16 black actresses wore Balmain to help stop racism at Cannes
During last week’s Cannes festival several protests took place on the red carpets. On Wednesday, 16 black actresses all gathered together in Balmain dresses to promote Noire N’est Pas Mon Metier (Black Is Not My Profession) – a book and upcoming documentary about the sexism and racism black women endure in the industry.
It seems Cannes was a hotbed this year for well publicised political statements this year. Thandie Newton stole the show on the red carpet for Solo: A Star Wars Story in a custom Vivienne Westwood gown printed with images of Star Wars characters portrayed by black actors. We also saw 82 women walk down the red carpet together in a representation of the number of films directed by women that have been contenders at Cannes – 82 compared to 1645 directed by men.
On the 16th May, 16 actresses led by Aïssa Maïga, co-author of the book Noire N’est Pas Mon Metier, stood together on the red carpet in custom black and silver Balmain dresses from the autumn/winter collection. The group included Nadège Beausson-Diagne, Mata Gabin, Maïmouna Gueye, Eye Haidara, Rachel Khan, Sara Martins, Marie-Philomène Nga, Sabine Pakora, Firmine Richard, Sonia Rolland, Magaajyia Silberfeld, Shirley Souagnon, Assa Sylla, Karidja Touré, and France Zobda, and Aïssa Maïga who arranged the dresses with Balmain. Together they promoted both Maïga’s book and the upcoming documentary, both of which relate stories from the women’s perspective in the industry.
Maïga contacted friend and Balmain head designer Oliver Rousteing to create the statement pieces for their protest. Rousteing has been outspoken about his own position as a French black man in the fashion industry, commenting on the lack of diversity. “I’m very lucky,” he stated in a press release. “I work for a house whose beautifully diverse ‘Balmain Army’ makes very clear that we proudly stand for inclusion and representation.” He was excited to work together with Maïga and the group “I loved getting to know a little bit about these women through the compelling stories that they have shared. It was their honesty and humour—as well as their strength and resilience—that struck me as I quickly turned each page. Sadly, though, it was all too easy for me to recognise the inappropriate comments, ignorance and discrimination that they have faced during their careers.”