Breaking Down Boundaries In Fashion
It’s very rare that I write something ‘deep’ about race without it having been agonised over for months or sitting on a long lost Trello board. Basically something came over me on my flight to Jamaica. I was listening to Sophie and Millie’s podcast episode referring to The Cut’s article about street style focusing on thin white women and wanted to join in with their discussion. That’s not to say that what they spoke about was ‘wrong’ or offensive. It’s just as every second passed, I wanted to give my own insight and explain why seeing black women in street style galleries is so important.
Okay so it’s a lie that I haven’t had a post in the works. Over the past few years I’ve discovered so many amazing black women in the fashion industry, either via Instagram or on the odd street style gallery. The representation is so important as it can be tricky to relate to certain archetypes that are often featured and celebrated by the fashion set as they travel around the four main cities (plus Scandinavian countries too). I’ve spoken to a Parisian blogger who doesn’t feel part of the ‘French girl’ narrative (this Refinery 29 article is the only one that I’ve seen breaking the mould) and it can be frustrating to think that black women are being overlooked.
It’s definitely a topic I’ve been researching and trying to fully understand. We need to question a lot of things. What really makes someone ‘streetstyle worthy’? Is it someone wearing the latest designer fad that needs to be borrowed from the brand in the correct size? Who are the editors selecting the looks and the photographers providing them? What does it cost to attend each fashion week around the world?
Similarly to model diversity, it is most likely a combination of factors and biases that intersect with body size, ability, financial means and proximity to whiteness. Imagine a Black Mirror episode where everyone is given a privilege score dependant on an array of factors and only those at 80% are deemed worthy of Vogue’s galleries. Being snapped by photographers can give you the chance to build a solid career, but if there are certain factors obstructing black women, then the whitewashed galleries continue every season.
Even though fashion month is now over, I thought I’d share some black editors and stylists with amazing style that you can follow all year round. What I love about most of these women is that you can’t really put them into a box and that they’re constantly mixing things up. I basically want all of Shiona Turinis wardrobe.
Donna Wallace – You can only imagine the delights that this UK Elle Accessories editor has stashed away. She’s my icon for colour-blocking and androgyny.
Chrissy Ford – Another fairly recent discovery, Chrissy seems to veer from experimenting with unusual proportions to cute retro sundresses. She’s the senior fashion editor at Harpers Bazaar US.
Shiona Turini – I think that my life definitely improved when I started following Shiona Turini on Instagram. She rocks a crop top and high-waisted skirt combo like no other plus she has Solange on speedial.
Rajni Jacques – Rajni has spoken about what it’s like being a woman of colour within fashion and how her position as the Teen Vogue fashion director inspires other young girls.
Julia Sarr-Jamois – Julia has been on the scene since it’s infancy and I’ll always love how eclectic her outfits are. She describes her look as either ‘maximal minimalist’ or ‘extreme minimalism’ and has almost convinced me that I need to start wearing a hoody, Vetements-style.
Jan Quammie – I first spotted Jan Quammie when she was representing InStyle Germany as the fashion director, but she’s also worked as a buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue and Net a Porter in Shanghai. She dresses however she feels on a particular day and she refuses to make herself uncomfortable for fashion’s sake.
Elaine Welteroth – I’m excited to see where Elaine Welteroth’s career goes next after leaving Teen Vogue. In terms of style anything goes, whether it’s sculptural flares by Ellery or a laid back poloneck and jeans combo. Her new office also looks dreamy too.
Gabrielle Prescod – Behold the queen of layering. I should probably include Gabby’s sister Danielle here too as they’re both fashion editors and often photographed as a pair. At a push, I’d have to go for Gabby’s slightly more ladylike edge and enviable a-line skirt collection.
There’s still a lot to be done. Even a few weeks ago David Nyanzi was allegedly told by one entitled showgoer ‘I don’t give my Instagram handle to black men’ (it’s since gone viral, thanks to the power of social media). Although the influencer world runs somewhat in parallel, when we look at certain brand trips that can allow the chosen few to boost their profiles and get those front row seats, it’s very rare that anyone darker than a Fenty 370 ever attends. I also know that this list isn’t perfect and I’m working on broadening the people I’m following.
Black woman are not a trend, we are not a monolith and we deserve to be celebrated. This won’t be the last time we see a an article of this ilk and it will take a lot of changes behind the camera, in the fashion offices and on the streets outside shows. As a photographer in the follow up article states, everyone is equally complicit. It’s systemic and whilst it’s not necessarily affecting lives, it is a microcosm of the world we live in. If this is news to you, then look at the identikit ‘inspirational’ Instagram feeds and you’ll know why @darkskinwomen needs to exist.
It’s weird that a 10 hour flight gave me the clarity to finally get this off my chest (maybe I need to book Caribbean travels more often). I just hope that this encourages more conversation, insights from people affected and a plan of action to tackle the bias at every level.