Real Talk Vol. 3: Do Black People Even Work In Fashion?!

by mayashaw

Ah, to be African American. It is a mixture of an amazing thing and a cancer that you can never rid. Being black even in 2012 is hard. There are all of these ideas and assumptions of how you act because of your skin color. For me it has always been a balancing act of do I want to say “black/African American” on this application and be judged or I’m the only light skinned girl in the room right now… time to let them know I’m not uppity!  My skin color and hair texture has always been either an issue for someone or a dream of someones and I don’t understand why. People of other races try to claim me by saying “You must have _______ in your blood!” and saying that because I am light skinned I don’t deal with a certain issue that they deal with. Anyways, off topic a bit.

The fashion industry has always been white and European. If you ask someone who their ultimate favorite designer is you will get one of these: Chanel, YSL, Gucci, Marc Jacobs etc. None of these world famous and historic designers are a person of color of any race. When someone ask me who my favorite designers are I say Prabal Gurung, Trace Reese and Public School… all are people of color and truly show the diversity and beauty of America. Now, there is absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing wrong with white American or European designers, nothing! It is always just great to support designers that are of color and are not creating super shity “urban wear” like Baby Phat and Rocca Wear. It is refreshing to see that people of color are interested in fashion that is outrageous and trend setting and that they are being supported by large fundraisers like the CFDA and magazines such as Vogue and Bazaar.

Seeing a person of color in the fashion industry gives hope to the future designers of color that may have been told that Chinese people only work in the sweat shop or that Africans only weave baskets. To see designers with their skin color gives them hope and drive to keep working hard and one day be someone else’s hero. The same goes for magazine editors that don’t work for a magazine that is racially driven. Julia Sarr Jamois, pictured above, is the editor of a high fashion and life style magazine called Wonderland Magazine that people would argue to be a “white” magazine. White models, musicians and actors cover the webpage and fill the magazine, but that means nothing about her racial identification. Although she is judged for these things and is thought to be white washed she doesn’t give a fuck. She is who she is and she produces what she wants and as fellow blacks in the fashion industry we should respect her creative goals.

We all know certain black models and Andre Leon Talley but, what about the young up and coming designers of color that are trying to break into the game and are trying not to fall into the “hood chic” category of clothing sold at Jimmy Jazz? Another issue is money. People of color in America as a whole do not have a lot of money. The funds needed to go to a respectable design school, own a well ran operating system to manufacture clothes and (dear god) have a fashion show at fashion week is more than any person of color in America can imagine.The issue here is far beyond “Why are there only white designers that are well known?” or “Where are all the black fashion editors and bloggers?” but, why is it so hard for black people to make it in the high fashion industry. Why must all people of color who work in the industry be either frowned upon or glorified because of their race and not the talent and fashion that is produced?

Photo: Jak&Jil