The Fashion and Race Database provides an accessible, academic treatment to one of fashion’s most critical topics facing us today.

Essays & News

Issue 12: News Roundup, October 15, 2021

This week, we consider the appropriation of Black beauty culture, dissect the systemic racial biases of photography, and dig into a worldwide labor crisis.

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Factory workers in Havana, Cuba, are seen sitting and working at sewing machines.

Image: Unsplash

The Calendar

Textures: The History and Art of Black Hair

Textures synthesizes research in history, fashion, art, and visual culture to reassess the “hair story” of peoples of African descent. Long a fraught topic for African Americans and others in the diaspora, Black hair is here addressed by artists, barbers, and activists in both its historical perceptions and its ramifications for self and society today. Combs, products, and implements from the collection of hair pioneer Willie Morrow are paired here with masterworks from artists including James Van Der Zee, Sonya Clark, Lorna Simpson, Mary Sibande and Zanele Muholi. Exploring topics such as the preferential treatment of straight hair, the social hierarchies of skin, and the power and politics of display, TEXTURES is a landmark exploration of Black hair and its important, complicated place in the history of African American life and culture. The exhibition is organized by the KSU Museum with co-curators, Joseph L. Underwood, assistant professor of art history at KSU and Tameka Ellington, associate professor at the School of Fashion at KSU. “Textures: The History and Art of Black Hair” is on view in Kent State UniversityMuseum until August 14th, 2022.

Click here to learn more about this event.

Tawny Chatmon, Heir/Present of God, 2017. Image.

Featured Content

Moving Beyond Performance: When Brand Allyship Goes Wrong

“While fashion brands may feel that making statements or donating money is sufficient, they need to reflect deeper on how they participate in the same injustice and oppression that they speak out against.” Zari Alyssa Taylor considers performative allyship through the example of Guess and Telfar Global.

Reframing European Luxury: The Exclusivity of the Black American Brand Ambassador

From Willow Smith and Rihanna to Zoe Kravitz and Zendaya, the number of Black American women appointed as ambassadors of French and Italian historical couture brands has been growing since the 2010s. But surprisingly, predominantly African American women are selected to embody this European heritage all over the world while local French and Italian Black women are nowhere to be seen in these elitist spaces.

The Racist Underbelly of Instagram Moodboards

As many fashion brands begin to shift their messaging to be more diverse and inclusive, niche communities are forming around the images of the past. Nostalgia marketing is becoming ubiquitous within the industry. Kathryn C. considers how the form of the Instagram moodboard is aestheticizing problematic elements of the past under the guise of “good taste.”

Fashion Architect Misa Hylton

Misa Hylton, stylist and fashion architect, was pivotal in crafting the visual presence of Hip Hop in the 1990s, working with figures such as Lil Kim, Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, and more.

The Ebony Fashion Fair

The Ebony Fashion Fair brought the colorful fashion pages of Ebony magazine to people across the United States for 51 years.

Şalvar

Şalvar are baggy trousers that formed part of the dress of the Turks who came to Anatolia in the eleventh century C.E. and continue to be worn today.

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Reading List

Qipao, Past and Present

The qipao (or cheongsam) is one of the most symbolic garments of Chinese fashion. Although some earlier examples survive, the qipao denotes the glamorous style of “Old Shanghai” in the 1910s–30s. During the Republican era, it became a tool of resistance that allowed women to negotiate with institutional repression through their sartorial practices. And, throughout its history, it has indexed shifts in the balance of power between China and the United States, at times perhaps even mediating relations between the two countries. This reading list offers five perspectives on the qipao historically and aims to show why this style is still relevant to our contemporary sensibilities. Compiled by FRD Researcher, Laura Beltrán-Rubio.

Check  out the latest reading list.

Black and white photo of Chinese-American film star, Anna May Wong (1905–61) wearing a black qipao with a dragon motif in a publicity shot for ‘Limehouse Blues.,

Chinese-American film star, Anna May Wong (1905–61) wearing a qipao with a dragon motif in a publicity shot for ‘Limehouse Blues’, directed by Alexander Hall, in 1934. Photo via John Kobal Foundation.

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