Trois Choses: Getting into a Groove

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Robin Givhan is renewing my fashion obsession

There was a time in my life when fashion felt like my whole life. I used to obsessively flipped through the same issues of Vogue, tried to learn as much fashion vocabulary as I could and wrote the most amateur-ish of fashion show reviews. Over time, that passionate obsession faded into a vague liking and these days, I doubt that I could call myself a fashion fanatic. But in recent weeks, there has been a strong light in the very dim tunnel: Robin Givhan’s reviews for The Washington Post. Givhan is a respected fashion critic, who’s books on historical moments in fashion—fashion’s battle at Versailles, Michelle Obama’s fashion choices as a first lady—are groundbreaking and provoking. Her fashion reviews feel equally the same; her perspective always feels fresh and she seems less concerned with the sensationalism that often surrounds things and instead focuses on the collections at hand, the precedent the sent and what that means for the future of fashion. The more I read, the more I am reminded of why I loved fashion in the first place: for its possibilities, for its expansiveness, and its ability to bring beauty into the world while saying something worthwhile.

The new Blood Orange music video

Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange, just released the music video for “Chewing Gum” from his album Negro Swan and after just one watch I was overwhelmingly impressed. I’m constantly awed by Hynes’ unique brand of artistry and the layers of his work, and this was no different. Like the other videos from the album, the “Chewing Gum” video isn’t overly complicated—it’s Dev Hynes and A$AP Rocky driving ATVs in hazy, sunset dripped desert, looking fierce and free. Apart from its visual beauty, what struck me most about the video was the fresh perspective it gave me on the song and what it means. When Hynes looks straight into the camera and sings “Tell me what you want from me,” it has a fierce demand that feels unexpected from the soft tone of his singing voice. A big theme of Negro Swan is the freedom of being fully yourself, of doing the most, and the power that you get from being surrounded by the right people, the people who let you be free. In this video, both Hynes and A$AP are not just demanding their right to that freedom and power, but taking it. As their scarves dance around them and the drive on seemingly endless strips of road, they become more free and you as the viewer, feel it too.

On Being Podcast: Alain Botton

Lately, I’ve been feeling like maybe I’m interested in pursuing and entering a romantic relationship and if so, why. Despite this desire, I’m also hesitant and a little afraid of what that would actually mean. I love listening to and reading radical perspectives on love and relationships, and so was especially excited to listen to Alain Botton’s episode of On Being with Krista Tippett. Love is Botton’s subject—he’s been writing about love since he was 23—and his perspective on it feels valuable and increasingly so the more I think about it. He said three things that stuck with me, the first being that the scariest part of entering into relationships is that we have to make ourselves “weak,” to not con. The other two things: relationships aren’t just the lovey-dovey parts, but also involve everyday responsibilities; and we shouldn’t be fear imperfections in ourselves and our partners but be open to them. It’s such a good listen and I’ll be talking about it with everyone I meet for the next little while.

Loewe Fall 2018

Before my 20th birthday, I began to muse on what I wanted 20 to feel like. One of the things I was especially committed to was giving my wardrobe a bit of a revamp. Like most teens, the ages of 13-19 were a time of style exploration. I went from sweet and sunny (wannabe) Hollister model to 90s throwback queen to monochromatic minimalism vis-a-vis Oak and Fort. By the time I was in university, I was exhausted and just wanted to wear jeans and a t-shirt! But I'm tired of all that. I want to wear things that express who I am and what I feel--no matter how nebulous that is. I want clothes that enable my intense desire for comfort and still make me feel exceptionally sexy. Enter Loewe's collection for Fall 2018. Disclaimer: It's been a long time since I've been excited by an ENTIRE collection, so when I say that Loewe is a game changer you know that's MAJAH! What stood out to me the most was the use of leather--from the oversized coats to the minute detailing on dresses. This season has seen a lot of leather looks that are channeling the Matrix or some other 80s futuristic reference so Jonathan Anderson's different take was refreshing. The collection was bold and elegant, and looked like it was made for women not mannequins. That's not an easy thing to do but Anderson makes it look effortless.

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All images via Vogue Runway

The Importance of Representation

Artwork by Angela Pilgrim (via  blackcontemporaryart )

Artwork by Angela Pilgrim (via blackcontemporaryart)

I fell in love with fashion at the age of twelve. Before then, my main interest had been books and I took all my style cues from the popular soccer kids that I was so desperate to be best friends with. Discovering fashion wasn’t just about discovering a whole new world, but discovering a whole new part of myself. Day upon day I perused my sister’s fashion magazines, endlessly talked about trends with my best friend, and tried in whatever way possible to emulate the people I now looked up to. My love affair with fashion is what helped me survive the brutalities of early pubescence and crafted me into the person I am today.

When I fell in love with fashion, I knew of four black models. Naomi Campbell, Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn and Joan Smalls. I didn’t know of any black fashion writers, designers or magazine editors. At the time, the lack of representation in the industry wasn’t something on my radar. I was just happy to see one or two black models in the latest issue of Teen Vogue.

These days, my relationship with representation is very different. I think there were two things that really changed the game for me. One was realizing that in the mass of influencers that I followed and admired, very few of them were black women. I knew that there were more black bloggers, but I wasn’t seeing them on must-follow lists.  I’m going to be honest, I’m not exactly one for trolling through my Instagram ‘Explore’ page, so I depend on magazines, blogs and other Instagram accounts to discover new people. Unfortunately, a lot of my sources were dominated by whiteness. After realizing that there was a severe lack of black women on my feed, I made it my mission to rectify the situation. And it wasn’t a challenge at all. When I started looking in the right places, the options for inspiration were endless.

The second thing that happened was that I read Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. It doesn’t need to be said but reading any Audre Lorde is life-changing, and reading Zami was like an epiphany. Up until that point, I had never read a book in which I felt seen. It wasn’t just about relating to Audre--I felt a deep connection with her and her words. I saw parts of myself in her and I felt that those parts were understood. I’d never experienced that feeling before.

The combination of reading the book and following more black women on the Internet made me feel like I was a part of a community. I hadn’t realized how displaced I felt within the whole fashion/influencer community, until I found a place where I felt like I belonged.

Last week, blogger Valerie Eguavoen of On A Curve, called out fashion brand Revolve for the lack of women of color, specifically black women, in their influencer groups. In calling out the brand, Valerie shed light on a conversation that black women have been having for years. Across industries, black women are undervalued, especially in the fashion industry which likes appropriating black culture but isn’t as open to actually supporting black women. And although diversity in fashion has been championed in recent years, the attempts have felt weak. Valerie’s callout of Revolve demonstrated that. Responses to her claims clearly showed how little people value black women, with many responding that maybe the reason that there weren’t any black bloggers that were popular enough to get influencer status. That idea is completely ridiculous and further undermines the work that black women do to gain even half of the amount of success that their white counterparts experience.

Seeing black women working in fashion, whether it’s as writers, influencers, photographers, etc. is inspirational. It’s an affirmation of where hard work can take you. It’s also an encouragement--if I was being completely honest, there are many times I’ve questioned if I would be able to have a career in the fashion industry because of the prevalence (and preference) of whiteness. But when I see writers and editors like Marjon Carlos or Chioma Nnadi, or bloggers like Yaminah Mayo, I see women who pushed past those ideas to get what they wanted. Women who have used the spaces they inhabit to fuel discussions around blackness.

For me, seeing black women working in fashion--successfully, visibly--makes me feel like my dreams and goals are possible. Black women have shaped culture for centuries and their stories are rich and valuable. They've done so well in crafting out spaces for themselves, but it's time for them to be given space on the mainstage. It's time for their voices to be magnified. 

If you looking for more black influencers and bloggers, Valerie started an Instagram page, @youbelongnow that spotlights black influencers and bloggers from all areas of the ‘net. I’ve followed quite a few people already!