Photographer Nigel Barker on breaking barriers in fashion

Fashion photographer and former America's Next Top Model judge Nigel Barker says he wants to see more diversity in the fashion industry.

Fashion photographer and former America's Next Top Model judge Nigel Barker joins guest host Allan Hawco to discuss his new book, Models of Influence: 50 Women Who Reset the Course of Fashion, which profiles some of the world's most notable and influential fashion models since the 1940s, including those who broke race barriers like China Machado and Naomi Sims. 

Barker talks about growing up in London as an ethnically mixed child in the 1970s, expanding notions of beauty in the fashion world (including race, ethnicity, and body types), and the role reality TV competitions can play in helping diversify the industry.

As an outspoken supporter of diversity in fashion, Barker says that much progress still has yet to be made. "Are we making headway? I'd like to think that we are," he says. "Are we doing it quick enough? Probably not."

We have to keep knocking on that door...it's still a whitewash most of all.- Nigel Barker, on expanding diversity in the fashion industry

Barker also says it's ironic that the first time a full-figured model has been celebrated in a popular magazine, it is in a men's magazine, rather than a women's magazine. (Plus-sized model Ashley Graham was featured in a Sports Illustrated advertisement last month.)

"Ultimately it's because men demanded it, men actually like voluptuous women and want to see them in Sports Illustrated," Barker says. "Women have to want to see themselves in these magazines, and I think now more than ever, with social media, they can demand it."

*Click on the listen button above to hear the full segment (audio runs 21:24).

To see some of the photos from Models of Influence, scroll through the gallery below.

Photographer Nigel Barker joins Q guest host Allan Hawco to talk about trailblazing models and diversity in the fashion industry. (Fabiola Carletti/CBC)


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?