1900. 1987. 2018. Three moments when HBCU fashion culture expanded perceptions of being Black in America. We explore what it meant then—and today. Featuring Darnell Jamal-Lisby, Ceci, Jasmine Guy, Elizabeth Way and Monica Miller.

Syllabus for this episode

  1. The impact of HBCU style has extended beyond the campus, reaching the tv screen and the runway. Guest Darnell-Jamal Lisby takes us on a journey through its history in “Styling the Quad: Fashioning the Legacy of HBCU Culture.” 
  2. Welcome to Homecoming!” celebrates the traditions of Homecoming celebrations at historically Black colleges and universities across the nation.
  3. Authored by guest Monica Miller, Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity emphasizes the importance of sartorial style to Black identity formation in the Atlantic diaspora – and tells the story of a very fashionable young W.E.B. DuBois.
  4. How does it feel to be groomed as the “solution” to a national Black male “problem”? This is the guiding paradox of Respectable: Politics and Paradox in Making the Morehouse Man , an in-depth examination of graduates of Morehouse College, the nation’s only historically Black college for men.
  5. Madras Fabric” details the origins of a style of cotton from India used to great effect in many of the Caribbean islands as the basis for their national costumes and extensively by designers such as Ralph Lauren.
Transcript of this episode

Kimberly: In 2018 I watched Beyonce headline Coachella from my apartment in Brooklyn . I remember watching her come down the runway with her crown and cape making her way to the stage. There was something incredibly powerful about watching all those beautiful people in uniform and the sound of the marching band and the majorette dancers. It’s an energy that you can only get from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and our iconic bands.

ARCHIVAL: Marching band intro

Kimberly: She had the resources, the stature and the vision. She gave us a show.. And, true to form, Beyonce never half-steps on anything.

Darnell: Started the performance with that, you know, strut, with that entire ensemble, and then she rising from the bleachers at the top, and you see the band, and then she’s wearing her yellow hoodie, Bey Delta Kappa hoodie with the Louboutin boots. I mean, it was, it was a moment that I was like, “Okay.”

Kimberly: Meet Darnell-Jamal Lisby.

Darnell: I’m a fashion historian and currently the assistant curator for the Cleveland Museum of Art with the focus of organizing and conceptualizing fashion exhibitions. If Beyonce wasn’t Beyonce, she would be, you know, a majorette dancer. And this was Beyonce living out her probably dreams that she always wanted to do. You know the entire moment mixed with what she was wearing just exuded everything that we all knew and felt and loved about Beyonce. And for her to do that I think really sent just a wonderful, warm sentiment that a lot of people have been dying to give out, to show, that there’s such a beauty within the Black community regarding the HBCU culture.

Kimberly: Beyonce’s use of Greek lettering is important to call out as well. Greek life on HBCU campuses has a legacy of celebrating and honoring Black culture. These fraternities and sororities are known as The Divine Nine.

Darnell: It’s significant because any of the Divine Nine, like just all of them, they are integral to the Black community. When you talk about fraternity and sorority with non-Black people, particularly white people, for instance, or even just anybody outside of the Black community, the thought is, what, American Pie. That’s their idea of a fraternity and sorority, you know, just these frat houses that they do beer pong and they just act completely stupid. And for me, my relationship to a fraternity is Martin Luther King was an Alpha, Thurgood Marshall was an Alpha. When I think about the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, obviously I think Kamala Harris. You think, like, these fraternities and sororities are sacred to us because they’re the individuals that are really also on the front lines in different ways, in philanthropic ways, in professional ways, that really build the community to help us create some kind of substantial foundation.

Kimberly: Beyonce wanted to honor this tradition of excellence and philanthropy. By creating her own sorority she was paying homage to the Divine Nine. The bright yellow and hot pink uniforms were designed by the European Luxury brand Balmain, under the creative direction of Olivier Rousteing. And you might remember from the live album of Homecoming when Beyonce pauses to shout out someone in the audience who had replicated her outfit.

ARCHIVAL: Beyonce performance

I see you! how did you do that so fast? she has on my outfit, ya’ll!

Kimberly: Together, Beyonce and Rousteing brought a fresh regality to a look that was uniquely Black. Close to half a million people tuned into the live stream from Coachella that weekend just to watch her. A pre-recorded message from DJ Khaled christened the performance “Beychella”.


DJ Khaled: New name alert! Bey-chella.

Kimberly: Beychella was a tour de force of Black artistry. And at its center was Beyonce in that now-iconic hoodie and denim shorts, reminding the world of a look, an energy, and a culture that continues to shape us today.

Most Historically Black colleges and universities were founded after the Civil War in the Southern United States. These institutions were founded with the mission of educating Black Americans. In this episode, we are going to look at what happens when blackness is presented to the world through HBCU campus style to challenge narrow understandings of Black people. Beyonce intentionally put HBCU culture front and center. We’re going to look at two other key moments where this happened: The sitcom A Different World that first aired in 1987 and the World’s Fair of 1900. We’ll explore their iconic styles and the depth of what those clothes signified. We’ll also hear how respectability has played a role in the way students choose to represent themselves.


I’m Kimberly Jenkins. You’re listening to The Invisible Seam, where we open up the archive of American fashion and celebrate its Black contributions. This is Episode 4: The Best, The Brightest, The Dressed.

Let’s talk about a television show centered around an HBCU.

ARCHIVAL: A Different World theme

Kimberly: A Different World spanned six seasons, exploring the lives of students coming of age on the fictitious HBCU campus, Hillman College. The show represented a cast of diverse characters that young viewers could relate to.

Here’s Darnell-Jamal Lisby again.

Darnell: It was genius, I think, the way that they showed the spectrum of blackness. Not all of us grew up in Good Times, not all of us grew up in that good times, kind of the ghetto, you know, environment. Some people, like Whitley Gilbert, had you know inherited a lot of money and you know, provided for her.

ARCHIVAL: A Different World

Whitley: Mirror mirror on the wall, who could survive without a mall?

Darnell: Or understanding what Dwayne Wayne and him coming from Brooklyn. Even though his parents were very hardworking people, you know, they weren’t necessarily wealthy, but they were middle class people and he had more of an association to the streets. You see that evolution in him.

ARCHIVAL: A Different World.

Dwayne: Say, bro, I know what it’s like to grow up in a rough environment, I mean but just because things are rough doesn’t mean we have to be victims in the ghetto. Hey, strong brothers like you need to build up the community not destroy it.

Kimberly: I was a Black girl who grew up in an affluent all-white neighborhood in Texas. It involved a great deal of code switching and just emotional exhaustion and really trying to figure out who and what I was. We drove to a Black church about 30 minutes away on Sundays, but aside from that I was pretty divorced from Black culture. Being in this neighborhood was important to my family.

The goal was upward mobility and I had a classmate in high school whose family really represented Black excellence to me. So, when it came time to decide on colleges to apply for, she told me about an HBCU in Virginia, called Hampton University. And so, I applied and I got in and I was like, let’s do this. When I stepped foot on campus, it was mind blowing. I went from such a bubble and just not fully understanding who and what I was and what Black culture outside of church on Sundays and watching TV and music videos, what blackness was, to seeing this whole panoply of Black culture.

I remember attending orientation and looking at the student body and just being in awe of the diversity. There were the people who were into hip-hop style. Then you had the people who were really into preppy style. There were the engineering and science nerds. The sports jocks, then the fly girls over here. And then the kind of girls who were going through a whole Erykah Badu phase, well, I fell into that one. It was the Neo soul movement and I found my tribe. I was writing poetry, going to poetry slams, we were the conscious crew. “Conscious” was the word that we used before “woke.”

I saw people from all across the diaspora, students from the continent, students from the Caribbean, students from the East Coast, the West Coast, the South, all of them with their own dialect and their own style and approach, and attitude. And so it was just so exciting. It gave me a whole new respect for what Black culture is: A mosaic.

Ceci: So my name is Ceci and my official title is Ceci. Some people call me the GOAT. No, just Ceci, costume designer.

Kimberly: Ceci was the costume designer for A Different World. Long before I had my HBCU experience I watched the cast of A Different World navigate college life. Ceci has worked as a costume designer on television shows like Sister, Sister, Living Single, Dear White People and most recently, a remake of The Wonder Years. She got her start working on print advertisements, then worked on music videos and plays, movies, and eventually, television. Ceci takes various things into consideration when she’s designing looks.

Ceci: So that’s gonna be with colors. That’s gonna be with textures. That’s gonna be with some flare and panache, and that’s gonna be with some style that maybe it’s a scarf, it’s a flurry. It’s a, it’s, it’s a layered Chanel, pearls and golds. Maybe it’s a little bit over the top. Maybe it’s bolder. Maybe it’s a color combination choice that is not necessarily, um, something that’s unique that you don’t necessarily see every day, but something that is unique to an African American woman. So the approach for Whitley is, okay, so yes, she’s got on a dress, but all right, so maybe we need to add a chain belt. Maybe she needs to add some pearls, and I just keep adding layers, oh, she needs a hat. How about, you know, a vest to that? And just until it’s like painting a picture until that picture is complete and that whole look, I can, you can feel that you can hear her speaking out of this costume.

Jasmine: I think that what Ceci did, was as Whitley evolved so did her style.

Kimberly: That’s Jasmine Guy. She played the role of Whitley on A Different World. Whitley started off as a spoiled student from the South but her character evolved over the seasons as Whitley grew-up.

Jasmine: She was very strict and kind of pent-up in the beginning. And as she became more free, as she fell in love, as she grew-up and realized you know, that the world she grew up in wasn’t the only world, I thought her her style changed as well.

Kimberly: Jasmine told me how much she enjoyed working on the show A Different World and how Ceci’s costumes helped her embody her character.

Jasmine: It showed how different we are as a people. Before then it was like Black was a genre. And I, I I’m like, it’s not a genre. I mean, we still have our own truths. And a lot of times as an actor, you’ll be hired as a token in a white company and with that show, we were able to show upper class, middle class blue collar, struggle, scholarships. People came from different places. And I, I loved that about the show and I think, you know, Ceci had, uh, the challenge of dressing the characters to be who they were. You know, I, I feel like when I put on my costume for Whitley, it made me more her.

Kimberly: Ceci used the characters’ wardrobes to add to their personality over the seasons of A Different World.

Ceci: Whitley was a Southern belle, and I thought, okay, she’s a Southern bell, but she’s a Black woman. So how do I define that and make that even more crystal clear that she’s not a blonde Southern belle, but she’s a Black Southern belle.

Kimberly: Another iconic uh, character with an iconic object, that they would wear. The flip glasses.

Ceci: I knew you were going to say that.

Kimberly: Cause we have to give some attention to the men. Can you take me through shaping Dwayne Wayne’s look?

Ceci: I did not like the flip glasses and you know, I could kind of take ’em or leave ’em I thought at the time that they were so corny, I thought, ‘Oh my God, what the hell?’ And Kadem took me to the side. He said, ‘Ceci I beg of you, please, please let me wear some regular glasses. I can’t stand these anymore, please.’ So there was a lot of, of, uh, lobbying, a lot of conversation, a because at the second season, you know, that was fine for first season. By second season, Dwayne started maturing. He started being more polished. He, you know, started getting the job and he, we wanted to see a progression and it would’ve been fine to, to keep them, you know, maybe another six season. But I just felt like it’s time to, for me, to transition Dwayne away from the, you know, goof ballish kind of a look to something a little bit more sophisticated, a little bit more sexy Black man, you know, and I think that was what I, how I wanted to see him and how he wanted to see himself.

Kimberly: Ceci spoke to me about the evolution of another character on A Different World, Winifred “Freddie” Brooks played by actor Cree Summer. As an undergrad Freddie was a student activist but then in Season 6 she returned to campus to attend law school, and then Freddie started wearing suits to class.


Freddie: They’re just clothes.

Leana: Are you serious?

Freddie: Yes I am and I expect to be taken seriously.

Leana: Freddie you’re buying into the system and you used to be about something.

Freddie: I am about something. I’m about studying this system and understanding it so I can change it. I’m your secret weapon little sister so if and when you decide to finally walk some of this talk and march then I will be the one making sure you don’t get arrested oh militant one.

Ceci: I died 1,000,010 deaths. And so did Cree. She was like, wait, what? And wanted her to press her hair. And that was, that was like a huge thing also. And I’m sure that that’s a point of contention, you know, even now like, well, you know, now that we are embracing our, our natural hair, you know, back then, that was kind of seen, I guess, as just conforming.

The thing that I’m most proud of with that show and every show that I work on is being able to create these identities that don’t cross pollinate, Whitley would never wear what Cree would wear or what Jalissa would wear, they all have their very distinct looks. You know, Charnele Brown had her distinct look. And I think that that’s so important because it supports the vision of the writer and the intention of where they’re going with these characters. If you turn your, your volume on mute, you should be able to glean something about these people and who they are.

Kimberly: The looks that Ceci created with her work on A Different World, and the evolution of Whitley that Jasmine portrayed, helped viewers like myself see ourselves in new ways. They helped us realize what our characters could be. HBCUs, since their inception, have been a place to pursue higher education and strive towards excellence.

They’ve also been a place to grow into yourself. To discover who you are and who you want to be, and how, what you wear can show that to the world. It’s not surprising that graduates of HBCUs also have so much pride for their alma maters. You can see an example of this in the popular brand African American College Alliance. The label sells leisure wear sporting the names of different HBCUs. Their box logo and stylized lettering was instantly recognizable in music videos and shows like A Different World. I was curious to hear from students at HBCUs today. So, we went to The Atlanta University Center, the Home of Morehouse, Spellman and Clark Atlanta. We spoke to students about what they choose to wear and how they present themselves. Some were even directly inspired to attend HBCUs because of A Different World.

Speaker 1: Everything about that show, everyone about that show from Whitley to Freddie and her free spirit [unclear] to Dwayne Wayne to Ron and just everything about the show. Sinbad when he was on there, Jaleesa as the older person, which I’m kinda one of the older people like Jaleesa on campus, and um that’s a show that really inspired you to go to an HBCU.

Speaker 2: I would describe my fashion style as authentically me. I would say um I’m very diverse when it comes to what I like to wear in the mornings but it all really depends on patterns, colors, textures, and whatever thing I’m feeling that day.

Speaker 3: We’re very like diverse when it comes to fashion like if you walk around you see everyone kind of being themselves, like coming to fashion and like making themselves known just by putting on some clothes.

Speaker 4: I would describe my style as like yeah I feel like it’s kind of like a skater style but it’s more like, I don’t know I kind of feel like when I get dressed I’m like damn bro, I’m really dressed like how my mom used to dress me in like elementary school like khakis, polo shirt, the shoes but, I don’t know, I just rock with it still.

Speaker 5: I will say that my style has evolved over the course of the few months but as of now it’s very androgynous minimalist-esque and leather overcoats and like high waisted paints and turtlenecks.

Kimberly: Now, I’m going to take you back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s because A Different World wasn’t the first time HBCUs were telling a diverse story about blackness and countering misconceptions. I want to tell you about how W.E.B Du Bois put Black culture and HBCU culture on display for the world to see. It was the turn of the century, and France invited countries from around the world to participate in the Exposition Universelle, a grand exposition for nations to show off their cultural and technological advancements. Dozens of countries constructed national pavilions. The Eiffel Tower was painted a yellow. One of the first talking pictures was screened. It was a huge deal.

W.E.B. Du Bois was in Paris for the fair. The American Sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist was the first African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard. A few years prior to the fair Du Bois became a professor at Atlanta University, one of the country’s first HBCUs.


In 1897 I went to Atlanta University and stayed there 13 years making a systematic study of the American Negro. It’s fair to say that for the next 25 years there wasn’t a book published on the negro problem that didn’t have to depend on what we were doing at Atlanta University. It was the first study of it’s sort. Ours was the first institution in the United States white or Black that had any course on the history of the american negro or on negro history in general.

Elizabeth: He really was focused on the idea of showing, kind of the best and brightest of Black culture. And so he had these photographs taken, and put on display in Paris that showed the beauty, sophistication, the elegance of Black people.

Kimberly: That’s Elizabeth Way, she’s an Associate Curator of Costume at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I have known Elizabeth for years, watching her curate exhibitions and publish articles and books on the history of what we wear. She’s also been a key figure in excavating the hidden histories behind Black dressmakers and designers.

Elizabeth: A lot of the stories that came to Europe from the United States were about all the negative aspects of being Black in America. He didn’t want that to be the only narrative that the world saw about Back people.

Kimberly: Du Bois traveled by steamship from America to Paris to present what he called The Exhibit of American Negros. He displayed official patents held by African Americans alongside graphs and charts showing their economic and social progress. He also showcased nearly 400 photographs of African Americans at the turn of the 20th century. The idea was to challenge the racist stereotypes and caricatures that existed during that time. One photo shows a small group of young women seated on the steps of Atlanta University. The women are dressed similarly to what many young, white, educated American women were wearing at the time.

Elizabeth: People got dressed up to go out of the house. There was no like leisure wear. There were sportswear specifically for sports. But these women are dressed, uh, dressed to be fashionable, and this was a European style. But at this time we really see more and more American style. An idea about practicality and idea about kind of a robust lifestyle asserting itself in women’s fashion. So we see these women with, um, separates, separates seem like such an, a no brainer to us today, but that was not always the case. For example, there’s a woman sitting here with this beautiful white blouse with these puff sleeves, which is very much in fashion and late 19th century, um, turn of the century and then this skirt. So this idea that you could have a shirt and a skirt and, you know, wear it with multiple outfits and kind of mix and match this was something that was pretty new in women’s wear.

Kimberly: What Elizabeth is pointing out here is crucial – this group of ambitious, young Black women were not only advancing social representation for African Americans, they were leading us into a new era of fashion that was more liberating.

Elizabeth: This was a pretty American idea that clothing for women should be a little bit more practical. It should fit a more active lifestyle. These clothes were much, much more practical, than the clothing that came before. And these were women who were in class, who were out during the day, who were concentrating on their studies and their futures. And so practical clothing was something that they embraced even though it was quite fashionable.

Kimberly: There were many Black people at that time who were doing pretty well for themselves. Du Bois felt that the dominant narratives and images of Black people were limiting and reductive. He needed to do something to completely turn it over on its head.

Monica: One of the things that Du Bois is doing, I think, in that exhibition is really trying to present a kind of, of a visual portrait, right,, of African American achievement and ambition. So he’s really, really understanding the relationship of aesthetics, right. To aesthetics and visuality to the way that people think about African American identity and, um, and possibility. My name is Monica Miller and I’m a professor of English and Africana studies at Barnard College, Columbia University, and I am a cultural historian of Black fashion and dress cultures.

Kimberly: With these photographs he’s saying to the world ‘no, no, we’re doing well for ourselves, we’re well dressed, we’re well read, we’re going to school, we have homes, and we’re engaging in politics.’

Monica: One of the things that he’s doing is trying to visualize this ambition, visualize, a certain amount of, of what’s already been achieved in the Black community in terms of education, in terms of quote-unquote refinement, in terms of a certain kind of, um, class aspiration or status. Like he’s trying to show that, um, because he knows that people, people don’t believe it. Or, um, that they need proof of it, right. In order to think about Black people as, um, as fit for citizenship, um, you know, fit, uh, fit for, for, you know, inclusion into, um, into American and sort of more global, um, conceptions of society.

Kimberly: The photographs were wide-ranging. A family of five seated in the grass as if on a picnic, immaculately dressed in dark dresses with bright tops and three-piece suits. A piano teacher in a tuxedo with a handlebar mustache. People in white smocks practicing dentistry. Black scientists peering into microscopes. A portrait of a wide eyed newborn, draped in an oversized white dress lined with lace. This was only 35 years after the end of the Civil War. The black and white photographs that Du Bois displayed in Paris represent the resilience, dignity and beauty of a people only recently enslaved.

Monica: By including this kind of visual material, he’s also, participating and I think, propagating right, a conversation about Black respectability politics. About respectability, both with an intra-community conversation about respectability, as well as, an intra racial, I think conversation about that.

Kimberly: And, you know, this sentiment still lingers around us today. In the Black community, it remains a sensitive topic about how we’re represented. I, myself, grew up with this with parents who had to deal with the politics of “status anxiety.” Concerns about how we were presented and how we were regarded in society. On my mother’s side, they were very much concerned with this – issues like the shade of their skin and the texture of their hair. My “Uncle Bill” – my mother’s cousin, was a proud Tuskegee airman in the 1930s, then he went on to become a successful doctor. And so for my mother’s family growing up in Michigan, they were very much about saying ‘No, no we’re not struggling. We do okay for ourselves. We go to the lake to relax and we enjoy leisurely activities. We go to church on Sundays and we’re on top of our bills.’ Growing up under that, and having a mother who was very conscious about how I dressed myself, that I was sitting up straight, how I was speaking, what kind of music I was listening to, what books I was reading, it all spoke to this anxiety about positive representation and what other people were thinking of us. And more than 100 years ago, HBCUs were at the center of this negotiation. Du Bois’ photos were like a flag, planted in the ground.

Monica: There’s a way in which the, there starts to become a kind of national conversation about, so, so what’s happening right on HBCU campuses. Like, how are these, how are these students, sort of presenting themselves as the next series of Black leaders, like the next, you know, professional class.

Kimberly: Monica has spent time researching the way HBCU campus fashion was reported on in the press. Magazine’s like The Crisis, which was Du Bois’ own publication, and Ebony had been covering student life all along. But you also started to see the occasional photo shoot from Life magazine at Howard University or Spelman College.

Monica: I mean, how’s how’s this looking, right, so there’s really, really interesting kind of visual history there, right, because one of the things that I see happening in those photographs is, um, is, is a question about self presentation. Who is it for? who’s the audience for these, I mean, for these photographs, right. They’re clearly, I mean, some of the fashion is very close to kind of mainstream fashion that you could see at Princeton or Harvard or other places, but often with like a very specific Black signature, right, I’m thinking of, um, a photograph that I’ve written about, which is two, uh, young Black men at Howard dressed in what seems to be like a kind of, you know, khaki pant and, um, letter sweater, combination, but they’re leaning up against a lamppost, and sort of like looking at each other, um, looking at each other with like smiles on their faces and they’re wearing these kind of like jaunty caps. Right. I mean, so it’s this real, I mean, it’s this really kind of beautiful photograph on the one hand of, of two Black men who seem to be friends. Right. And sort of, you know, kind of enjoying each other’s, like, you know, kind of like style and disposition. Right. Um, and yet the photograph also seems to kind of like, be a wink to something. Right. And I always think about the look on their faces. Like, what are they you winking at? Right. I mean, I mean, it’s like, what are they is the wink sort of like, oh, so you think about Black men this way, and we’re not actually like that? Is the wink to, like, you think about Black people on, or you don’t think about Black people on college campuses, but we’re here, you know, we’re doing well, we’re preparing ourselves for the future, um, or it’s like, we don’t really wear these clothes but we’re doing it for this photograph. There’s a knowingness sometimes, about how they’re being portrayed about how they wanna be portrayed, about the difficulty of bringing those two things closer together. And therefore there’s a sort of like irony or wit sometimes in the visual record.

Kimberly: So whether it’s Du Bois in 1900, Beyonce at Coachella or Ceci styling the characters of A Different World, HBCUs are central to an understanding of the mosaic of Black culture and fashion. These are just a few stories about what happens when you put culture on a stage and people are able to internalize it. HBCUs have gotten their glow on the world stage through these distinct moments. In effect, these times of cultural celebration have expanded beyond its original purpose, opening up the conversation and leading to a broader appreciation.

There’s also The Wink and Knowingness Monica Miller was talking to us about within Black culture. There’s a story about how Black people are portrayed vs. how we want to be portrayed. A lot of Black designers and stylists I talk to speak about the pressure to be put in a box. A “streetwear” box or an “urban” box. Well, with this podcast, I want to show how Black people have found ways to express freedom and creativity even in systems of oppression.

In our next episode we’re talking about how that happens today, tomorrow, and all the days after in the fashion industry. What’s the future of fashion? What new approaches and opportunities are Black designers and creative directors carving out for themselves? And how, sometimes what we wear is a coping mechanism.

Speaker 1: Yes we love clothes but it’s a coping mechanism. We’re creating this fantasy for ourselves to get through life and to create a certain top of armor.

Speaker 2: I don’t think we’ll ever win the fight if we go straight to the top, no we need to make sure that we are looking at what’s happening at the lower levels because those people will become the next people that’s in charge and then they will have the power to hire a certain type of way or do things a certain type of way.

Kimberly: While you’re waiting for the next episode, you can check out resources that dive into the topics we talked about here, and more! Find this episode’s syllabus right below the episode description, wherever you’re listening to this podcast. Like I tell my fashion students, you have to know your history to understand the present and shape the future.


The Invisible Seam is an original podcast created in partnership with The Fashion and Race Database, Tommy Hilfiger’s People’s Place Program and Pineapple Street Studios.

I founded the Fashion and Race Database in 2017 to center and amplify the voices of people who’ve been racialized and marginalized in fashion. Our work, like this podcast, focuses on illuminating under-examined histories and addressing racism throughout the fashion system.

I’m grateful to the Tommy Hilfiger People’s Place Program for their support of this project. The People’s Place Program exists to advance and support underrepresented communities in fashion and beyond. They’ve made this show possible. My co-visionaries are Randy Cousin, SVP Product Concepts and People’s Place Program, and Dominique Bacote, Manager, Earned Media Communications and People’s Place Program.

And from Pineapple Street Studios, our Executive Producers for The Invisible Seam are Je-Anne Berry, Jenna Weiss-Berman, and Max Linsky. Himie Freeman is our Production Coordinator and Yinka Rickford-Anguin is our Associate Producer.

The Invisible Seam is produced by Stephen Key, Sophia Steinert-Evoy, and me, Kimberly Jenkins. Our editor is Aaron Edwards.

Our Head of Sound & Engineering is Raj Makhija. We are engineered to perfection, or very close to it, by Davy Sumner. Original music by OakTown Soul and additional tunes from Epidemic Sound.

Teri Agins, Sha’Mira Covington, Kimberly Drew, Nick Nelson and Miko Underwood reviewed the episodes as part of our advisory committee. Thanks for sharing your expertise, perspectives and giving thoughtful notes.

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Fact checking by Will Tavlin. Our show art was designed by Curt Courtney and Lauren Viera at Cadence 13. Additional materials by Netflix, NBC, and Folkway Records.

Special thanks to Sharon Bardales, Emerald O’Brien, Mara Davis and Ken Maiden.

Thanks for listening!