue to feature a black covergirl as I mentioned previously. Again, this was a huge breakthrough moment to have a black covergirl feature on one of the most sought after magazines worldwide. However, I find it a frustrating and unnecessary delay that it should have taken a further eight years from when Donyale Luna featured on the cover of British and Arabian Vogue. This shows us that progress and the movement towards inclusivity had a very slow start and continues to be an issue raised even in todays society, as typically we still see more white covergirls than any other race.

Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of the 2015 June issue of Vanity Fair

Of course, we could not forget about this striking front cover, which I'm sure all of you remember reading about in 2015, as the news broke that Caitlyn Jenner had finally made the brave decision to transition. What better way to make such an announcement than with a stunning cover on Vanity Fair! Once again, this is a cover that promotes inclusivity and representation of all people; regardless of their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. I believe this cover proved to be empowering for so many people struggling to face the world as the person they choose to be and gave people who had been struggling with similar issues, the courage to face their own truth.

Sinéad Burke

Sinéad Burke on the cover of 2019 September issue of British Vogue

Sinéad Burke is an Irish writer, academic, influencer, activist and broadcaster, who is well known for her TED talk 'Why design should include everyone'. Burkes's aim is to highlight the lack of inclusivity within both the fashion and design industry and in turn, she has been able to consult with business leaders to ensure the process of designing for, with and by disabled people, is embedded into their business models. For Burke to be featured on the cover of Vogue, as "the first ever little person to make the front cover", is an incredible achievement and is another step towards minorities finally being given the representation and voice that they deserve. However, this is a very recent cover (September 2019) and so we must still ask the question why did it take so long for this to happen?

Which of these front covers do you think has had the greatest impact on the fashion industry?

Written by Hannah Isham


Created with an image by Alexandra K - "untitled image"