One thing my mom made sure of was that I had black dolls to play with. I remember having a mountain, an almost shrine-like display of black Barbie dolls still in their cases, ranging from holiday limited editions to celebrity editions like Brandy. One of my aunts used to collect them and would send me dolls she knew I would fan girl over to add to my collection. Needless to say, when I saw this headline, my inner child smiled from ear to, as I am sure the same happened for many black women.
Image Credit: Elle
Editor, stylist, consultant and costume designer Shiona Turini celebrates Black History Month with a collaboration with Barbie Style to add to the black Barbie doll collections of young black girls everywhere.
It's a tale as old as time that black girls didn't have the options they do now for dolls and toys that looked like them. Shelves were stocked with fair complexioned dolls with all different types of hair and clothes and accessories. Unfortunately, the black and brown dolls were few and far between. It was 1980 when Turini and young black girls all over found a piece of her reflection in the first-ever black Barbie doll, dressed in red with gold accessories and donning an afro. She is even featured in the all-red part of the collection, and mama is FIERCE! In this 4-part collection with Barbie Style, Turini is able to add to the conversation surrounding black beauty and the many shades, shapes and styles it comes in.
Image Credit: Elle
âIn a statement regarding the collection, Turini had this to say: "It was important for me to reflect Barbie as an icon through the lens of black culture during Black History Month. I drew inspiration from the first black Barbie, who debuted her all-red look in 1980. My vision was to style diverse dolls in bold looks with themes seen throughout my work, like contrasting snakeskin and leopard challenging uniformity."
ââThe versatility of blackness is so vast, and a piece of that is executed beautifully. Ten black dolls of varying skin tones, hairstyles, body types + capabilities and style identities are the stars of the collection. The style direction features aesthetics present in Turini's own style as well as her work, an extensive catalog of fawn-worthy sartorial moments that include Queen and Slim, Solange's "Cranes in the Sky" + "Don't Touch My Hair" visuals and BeyoncÃ©'s "Formation" music video. The color stories also feature scenes of soft springtime hues, head-to-toe black, fiery red and a beautiful pink mauve/nude/snakeskin moment that makes the melanin pop.
Representation matters, even on the toy aisles. Congratulations to Shiona Turini and the Barbie brand on such an amazing collaboration and display of blackness. We love to see it!
âIn honor of 40 years of the black Barbie, check out the first ever black fashion Barbie doll to hit the market, ushering in a new era for black girls and their dolls everywhere!
Image Credit: Instagram / @mattel
“It Be Your Own N****s!” LaQuan Smith’s Validity and Authenticity as a Designer Challenged By SHOWstudio Moderator
Image Credit: SHOWstudio
The fashion industry has a problem with criticism as it pertains to speaking critically about the impact of designer collections.
This problem becomes even more apparent when critiques are made in reference to collections from black designers, more so when talking about the significance of their contributions in the fashion industry. Oftentimes, these types of conversations extend further beyond just noting whether or not the clothing is good or well designed or modern enough. They require more nuance and a true understanding of the ways in which the designer will experience navigating the industry in ways vastly different from their counterparts.
Image Credit: YouTube
The latest in unfortunate critiques came from a live panel discussion hosted on the London-based digital fashion platform SHOWstudio, discussing LaQuan Smith. Four fashion industry professionals in a video entitled “Is LaQuan Smith Worth The Instagram Hype?” joined moderator Karen Binns to dive into the significance, relevance, authenticity and validity of Smith as a high fashion, luxury designer. In the video posted to the platform’s website and YouTube page, the moderator managed to allude to the New York-based designer pretending to be an artist and reduced his brand to designing ratchet, stripper pole clothing for the woman who is too dense to understand the landscape of high fashion “but wants to feel like she does.”
Strap in because we’re just getting started!
The moderator, a black woman herself, used this [white] platform to challenge LaQuan’s validity and significance as a luxury designer. She reduced him to a designer that makes clothing for “girls who want to have sex after they leave the club.” She referred to his name and the choice to use his government name for his label as “a very ghetto thing unfortunately” and proceeded to call the choice brave and that it sends an important message. Comparisons were made to Off-White designer Virgil Abloh with claims that they serve the same “urban” customer who doesn’t know much about fashion and is too dense to understand. According to Binns, the Queens native and designers like him stifle and get in the way of the designers that are supplying the demand of the “consumers who are a lot more in touch with what’s going on and aware of where fashion needs to go” because the aforementioned are supplying the “Cardi B consumer;” she also alluded that the brand of design that LaQuan achieves is akin to the amount of design that went into the Cardi B x Fashion Nova collaboration. LaQuan’s authenticity and legacy was challenged with the claim that “his collection will not change or inspire a new generation towards being a lot more authentic as a designer,” pointing to the work of Patrick Kelly in the ‘80s as a more valid example of authentic design. Too much time was spent weaponizing the video vixen, the female rapper, the party girl, the hot girl, the woman who’s sex positive and words like ghetto and ratchet, painting the picture that these women and descriptors commonly associated with blackness have no real place in fashion. It was alluded that this collection showed no real evidence of artistic ability like a collection from Lee McQueen. However, it showed that Smith is able to tap into trends, pretend to be artistic and skate by in the industry by playing a good business game. Binns states that part of the problem is that “people have a fear of talking about a black designer,” but of course she will pick up that mantle because she “understands what they’ll go through, the negativity they receive, the box they’re put in too constantly but that he is exactly in that box they want him to be in—the guy who make clothes for the girl on the pole.” This is a notion that needs to be defied because “we are more than pole dancing and having sex and becoming a rapper’s girlfriend.” Lord, help us…
Two things that the fashion industry has always been are elitist and racist. What is so enraging about the perspective shared on the SHOWstudio platform is that the comments were rooted in the same hateful attitudes that have limited access to black people in fashion and, most notably, came from a black woman. The tone for the almost hour-long conversation was set from the beginning. The moderator’s comments were so elitist and hateful; it was disgusting to witness. To see a black woman refer to LaQuan’s name as ghetto AND unfortunate on that white platform told me everything I needed to know about how the rest of that video was going to go. The anti-blackness jumped out so quickly, and THAT is the truly unfortunate part.
Image Credit: Vogue Runway
LaQuan Smith is a black designer who has made it very clear who he designs for: black women! The vision for his design aesthetic is rooted in femininity and sexuality. The LaQuan Smith woman knows and understands fashion, luxury, design and trends. & even where that may ring untrue, black women are the ones setting the trends and making the real impact on fashion. They are the ultimate muse. To dumb down and insult the LS customer is a blatant slap in the face to all the fashion enthusiasts and fans of his brand, not to mention celebrities like Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian or Rihanna. Framing the image of women who have sex or are strippers or video vixens or hot girls or ratchet as a stain in the fashion consumer landscape adds nothing productive to the conversation and reeked of anti-blackness. Using these descriptors in an attempt to prove that this consumer, lifestyle or aesthetic are unworthy or something to turn your nose up at only made it evident the antiquated, disgusting attitude the moderator felt in regards to blackness and black American culture.
Image Credit: Vogue Runway
The comparisons made to Off-White and Cardi B also showed how uninformed the moderator was. She claimed that LaQuan Smith and Off-White serve the same “urban” woman. One, let’s lose the coded language. & two, those two customers aren’t the same by a long shot. The comparison to Cardi is conflating two different scenarios that don’t go together. Cardi (with the help of Kollin Carter and her team, branded herself as a fashion girl and budding style star to watch) used the collaboration with Fashion Nova as a money move—and a smart business move at that, especially thinking about the direction fashion is going in and pushing out Instagram-friendly clothing. It was a great opportunity for Cardi, but this fashion and design is LaQuan’s livelihood; the two simply aren’t the same.
& the mention of Lee McQueen could’ve been omitted entirely because the differences in resources and access are a very real thing. You also can’t compare the career of one of the most influential and legendary designers to that of LaQuan's—one that’s still being lived out in real time.
So much more space is given to white designers to be mediocre, uninspiring and present IG-friendly collections, but black designers are expected to carry the labor of being legendary with every single presentation. This latest collection from LaQuan was labeled “nothing groundbreaking” by one of the panelists. PLENTY of other white designers’ collections are the nothing special, but these same conversations aren’t being had about them. It’s hard enough for black designers to be taken seriously and break through in the fashion industry. LaQuan has managed to make a name for himself and garner attention for his brand, staying true all the while to his original vision for almost a decade. He has sustained visibility and earned his following, every word of praise, endorsement, and collaborative opportunity that has come his way. It would be so much more helpful if there weren’t another black woman trying to diminish his work and the foundation he has built.
Image Credit: Vogue Runway
The moment where I just had to laugh to keep from flipping my laptop was when the moderator spoke to knowing the hardships that black designers will face in the industry, and it is with that knowledge that she is able to critique designers like LaQuan in the way that she does. The way that she spoke about LaQuan, his authenticity as a designer, his customer, his relevance and whether he was deserving of it didn’t feel constructive. To say that his collection won’t inspire a new generation to be more authentic designers (along with challenging his design aesthetic that has brought him success thus far) could lend the idea that she isn’t concerned with the importance of visibility. If the plight of the black designer is one that is understood, why, as a black woman, contribute further to that hardship? If you don’t like the clothes or the aesthetic, just say that and go! Don’t reduce the work that’s been put in and make unfair comparisons to have a hot take or unpopular opinion. The nerve, the tactlessness, the commitment to ignorance—you really do hate to see it!
I will always stan and champion black designers. Whether you like the clothing or the designer or not, there is always room to have a real conversation while celebrating the impact of their visibility and determination in this industry that we all love and hate, depending on the day.
Image Credit: Page Six
Twenty years after the high-fashion women’s streetwear brand made its debut, bringing with it an “unapologetically female perspective” to the streetwear world, Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner and Baby Phat are back to shake up the industry once more.
The highly anticipated launch of the summer aims to capture the sartorial nostalgia of the late 90s and early 2000s that drew in its OG customer and reintroduce itself to a new generation of young women. “I did expect [Baby Phat’s sexy style to come back], actually—fashion is so cyclical. I love being a part of this life cycle from the OG Baby Phat to our new, reinvented, modern take on the brand,” Simmons Leissner shared with Page Six. “It’s so fulfilling to see one generation squealing with nostalgia at the news of our relaunch, and another discovering the brand for the first time. I’m heartened that the original aesthetic found its way into the zeitgeist. That’s affirmation for me and a whole community of women who were underserved by fashion the first time around.”
Image Credit: WGN-TV
For its initial relaunch, Baby Phat collaborated with Forever 21 on a 17-piece collection that was released and available for purchase this morning. Choosing Forever 21 as a partner was a good strategy to capture the attention of the younger generation of women that BP aims to attain as customers. This is also a well-aligned partnership for Forever 21, as the fast fashion retailer has run into some issues with maintaining relevance with the rise of their online fashion competitors like Fashion Nova and Pretty Little Thing. With interesting design collaborations and capsule collections in their repertoire with brands like Hot Cheetos and USPS, Forever 21 definitely needed something that made more sense. The Baby Phat x Forever 21 collection features logo tees, bodysuits, bike shorts, one-shoulder crop tops, trendy separates and more, each piece co-designed by Simmons Leissner and daughers Aoki Lee and Ming Lee—a full circle moment, as Kimora’s daughters would always make an appearance on Baby Phat runways with her.
Image Credit: VIBE
Image Credit: Page Six
To the customer already familiar with Baby Phat, this Forever 21 collection offers nothing too special outside of the nostalgia and excitement of seeing the infamous logo after so long. It does, however, offer a familiar design aesthetic to the younger customer being introduced to Baby Phat and its aesthetic for the first time. A missed opportunity that stands out are the plus size offerings—there are only 3 pieces available for plus size women. Hopefully, there will be more thought for size expansion in the collections to come. We can anticipate Baby Phat ready-to-wear and accessories to be released in the fall, with denim, footwear and beauty products to follow thereafter.
For those unfamiliar with the brand or who just want to go down memory lane for a little while, Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons was launched in 1998 and was one of the most significant streetwear brands of the period, becoming a billion-dollar company under the “Life in the Fab Lane” star’s creative direction. BP put the baby tee, the bedazzled jean, high-low fashions and its personal brand of logomania on the map. It was sexy, feminine and disruptive in the best way possible; all of the girls wanted to be apart of the Baby Phat moment, even before knowing what the brand was really about. BP’s runway shows and presentations were the spectacle to see. They were over-the-top and fabulous; the front rows were star-studded; and KLS was dedicated to a diverse set of models before it was the cool thing to do. Baby Phat was an empire, a decade-defining brand, a movement—it brought a feminine perspective to the male-dominated streetwear market. At the time, streetwear presented offerings of variations of tall tees, baggy pants and oversized clothing of all varieties. BP presented a stark alternative, designing pieces that were curve-hugging, form-fitting and made by women, for women. With a product offering of clothing, accessories, shoes, fragrances and bedazzled cellphones, Baby Phat was everywhere!
Image Credit: Baby Phat, CR Fashion Book, Elle, Ebony, Garage
Two decades later, the former model and philanthropist is prepared to build upon the energy, significance and impact that Baby Phat held in its prime. In an interview with Fashionista, Simmons Leissner’s spoke of the cyclical return of 2000’s style, her relationship with her Baby Phat customer, her dedication to women of color and women of all shapes and sizes, changes in the streetwear industry, her impact on the industry and more. When discussing her background in high fashion, —more specifically, her time as a Chanel model and Karl Lagerfeld’s muse—it was clear that she was inspired a great deal by the French fashion house. She references Chanel and its reputation when talking about the high fashion perspective she brings to Baby Phat. Fashionista’s Jessica Yarbrough writes that the BP creative director and designer is “positioning Baby Phat for Forever 21 as Chanel for a new generation while clad in a body suit emblazoned with an illustration of a cat and leopard-print bike shorts—an oufit that totals a whopping $35.80,” highlighting that the positioning is an easy concept to dismiss. After thinking about the concept, she came around to the idea of Simmons Leissner as the new Coco Chanel and the connections followed: Coco Chanel gave women a casual alternative to the corseted couture in 1910 made from men’s jersey fabric, and KLS gave women streetwear tailored for a woman’s body in 1999; Chanel gave the fashion world the Little Black Dress, and KLS brought the baby tee to the table; and just as Chanel launched fragrances and handbags, KLS did the same.
Whether you agree with this comparison or not, one fact is undeniable: Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner changed the conversation surrounding women’s streetwear. Baby Phat definitely paved the way for a lot of the style aesthetics we’re seeing come back in style today. With the positioning that the model-turned-designer is seeking to establish, it goes beyond this Forever 21 collaboration. Baby Phat as a brand and what it represented for women is the legacy that is being built upon twenty years later. Not many can pick up and garner attention like this. Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner is a phenomenal businesswoman, and she’s definitely about to make a powerful statement with this relaunch. From the upcoming collections, we expect nothing less than “fabulosity!”
Image Credit: Oh Polly, Fashion Nova
It’s no secret that society has quite a ways to go as far as inclusion, diversity, and representation are concerned.
We’ve entered into a space in social media where we glorify the IG model and those that fit that aesthetic. Everyone wants to be an influencer, and with people chasing a certain look visually, everyone is starting to have the same look. It’s nothing new that a large part of social media is about obtaining likes and the validation that comes from the praise of viewers. Fashion brands, especially those that got the better part of their influence and recognition from Instagram, understand the power of the social media influencer and seek out women that they feel embody their target woman to catapult their engagement and likes. If nothing else, it is effective.
The adverse effect of this marketing tactic is that brands oftentimes alienate a good part of their customers by featuring one type of women, be that body type or complexion or ethnicity. To combat the backlash that would come up, brands may make an auxiliary page in an effort to showcase how truly diverse the brand really is. The authenticity of this tactic is a topic for another day, as this is sometimes a bandwagon effort.
A host of today’s popular fashion brands have come under fire for excluding groups of their consumer base at one time or another, namely Fashion Nova and Oh Polly. The same can even be said for a mass market, fast fashion company like Forever 21. Collectively, these brands feature largely white, light skin, or racially ambiguous women with a signature body shape. They have also made claims to be supportive of body positivity and inclusion.
Image Credit: Oh Polly, Fashion Nova
Fashion Nova has a separate page dedicated to their curvier shoppers, and, more recently, UK-based fashion brand Oh Polly came under fire for their efforts for inclusion. Their Instagram account @ohpollyinclusive was deleted rather quickly following the massive backlash the brand received. Influencers and consumers alike were quick to call out the brand on its irresponsible community-building marketing efforts, questioning the reasoning behind a second page if inclusion is actually the goal. “Imagine calling yourselves inclusive and not wanting to post women that don’t fit your ‘aesthetic’ on your brand page lmao,” tweeted beauty influencer and photographer Alissa Ashley. “Brands will include shades, sizes, you name it to appear inclusive and to get consumers to feel accepted but their pages reflect a totally different message. That’s why you really gotta pay attention. This goes for clothing brands, makeup brands, etc.,” she went to say in her thread that followed.
Image Credit: Instagram / @fashionnovacurve, Twitter / @alissa_ashleyy
We’ve definitely seen the rise of brands becoming aware of the consumers’ response to representation and inclusion. Unfortunately, they haven’t always gotten things quite right to make their consumers feel a part of the larger picture. There’s such an emphasis on making this big, huge push to make your brand seem inclusive, whether the effort is genuine or not. Everyone is making all of these animated gestures trying to say “Hey, look over here! We’re inclusive!” It’s like brands are acting like pick-me’s, and the consumer sees right through it every time. The answer is so simple—just do the work of making your audience feel included and seen. More work and effort has to be put in to include people who exist outside of what’s deemed conventionally beautiful or acceptable. The ‘othering’ of those individuals makes things so complicated when it really doesn’t need to be. There is always a way to fit everyone into your aesthetic, especially when you make claims to be inclusive of everyone in your marketing tactics.
For a fashion brand to feature the typical European, lighter skinned, or racially ambiguous women with the hourglass or slim thick figures on their main page and separate her from the women with varying body types, complexions, and ethnic backgrounds sets a clear divide. While the goal may be to create a community outside of a brand’s official page, it sends a message to the consumer and potential consumer that they exist outside of the vision of the brand’s aesthetic and target woman. It’s like “you can wear the clothes, but we’re still going to group you in over here.” Claims of inclusivity are void when a large portion of the consumer base isn’t being represented properly within the brand imagery.
This speaks to a larger problem concerning beauty standards and how women maneuver through them in today’s social climate. For plus size women (and men), the message is constantly being sent that they don’t deserve to take up the same amount of space, often being made to feel like they have to shrink themselves and apologize for it. The constant pressure exists to either hide or alter their bodies. Less value is placed here because they don’t fit that traditional mold of beauty. It’s because of this that we still get so hype for women like Lizzo and other body positivity enthusiasts who are undoubtedly confident and claim their space without apology. Adversely, this is also why Charlemagne (and others because many have been told the same) feels like he can tell Lizzo that she’d look stupid at a smaller size. It’s why people felt the need to leave negative comments in response to Chika’s Calvin Klein #MyCalvins campaign or why people feel emboldened to leave ugly comments under any plus size woman’s picture because she chooses to proudly showcase her body in any way she sees fit. For black women, you have people feeling the need to tell a dark-skinned girl or woman that she’s “pretty for a dark-skinned girl,” and it is so disrespectful every time. In media, token black girls are used as a means to fill a quota, or you get either a woman of a lighter complexion or one of a darker complexion with no in between. At the end of the day, people just want to be allowed the space to just be, without the constant critique of outside opinion. They want to feel seen, like they’re not an afterthought.
Image Credit: YouTube
Image Credit: InStyle
People are beautiful period, no matter their size, skin tone, body type. Brands do so much better in terms of engagement and good press when they include everyone—and that goes for everyone from plus size to disabled bodies. To continue to ostracize people based on antiquated views on beauty and acceptance is simply lazy.
We definitely have a long way to go. One day we’ll be fortunate enough to witness a truly inclusive future reflected in all forms and on all platforms.
Image Credit: Instagram / @fashionsinatra_com
The infamous first Monday in May—formally known as the Met Gala—has come and gone! The pink carpet was rolled out; celebrities gathered on Fifth Avenue in their sartorial interpretations of camp; there were a few memes and a few laughs had; there were some triumphs and some flops; and the reviews are still rolling in.
Inspired by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on Camp,” this year’s theme and exhibition sought to bring to life visually the elusive sensibility and ubiquitous aesthetic that camp suggests. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibit’s purpose was to “examine how the elements of irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration are expressed in fashion.” Camp is performative, over-the-top, unapologetic, excessive, delightful yet intentional vulgarity, an animated outward expression of identity, and the calling out of a current state of affairs in a way that forces one to pay attention. Being that this year’s Met Gala theme was so broad, the options were limitless as to how the attendees dressed for the occasion. This theme was arguably one of the best the Met has seen.
Image Credit: Instagram / @fashionsinatra_com + @kerbito
In many discussions surrounding camp and its origins, there has been an overwhelming focus on gender and sexuality (especially as camp centers queer culture in how its been identified), but so often it is seen through a white lens. Within this gaze is where figures like Cher, Lady Gaga, and Jeremy Scott are crowned camp icons. In her essay, Sontag only mentioned one personal of color in her random listing of examples that were “part of the canon of camp,” ignoring the multiplicity of camp and the impact to the term that black people had before she wrote this essay. Fashion historian Darnell Lisby shared with Teen Vogue: “One reason black culture is not within the ‘camp’ conversation is because the term itself has a lot of basis in theatrical, outlandish, exaggerated, and extreme fashion. Even though I believe there are so many examples of ‘camp’ in black culture, there is a broad paint stroke over the black experience, which is perceived to be downtrodden instead of vibrant. In essence, it seems like many forget about icons like Prince or Jimi Hendrix, who were the epitome of this term.” Despite being left out of the general discussion, camp is an aesthetic that spans various areas of black culture—from fashion to music to hair to film. Author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston highlighted a crucial characteristic of black expression—“the will to adorn” and “desire for beauty” and “decorating a decoration”—that speaks to the amount of swag, flair, and envied creativity we naturally possess and shows up in more ways than one.
Image Credit: Instagram / @fashionsinatra_com
In a time that predated “Notes on Camp,” the term manifested itself in the way Josephine Baker adorned herself ostentatiously in feathers, headpieces, sequins, rhinestones, and, famously, bananas. Baker utilized ornamentation as a means to make a self-referential statement of empowerment, to mimic and parody society, and to craftily reject racial and gender typecasting. Camp also showed itself in zoot suits—popularized by men in black communities and jazz musicians who wore them during performances—with their exaggerated appearance and the way that they were designed, featuring an oversized fit, a long coat, wide legs and wide shoulder padding. Camp showed up in the way that Paris Is Burning immortalized the larger-than-life personalities like Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Venus Xtravaganza, Dorian Corey, and more. The term exists in ballroom and drag culture, in the vernacular and references that came from within the LGBTQ community long before being adapted (and watered down) by the mainstream. Grace Jones was a good example of the aesthetic and sensibility of camp, as her eccentricity, androgyny, and overall style was always known to turn heads, spark conversations, and challenge gender stereotypes. The same elements of the term also show up in the pimp peacock style of dress. From the hairstyles and hats to gaudy jewelry and flamboyantly patterned suits to the canes and other accessories of choice, the pimp style definitely has a recognizable aesthetic, one that can still be seen on-screen and at events like the Players Ball.
Image Credit: Out Magazine, Post Punk, CMG Worldwide
In fashion, camp showed itself in one of the most referenced menswear examples of the term—Cam’ron’s all-pink outfit in 2002. This look was audacious and extravagant. It was so ironic for Cam’ron to boldly wear such a feminine color and present such a masculine look. This look changed the game for men’s style in hip-hop. Another great example is Dapper Dan and the way that he redefined luxury in the 1980s in response to an industry that consistently shut out hip-hop artists and black people from the hood from experiencing their brands. Taking Gucci and Louis Vuitton logos and putting them on original pieces and other objects sent a strong message that black people could no longer be ostracized by the luxury fashion industry. Lil Kim, a posterchild for over-the-top fashions and sex appeal, is also a prime example. Her overtly sexual lyrical content, animated and theatrical appearances, and her one-of-a-kind, vivacious style present a convincing case for camp. Also blocked by luxury brands that wouldn’t work with her and her stylist Misa Hylton in the 1990s, the dynamic duo created original looks that portrayed themes of sex, dominance, and femininity that were loud, unapologetic, garish, and irreverent in the best possible way. Before Jeremy Scott was crowned fashion’s king of camp, there was Patrick Kelly. In the 1980s, the southern-bred fashion designer rose to industry fame not only for his impeccable designs but his reclamation of controversial and stereotypical black imagery and memorabilia like the golliwog, the pickaninny, watermelon, and the mammy. He claimed ownership of those images, challenging the meanings they once held by showcasing them on elaborate garb with the assistance from gaudy runway shows.
Image Credit: Teen Vogue, The Source, Billboard, Vogue, Icon Mann, Fast Company
In the music industry is where a lot of camp aesthetics and sensibilities are found. Artists are able to communicate their personal brand of messaging to the world through the vehicles of song, visuals, and fashion. Artists like Labelle and musicians like Bootsy Collins used their fashion choices as an animated expression of their identity. The louder and more eclectic their style was, the better. Little Richard, Prince, and the Isley Brothers used their style as a means to challenge the stereotypes surrounding men’s fashion, redefining the image of masculinity. Missy Elliot utilized her music videos and songs to showcase her vast range of creativity. Artists like Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, and Outkast did the same, using animated and outlandish tactics to show their range as artists and portray various messages to enhance the overall musical experience. Even if a visual was weird or the viewer wasn’t immediately hip to what was happening, the art could be appreciated either way. Very camp.
Image Credit: Rolling Stones, Harper's Bazaar, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Vice, The Source, Grailed, Billboard, Vevo
Blackness and camp also join forces onscreen. Generational fav The Wiz is a great example of camp sensibilities in the way that the black experience featured is so elaborate. The film represents a fantasy for the viewer to fall into. Blaxploitation films from the seventies and the way that they show an exaggerated and animated view of black life but with a distinct message are also a notable example. My favorite example of black camp onscreen is B.A.P.S., the 1997 comedy that told the story of two southern women played by Halle Berry and Natalie Desselle that travel to California to chase their dreams and every hilarious moment in between. From the storyline to the main characters’ infamous elaborate hairstyles to their bright and vibrant clothing designed by Ruth E. Carter, B.A.P.S. proves to be camp all around. “In B.A.P.S., the idea of having fun with a Southern girl’s version of ‘making it big in Hollywood’ was for me a kind of commedia dell’arte. B.A.P.S. created a ‘campy’ look by using unconventional fabrics with recognizable yet exaggerated shapes and fabrics that were fashioned to make a bold statement. With this, the characters become the ‘camp’ version of themselves in high society. There is a close relationship between ‘camp’ and farce. The idea or the story is the farce. The farce influences the design. But it’s the idea of ‘failed seriousness’ that brings to life a clear story and a bold statement that is truly camp,” the award-winning costume designer shared with Teen Vogue.
Image Credit: Essence
As surely as art imitates life, the infamous hairstyles in B.A.P.S reflected what was going on within the black hair community at the time. Hairstyles were getting more intricate, styled in ways that valued artistry and creativity over practicality. Hairstylists were taking average, everyday hairstyles and revamping them into fun, over-the-top, sculptural masterpieces. Enter hair shows like the Bronner Brothers International Beauty Show and the Detroit Hair Wars. These shows were introduced to showcase the stylists’ talent and creativity, as well as a celebration of the limitless styling possibilities of black hair. Pop culture scholar and retired cosmetologist Clitha Mason couldn’t deny the camp sensibilities that shows like the Detroit Hair Wars evoked. “Not only did the shows possess the queer sensibilities that is a camp essential, they were subversive in ways that critiqued the opulence portrayed by the wealthy white population through hyperbolic renditions of opulent lifestyles.” These shows were a way to put black creative vision and inventiveness on display, showcasing a fantasy that was free of any outside limitations.
Image Credit: CNN, NPR, BET, Essence, Wonderland Magazine, Dazed, New York Times/ T Magazine, i-D
Blackness is camp—in an entertaining, empowering, and political sense. The term has always existed in our culture; it’s broader than Susan Sontag’s essay could define. In the way that we exist freely and without apology, loudly and joyfully in the face of adversities, iniquities and the systems built against us is truly a significant testament to our impact and strength. There is a beautiful irony in that. Our continuity in pushing forward and pushing against social norms, our resilience is powerful. Host and fashion critic Bevy Smith matched this sentiment in a statement with NYLON: We do this with no fear of what ‘they’ will think. We do this for the culture!”
Who do you feel embodies the aesthetic and sensibility of camp? Who would you add to the list? Leave a comment and let us know!
Image Credit: Sports Illustrated
Model Halima Aden makes history with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit as the first Muslim model to wear a hijab and burkini for the shoot.
The Somali-American model dons custom-made burkinis designed by Cynthia Rowley and No Ka’Oi and looks absolutely amazing. Born in Kenya at the Kakuma Refugee Camp until the age of seven, the location of the Sports Illustrated shoot bears much significance to the model and beauty advocate. The SI team had the idea to shoot her rookie Swimsuit spread in her birth country at Watamu Beach. During her shoot, Aden couldn’t help but to express her feelings of excitement and gratitude about being back in Kenya. “I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this country, was in a refugee camp. So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya—I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up.” In shots captured by photographer Yu Tsai, the Kenya-born, US-bred model is stunning, posing on the shore and alongside the water of Watamu Beach.
Image Credit: NBC
Aden is no stranger to firsts and breaking records and forging her own path to make sure that young girls and women feel represented when they see her. “Growing up in the United States, I never really felt represented because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab,” she shared with SI. The IMG signee made headlines three years ago at the age of 19 when she was the first contestant to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant, in which she was also a semi-finalist. Aden’s star rose quickly from that moment, leading to being signed with IMG Models, gaining much support and success as an international model, and working to redefine the old-fashioned standards and images of beauty.
SI Swimsuit strives to “continue to spread the message that whether you are wearing one-piece, two-piece, or a burkini, you are the pilot of your own beauty.” Editor MJ Day added to the conversation surrounding beauty and expressed words of admiration for Aden in choosing her for being a part of the SI shoot: “We believe beauty knows no boundaries. I admire Halima, and I consider her an inspirational human for what she has decided to use her platform for and her work with Unicef as an ambassador. She is, in my opinion, one of the great beauties of our time, not only outside but inside. We both believe that the ideal of beauty is so vast and subjective. We both know that women are so often perceived to be one way or one thing based on how they look or what they wear. Whether you feel your most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, YOU ARE WORTHY.”
Image Credit: NBC
From walking Fashion Week runways to landing magazine covers to being featured in beauty campaigns to advocating for the representation of beauty outside of the traditional perspective, Aden is definitely making a strong case that there is more than enough space for modest Muslim women to exist and thrive in the fashion industry. Staying true to her messaging surrounding her career and the moves that she makes within the industry, Halima Aden charges us all to not be afraid to be the first. A message for us all in being the necessary changes in the world that we wish to see!
It is always amazing to see figures in the industry using their platforms to uplift not only their adjacent communities but also the world.
Video Credit: Sports Illustrated
Be sure to check out Halima in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, set to hit newsstands on May 8.
& remember these gems: be the pilot of your own beauty and don't be afraid to be the first!
Image Credit: Twitter / @UngleSego
I love seeing guys open to experimenting with various styles of clothing and having appreciation for the cultivation of a great sense of style. If a man can put continuously put together a dope ‘fit, pull it off with ease + a signature flair, and not lean solely onto the hypebeast trends of the moment, he has my instant respect!
Enter Micah Davis—generally known by his stage name Masego. The Lady Lady artist’s style is as smooth and lavish as his signature sonic sound.
He credits designers like Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Gucci as a few of his favorites. He loves the 1970s vibe that Gucci has, and the influence is extremely present in his style of dress. Whether he's being styled for a shoot or pulling together looks for an appearance or performance, there is a distinct energy about him that radiates through. He exudes an aura that is fun and lighthearted, carefree, electric, positive and dynamic. There's a cool confidence about him that I absolutely love.
Image Credit: Twitter / @UngleSego
While the "Tadow" singer has a handle on his signature style and can dress the way he wants to, there were a few moments of clarity he experienced before truly developing his fashion ethos. In an interview with Vogue, he shared that he used to dress like an "old man," and that he "always looked like he was about to take a nap." He goes on to say, "I thought I was cool until I left the country. I went to Tokyo, and I was like 'man, why am I wearing these jorts?' I've always loved fashion, but when you're broke, you're wearing whatever your dad gave you." A true and dedicated creative, when presented with a choice between style and music, of course music was his first priority. It was up until he began dating who he describes as "one of those Fashion Week every week women" and wanted to match her energy that his style began to blossomed and take form.
Nowadays, the "Trap House Jazz" musician has traded in his old man garb of yesteryear for billowing silk tops in a wide range of colors and motifs, leather jackets, immaculately patterned ensembles, dope sets of vintage rings, perfectly fitting pairs of trousers (his personal favorites are by Vivienne Westwood), unique pairs of sunglasses, his signature saxophone chain and so many more elements that make up his fawn-worthy and aesthetically pleasing method of dress. A true style chameleon, and I’m honestly just here to stan. "There's an upper echelon to my style but not in a belittling way. 'Cause I'm hood. I'm from the hood. I love there being a grit to it."
Image Credit: Twitter / @UngleSego
Throughout his sartorial journey, the hip hop + jazz multi-instrumentalist learned that a great outfit comes together when you know how to pair things, putting them together with taste, more so than just rocking the trendiest pieces. And, of course, the statement piece here and there is always a necessary touch. He's a fan of mixing consignment finds with designer pieces, as a well-executed high-low look is never not a good idea. Dope one-of-a-kind finds really make a look hit differently!
Whew! A man after my fashion-obsessed heart! Uncle Sego can definitely teach the guys a thing or two. And he can serenade me with his saxophone playing anytime!
Every year, fashion’s veterans and aficionados gather to celebrate the rising stars and icons in fashion at the event affectionately known as the Fashion Oscars—the CFDA Awards. One of the industry’s most significant events, the CFDA Awards shed light on fashion’s talented newcomers and current power players as well as gives flowers to iconic figures that have made a substantial impact within the industry and beyond.
The CFDA Awards have been known to garner some attention. From snubs and lack of true diversity and representation to last year’s social media frenzy surrounding Kim Kardashian’s Influencer Award.
This year’s attention-grabbing headline from the upcoming awards ceremony is the news that singer, dancer, producer and actress Jennifer Lopez will be honored with the CFDA Fashion Icon award. The news set fashion twitter ablaze, with opinions on whether J. Lo deserved the honor or not being split down the middle.
Image Credit: Instagram / @cfda
The news broke Tueday morning (4/16) via the Council of Fashion Designers of America Instagram page, announcing that the CFDA Board of Directors would be giving the “Jenny From The Block” singer the Fashion Icon award for her “longstanding and global impact on fashion.” In a statement regarding the announcement, Chairwoman Diane von Furstenbury had this to say: “Jennifer Lopez uses clothes as a way to express confidence and power. Both designers and fans look forward to her fashion statements.” Also sharing his praise for the Fashion Icon recipient was the CFDA president and CEO Steven Kolb: “Jennifer Lopez’s style is bold, uninhibited, and always memorable. Designers, including many of our CFDA Members, love to dress her for both stage and private moments.”
The organization credited the “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” singer’s fashion impact to her numerous show-stopping red carpet looks, on-stage performance fashion moments and music videos that have been cemented into pop culture world history. Upon receiving this highly coveted award, Lopez will join the ranks of previous honorees Pharell, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Naomi Campbell and the late Franca Sozzani.
Praise and exclamations of those in favor of the CFDA’s latest Fashion Icon recipient flooded social media, referencing noteworthy red carpet moments and influential music video style moments—elements that found their way into closets and street style inspiration all over the world. The most referenced red carpet moment from the Maid in Manhattan actress was the iconic Versace tropical leaf silk chiffon plunging dress that she wore to the 2000 Grammys. The moment surrounding the dress was a moment of cultural significance because, up to that point, the red carpet fashion for women was fairly tame. J. Lo in that dress literally broke the Internet.
Image Credit: Page Six / Popsugar
Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmit in an essay in January of 2015 highlighted that this moment was the most popular search Google had ever seen at the time, but there was no way for Google users to get the specific image of J. Lo in the Versace dress. From there, Google Image Search was born! Pretty iconic moment. Other notable fashion fan favs were her fur-trimmed baby pink coat in “All I Have,” the pink velour short set in “I’m Real” (the girls always love a good [velour] set), the bikini top + baggy pant combo from “If You Had My Love,” and the tank + cargo pant + Timberland heel moment from “Jenny from the Block.” The latter example was definitely a popular example of J. Lo’s impact on street style—this look was seen duplicated everywhere. A recent credited style moment comes from this year’s Oscars red carpet—Lopez wears a fitted, long-sleeved mosaic mirror tiled Tom Ford gown, one that got a lot of people talking. Designers like Tom Ford, Donatella Versace, Zuhair Murad and Balmain are some of the signature partners that have aided in crafting her signature look over the years. The “Medicine” singer is the embodiment of sexy chic, is no stranger to the curve-hugging garments and the naked dress trend (one that she is a key player in) and is known for a high slit + exposed thigh moment. The Selena actress has definitely had fashion moments and has an unquestionable sense of personal style. That much is undeniable.
Image Credit: Bustle
Image Credit: People
Image Credit: Bustle
Honorable mention: J. Lo at the 2000 VMAs | Image Credit: Who What Wear / Us Weekly
Image Credit: Daily Mail
Those on the other end of the spectrum who aren’t in favor of the newest Fashion Icon recipient feel that, while J. Lo has her moments, she hasn’t established enough of a range to be able to hold such a title. Though J. Lo’s most significant example of impact began with that 2000 Grammys Versace moment, no other fashion moment from the multi-hyphenate artist hit quite like that one did. What moment topped or came close to that one? Many question Lopez’s true impact on fashion, making the point that her [red carpet] fashion choices are in large a revolving door of similar Zuhair Murad gowns for countless appearances (or just the same type of gown for that matter, lacking any real style variety). Familiar with the infamous Aretha Franklin “Uh…great gowns, beautiful gowns” GIF? That might be more accurate embodiment of J. Lo’s contribution to fashion. Mentions of the cultural impact surrounding the infamous Versace dress have been the most common example of her impact, but many want to know what else can Lopez be credited with. When you take away that moment, what else is left? Credits were made to her music video style and her apparently putting hoop earrings, fur-lined collar bomber jackets, Going Out tops and French manicures on the map. Her repertoire of fashion and style moments almost reads like a credentials list for a Video Vanguard award rather than a Fashion Icon award. This is a good place for a gentle reminder that J. Lo was awarded the Video Vanguard Award at last year’s VMA ceremony, an incident that also sparked conversations that Missy Elliot was much more deserving. On a related note, I noticed a lot of people who would’ve preferred Lil Kim be honored with the Fashion Icon award, for her unwavering fashion impact that can still be seen very clearly within the fashion and music industries. Lil Kim changed the image of the female rapper. She did so with the help of her stylist Misa Hylton, ushering in another leg of the conversation of black individuals who are so deserving of recognition for their contributions to the fashion industry but are often overlooked—Hylton, June Ambrose, Andre Leon Talley. These are just a few names of the true arbitrators of style and immaculate taste, running the show behind the scenes and really deserve so much more, but I digress. That’s a topic to dive deeper into on a different day.
There is much to be debated—and much that has been debated—on whether or not Jennifer Lopez truly deserves the title of Fashion Icon. Nevertheless, on June 3, the “Waiting for Tonight” songstress and recent Pretty Little Thing collaborator will claim and take home this prize. Major congratulations are in order for J. Lo in receiving this award from the fashion industry.
It’s now your turn to decide where you stand on this subject. Do you think J. Lo is a Fashion Icon or just knows how to wear a great garment? Was she a true innovator who carved a lane for sexy, chic fashion (especially on the red carpet) or did she and her team have a great handle on dressing for her body type and sticking to what worked for her?
If not J. Lo, who do you feel would be a great recipient for the Fashion Icon award?
Definitely share your thoughts. I would to hear what you all think!!
Mama is HONING IN on her personal style! These fashion choices have been on point!
Image Credit: IG / @marsaimartin
Marsai Martin has been making quite the splash in Hollywood. The young legend launched her production company, Genius Productions, earlier this year and is the youngest executive producer of major motion picture in history with the help of her film Little.
Day by day, with each red carpet and press appearance, the Little star is catching some major attention in fashion. With the help of her stylist Jason Rembert, Martin’s looks have been impeccable, donning beautiful and fun pieces from designers like Pamella Roman, Esteban Cortaz, Georges Hobeika and more.
Martin’s looks from the press tour for Little were what really caught my attention. The amazing thing about the Black-ish star’s style evolution is that at the tender age of 14, her sartorial essence exudes the bold, fun, bright and cool youthfulness as well as the elegant, classic and poised maturity that is present in her personality. Stylist Jason Rembert has been able to style the young actress in a way that doesn’t age her, yet captures the wise-beyond-her-years nature of her persona.
Basically, wisdom + youth, but make it fashion.
Check out some of my fav looks from the actress + executive producer on her press tour (alongside Issa Rae and Regina Hall—who have also been serving some really amazing looks).
Her style isn’t too aggressive or trying to hard; it’s just right and so good. I can’t wait to see how her style elevates and the magic that her and Jason deliver next.
Marsai Martin is a name that everyone should become very familiar with. She is #blackgirlmagic personified, and great things are ahead for her—in power moves and in style moments. Prepare for the impending slay accordingly!
& run, don't walk, to your nearest theater to see Little, OUT NOW!
Welcome to FashionSinatra.com. I write about fashion things and elements of the culture that move me. Enjoy!