The fashion industry has had a long history of questionable diversity, inclusion & beauty standards which simultaneously reflect and affect society.
For example, it took a career full of micro-aggressions, mistreatment, gas lighting, culturally reinforced childhood insecurities and the startling images of police brutality in America to move Calvin Klein model Ebonee Davis to write an open letter to the fashion industry on the duties of media in changing the perceptions of Black people.
VIDEO CREDIT: YOUTUBE – TEDX TALKS
To her delight as well as many who read it (including the CEO of Calvin Klein whose bi-racial daughters read it, loved it and felt seen) a Calvin Klein campaign ad featuring Ebonee was released just prior to the letter going viral. Highlighting her in full melanin and natural hair, it represented a “new beauty” in fashion and the importance of such an image making waves to many.
Fortunately there’s not as much gloom behind the gloss if you’re in the presence of vocal models, bloggers, fashion entrepreneurs and creators who join the industry professionals who’ve always believed in the power, aesthetic, versatility, celebration, business and hiring* of the Black-Brown-African beauties of the world.
In an interview with Atlanta Black Star (sourced below) Mykel Smith, fashion creative director and founder of Mykel C. Smith Creative, stated he believed the choice to use African models boiled down to the preferences of designers, casting directors and photographers.
Despite the resistance of the majority, many Black fashion veterans have remained proactive about promoting Black beauty authentically and without apology. Smith elaborated by saying:
“I was casting diversity 10 years ago.” He continues, “I love that diversity is back on the runways due to Bethann [Hardison] and Naomi [Campbell] speaking out. The impact sends a powerful message.”
But years after Alek Wek’s runway wig-snatch and as more mainstream fashion icons speak out, Ghanaian-Nigerian beauty Adeola Ariyo becomes the first African Brand Ambassador to Elizabeth Arden and ushers in what seems like a long awaited momentum. Even though she rightfully maintains “there’s only one of me,” multitudes of stories about African models, designers, and African inspired fashion weeks have since flooded the media-waves and to this, we say #AboutTime!
VIDEO CREDIT: YOUTUBE – YAKA TANGO
Speaking of models, multiple lists of “top models” from the Continent keep popping up, including this early “Top 10 African Female Models In The World And The Impact They’re Making On Social Media” originally posted by Zen Magazine and now revived by Ghana Ladies, stating:
“Something exciting is happening in the fashion world and one thing is certain, African models are part of that movement. Amid the hustle and bustle, they strive, they inspire and we love them. Please feel free to connect with them, support them, and to all aspiring models out there, these are the models you need to follow and learn from.”
If you’re not following our Facebook posts (get on it!)…then you missed L’Abidjanaise’ “Top 20 African Fashion Models (You Need to Know)” which featured the likes of the hypnotizing Ajak Deng (pictured above.) But we digress…to matters on our Twitter feed that is…
We were right on the pulse when we told you about the growing well of African designers, entrepreneurs and fashion platforms like Studio189. Now it’s even more frequent that we see stories about every other up-and-coming success to watch from the Continent. Check out Okayafrica’s coverage of look-books from the likes of Nigerian stylist Richard Akuson’s “My Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
One of the dopest ‘leaders of the new school’ is the stunning collaboration of Velma Ross and Papa Petit for 2ManySiblings, using their ever-fresh eyes and deep sense of personal taste to bring mainstream, vintage, and classic Kenyan garb together. Their distinct style flavor and humanist attitude is getting more attention by the day, reaching well overseas with a well-stocked Tumblr account.
Last but not least, the globally growing locations of African Fashion Week is beginning to reach every corner of the fashion world. Berlin has caught the buzz with runway shows as well as pre-launches of books such as “MTINDO Rebranding Africa” by award winning photographer Danielle Tamagni and Kenyan born Waridi Schrobsdorff, celebrating the next generation of fashion creatives.
Across Europe is “We Are Made In Italy” by the Afro Fashion Association opening pathways for African-Italian and BIPOC designers. Is this the industry catching up to culture that’s always existed, or is the current generation of professionals and young hopefuls innovating us all forward?
Speaking of timing and technology, Afrobeat artists have fittingly taken the African fashion ball and ran with it! Even when the substance of the music is more party than protest, it’s the bright energies, groovy vibes, pride & striking visuals of artists like Kuami Eugene (video below), WizKid, Tiwa Savage + many more keeping us hooked to our vibrant and imaginative African roots.
Hopefully you’re inspired by all this exposure because there’s so much to discover! We’re confident that pretty soon, you won’t have to go looking.
VIDEO CREDIT: YOUTUBE – LYNX ENTERTAINMENT
@OttooBrand – #Artivism