Everywhere and Nowhere: What it is really like to be Black and work in fashion. I’m sure you all either heard of or read this piece, and if not please read it here before going any further. STOP I tell you, or at least take the time to read it eventually. I have linked it above just for you :) This piece is inclusive of so many narratives, and it is long overdue. Through the varied experiences it has inspired me to reflect on my own journey through fashion, what I have learned, experienced, and what I hope to contribute through my individual walk. But first we must go back to the beginning, where it all began...
For many I do not look phenotypically Black. My father is Black, and my mother is white. So I’ve gotten Indian, Hispanic, Moroccan, if you can think of it, it’s been said. People just meeting me are often perplexed, jumping into, "Where are you from?" - what is obvious is that I am of color, and not full white. Knowing this, I understand the privilege that I have, but also can stand in my own truth enough to realize some of the injustices and personal jabs I have taken as an identifying Black woman, and for this piece, working in fashion.
Fashion to me is being Black and Beautiful, they go hand in and hand. And even before I fully embraced my Black self, my family (aunt, grandmother, and first and foremost, my father) were the most fashionable people I knew. Taking pride in your appearance, and the art of dressing were demonstrated to me at an early age. Thus, the beauty of diversity I felt was obvious, more than any sort of recommendation, it was how it should be. Entering the fashion industry through internships, retail positions, and then the bridal industry - I found that not only was this not the case, but that it was championed to be counter diverse...to be not Black.
It is easy to get confused because as someone who is racially ambiguous, this is often the new and acceptable truth for those who are not woke. A mix of color, a dash, but nothing too loud or in your face. (Disclaimer: This is not for every brand or movement, but for the majority of the industry, one Black model, cover star, or executive is not sufficient.) Then it often seems, only to save face, you need some brown in a sea of white, especially in more progressive cities. And in New York City of all places, I have lost count how many times “progressive people” here have disappointed me. But still I bank on the thin white go-to hopefully getting the attention of at least one decision maker in the building, who enlists the plethora of Beautiful Black Women to cast. But at the same time this year, Tyler Mitchell, a photographer selected by Beyoncé and her team, was the first one to shoot a cover of Vogue in it's 125 year history. So these glass ceilings are not shattered - maybe lifted, but still there.
One of the pieces of the article that spoke to me immediately was ACCESS. Besides white washing the ads, culturally appropriating on the runway, and using only one body type to represent women all over the world - the money that this billion dollar industry deems acceptable when providing salaries and hourly wages, is questionable at best. When they consistently offer unpaid internships, and a living wage that requires you to have a side hustle, or eat Ramen noodles, and canned products well into your 20s - it just does not add up. As someone who decided before finishing undergrad that I wanted to work in fashion, getting an internship before graduating was the goal, but a native to Pennsylvania, I could not afford to not work in the summer...and not receive a paycheck, and on top of that, pay rent in one of the most expensive cities in the world. And I know I am not alone.
I could write books, and I will...most definitely be writing more. Please stay tuned. There is so much to say, and so much to be done. But the beauty is I know so many beautiful Black women and men, killing it, for everyone. We will keep pushing and keep the conversations going, because we have so much to offer, and we deserve to be seen, heard and to have a seat at the table.