Where are all the Black people in fashion? I ask myself that a lot. I sit in my fashion classes, surrounded by white people, constantly overlooked. Within weeks, they all become incredibly close. I sit lonely, waiting for class to end. I question my belonging. Is this the right industry for me? Of course it is. I was born to do this, yet I continuously find myself on the outside looking in. I try to offset the fashion classes essential to my education, with classes essential to my wellbeing. Classes on race, Black womanhood, and post-colonialism. Classes where I can expect to see people that look like me. People that talk like me. People that understand me. Classes where I can exhale.
I quickly realized that my fashion classes are a small-scale reflection of an industry where “diversity” and “inclusion” equate to one Black model opening a runway show, or a single all-Black issue in a haystack of whitewashed editorials. An industry where I landed my dream internship, but nearly every article I pitched pertaining to Black fashion was dismissed for lack of “relevancy.” Black fashion is woefully overlooked, despite the fact that Blackness and fashion have a long, beautiful history that only seems to be highlighted when a white designer wants to garner “inspiration” from Black culture, or send white models down the runway in cornrows and dreadlocks. Where are all the Black people in fashion? They’re out there. If you sift through the layers and layers of whiteness surrounding fashion today, you will find Blackness at the core. They are trendsetters and trailblazers. They are creatives that are wildly underrated. They are my inspiration.
Fashion needs more than just a pop of color. Most brands, both luxury and high street, have incredibly low percentages of Black employees. When you look at the highest positions in these brands, the numbers are even lower. The lack of representation is disheartening to say the least. Brands are shouting “Black Lives Matter” but their Black employees stay underpaid and unacknowledged. The fashion industry needs more Black designers, models, editors, photographers, people.