lorde inc: the modeling agency fighting racism and discrimination

Lorde Inc. happily casts online, ignores industry rules and celebrates the beauty of people of colour. i-D meets founder Nafisa Kaptownwala to talk the internet, racism and making a change in fashion.

by i-D Staff and Isabelle Hellyer
28 May 2015, 11:40am

Evan Mason

Racial hegemony in fashion is pervasive, institutionally ingrained and, frankly, really boring. From designers (just 12 of the 470 members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America are African-American) to models (a look at NYFW fall/winter 2015 saw 77.4% of models were white) each facet of the fashion industry meets us with a white majority. Yes, we can find examples of people of color fronting high profile campaigns - Rihanna for Dior, or Winnie Harlow for Diesel easily spring to mind - but until these instances are the exception. We have a problem. Put simply, the all-white casts we see on runways and in glossy campaigns aren't just boring, they're plain lazy. 

There's no shortage of beautiful models of color, though, even if the some elements of the industry don't always give them the attention they deserve. Eter Lorde Inc. They're a street casting agency choosing to focus on people of color, not arbitrary rules of beauty. i-D chatted with founder Nafisa Kaptownwala about what the agency's about, the internet and how we can change the shape of fashion.

Did you plan to enter the fashion industry, or was it one of those things that just happens?
I guess it was just one of those things that just happened. I graduated from an arts program and most of my friends are working in creative fields. I guess fashion is one of the more lucrative creative industries, so a lot of people I know gravitated towards that, despite having no intention of ever working in fashion. I kind of just fell into it from having friends working in the industry.

It's great that the agency has essentially no rules for casting. If not arbitrary heights or sizes, what is it that you're looking for?
We look out for people that seem to like to have their photo taken and are comfortable in front of a camera.

What's your take on the current #droptheplus conversation happening?
I think it's cool. I never used "plus" to describe models anyways, it just makes sense to me. 

It seems like the internet, not IRL, is where the progressive conversation and action is at. How does that statement resonate with you?
One of the cool things about the internet is that people tend to be way more honest online. There are a lot of progressive conversations happening, and people are being honest about their experiences with discrimination. People are also really whack and say whack shit online, too. But the cool thing is, they get called out for it. I think a big aspect as to why the internet seems to harbor progressive politics is cause people of marginalized identities are reaching out to other like-minded people with similar experiences. Knowing that you're not alone in this, and a lot of people are going through the same things, fuels the flame. Makes you wanna change things.

How would you like to see people responding to shows, campaigns and designers that have all-white casts? Who should 'lead the charge'?
No one should have to lead the charge. I mean if anyone is gonna 'lead the charge' it should be those that are the most influential in fashion. But that's not gonna happen. If we see all white castings, everyone everywhere should take to social media and just express that it's not acceptable.It sucks when these shitty things happen in society and it's the same group of usually marginalized people that are vocal about it, and everyone else is apathetic or silent. It should be everyone's responsibility to speak up.



Text Isabelle Hellyer
Photography Evan Mason
Styling Mia Fiddis
Makeup Jenna Kuchera
Hair Frida Solomonsson
Models Harjote, Jane, Jenny, Justin,Urjii, Josh @ Lorde Inc.

Nafisa Kaptownwala
fashion interviews
Lorde Inc
model agency