On September 30th in Paris, Business of Fashion hosted its seventh annual #BoF500 gala, celebrating 100 new inductees to the BoF 500, the “definitive professional index” of movers and shakers in the fashion industry. Guests included the likes of Alexa Chung, Paloma Elsesser (in straight off the runway Mugler by Casey Cadwallader), and Rick Owens. But the real highlight was an instantly iconic photo of Naomi Campbell, posing with model protegées Adut Akech and recent W cover star Anok Yaii. On Twitter, Campbell wrote that she is “so proud” of “her girls,” hashtagging #NEXTGENERATION.
In a July interview with W, Akech, who at just 19 is rapidly becoming one of the top models in the industry (she’s the cover star, alongside Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli for BoF’s latest print issue), referred to Campbell as her “second mother.” For the supermodel’s 49th birthday in May, Akech posted a heartfelt tribute on Instagram.
“Thank you for your continuous support you’ve been showing me since the first time you met me 3 years ago,” she wrote of Campbell. “I feel beyond blessed to have someone like you in my life. I’m so grateful to god that we he made us cross paths. The love I have for my own birth mother is the love I have for you mama. Our relationship is one I would’ve never dreamt or imagined having but I’m so thankful we have it.”
Campbell, a longtime advocate for diversity in the fashion industry, makes it a point to mentor young black models. In 2013, she partnered with Iman and Bethann Hardison on the Diversity Coalition, an organization dedicated to ending racist casting practices. And she’s close with a number of up-and-comers. In a 2015 interview with Nick Knight for Showstudio, Campbell spoke about her WhatsApp group chat with models including Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls, Malaika Firth and Riley Montana. “I have to watch out for my babies,” she said.