When some of us go through doors, we take them off their hinges. What does the future of fashion look like, and how do we get there? Featuring Aria Hughes, Brandice Daniel, Law Roach, Randy Cousin, Ade Samuel, Connor McKnight, Letesha Renee and Zairion Lester.
Syllabus for this episode
- Amidst the social turmoil of 2020, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Robin Givhan provides a bird’s eye view in the critical piece, “Fashion’s Racial Reckoning”.
- What does a fabric historically worn by Ghanian royalty have to do with Louis Vuitton, radical Black politics and sportswear? The essay, “Sporting Kente Cloth,” connects the dots and traces its heightened visibility to art and fashion visionary Virgil Abloh.
- A book for the streetwear connoisseur is The Incomplete: Highsnobiety Guide to Street Fashion and Culture, which covers the global influence of streetwear, featuring fashion luminaries the likes of Pharrell Williams, A$AP Rocky, Ye (Kanye West) and Jaden Smith.
- A comprehensive volume on one of the most magnetizing fashion subjects in history, This is Not Fashion: Streetwear Past, Present and Future is ideal for enthusiasts looking to understand the roots and significant figures in streetwear.
- Bridging the past to the future: Meet the mother and daughter design duo behind House of Aama, as they explore “the folkways of the Black experience by designing timeless garments with nostalgic references informed by historical research, archival analysis, and storytelling.”
- This stylish book cover has been spotted on countless bookshelves and coffee tables, because its title, The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion, provides a long-awaited compilation of the newest and brightest Black photographers on the fashion scene today.
Transcript of this episode
ARCHIVAL: Virgil Abloh clip from “Virgil Was Here”:
I’ve been on this focus in terms of my art and creativity of getting adults to behave like children again.
Kimberly: That’s the voice of Virgil Abloh playing at the beginning of his final fashion show.
Virgil passed away on November 28th 2021. He was the first Black artistic director of Louis Vuitton.
Two days after he died, his final collection for Louis Vuitton debuted at Art Basel in Miami. The posthumous show was titled “Virgil Was Here.” I watched the live stream along with thousands of others, eager for one last glimpse of Virgil’s work, partially in denial that he could be gone. The stream started with a short film which opened on a shot of a young Black boy with cornrows staring into the sun. He hops on his bicycle, and rides through fields and streets and parking garages, pausing to look up to the sky. The music rises and he sees a huge red hot air balloon with a white ‘LV’ Louis Vuitton logo. He drops the bike, runs towards the balloon, and climbs in.
And then the fashion show starts and Virgil’s voice plays:
ARCHIVAL: Virgil Abloh clip from “Virgil Was Here”:
That they go back into this sense of wonderment. They start to stop using their mind and they start using their imagination.
Kimberly: As a viewer I was drawn to the pastel, ombre ensembles, blues fading into greens or pinks on leather and fleece on denim. And, of course, Virgil’s now iconic takes on the classic Louis Vuitton luggage, a foundational staple of the fashion house. Throughout the show, the red hot air balloon shone like a heart beating in the distance. A reminder of the boy from the beginning and the designer himself, whose absence was palpable.
Aria Hughes: You know, I think a throughline with Virgil’s work has been like adolescence, Black boyhood, and I think it wasn’t until he died that I understood why that was so important to him.
Kimberly: That’s Aria Hughes, Editorial Creative Director at Complex Networks.
Aria: I mean, I think I understood on a surface level that he was trying to say that this identity of person has long been mistreated or ignored and so I want to center that in my work. But I also realize that his reliance on this throughline was like a coping mechanism to kind of get through life and to kind of tap into like this childhood imagination and whimsy and in a way that Black people do every day to be quite frank, and a lot of that is, 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 type of armor, you know, and present ourselves in the best way.
And so when I saw that last video with a young Black boy with cornrows, you know, biking around Miami, I, I just lost it, I just lost it. Because he just looked so free. And I wanna imagine that Virgil was always trying to tap into that when designing for this storied house.
Kimberly: As the show came to a close, Virgil’s voice played once more.
ARCHIVAL: Virgil Abloh clip from “Virgil Was Here”:
There’s no limit. Life is so short, that you can’t waste even a day subscribing to what someone thinks you should do versus knowing what you can do.
Kimberly: We’re starting this episode talking about Virgil and paying homage to his impact. His creative eye was always fixated on the future, but rooted in lessons from the past. And for so many figures in fashion, his visionary sensibility redefined what that future could be.
I’m your host, Kimberly Jenkins, and you’re listening to The Invisible Seam, where we open up the archive of American fashion and celebrate its Black contributions.
This is Episode 5: There Will Be No More Doors. In this episode we’re asking what should the future of fashion look like according to Black thinkers, designers and stylists, and, how do we get there?
Virgil had a nontraditional path to designing. He went to school for architecture and came up with Kanye West, and officially assumed the role of creative director at Ye’s design company DONDA in 2012.
Ye and Virgil interned at Fendi for six months to cut their teeth in luxury, and Virgil went on to start his own brands Pyrex Vision and Off-White, which lead him to massive collaborations with Nike and ultimately becoming the artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear in 2018.
In a 2019 interview with Dazed Magazine, Virgil made waves with a comment he made about streetwear.
He said “I would definitely say it’s gonna die, like, its time will be up,” As you can imagine, many people who work in streetwear were understandably upset.
Aria: Initially I was just annoyed and then I thought about it more and I really believe now, um, looking back on it that Virgil was probably in so many rooms or so many spaces where people would say “you’re just the streetwear designer” in a very pejorative way.
And I believe that him saying that streetwear is going to die was a way for him to kind of remove this label or box, for what streetwear is. Because even now it’s hard to define what streetwear is, I mean I went to a press preview at Sotheby’s for his Nike Air Force One sneakers that are made with like Louis Vuitton logo fabric. And it’s like, that’s a sneaker and now it’s luxury and that’s, you know, something that’s very intrinsic to streetwear. And so the boundaries are blurring. And I think with the boundaries blurring, Virgil didn’t wanna be contained to a box as a streetwear designer.
Kimberly: Virgil eventually clarified his comment on the death of streetwear, adding that it has nine lives, it’s always dying and coming back, dying and coming back.
But here’s the thing – Many Black designers face so many obstacles to get into fashion in the first place, and then when they do get in, are sometimes confined to that streetwear box.
When you fight so hard to get into the room, it’s frustrating to be told to stand in one place.
There are people across the industry actively working to make sure that more people of color are making it into fashion spaces of all kinds. Only gonna see change when people of color are in all parts of the fashion industry in a critical mass.
Brandice: I think there’s still such a gap when you look at retailers, for example, and you look at design directors in retailers, there is still less than 1% of design directors that’re designers of color.
Kim: That’s Brandice Daniel, founder of Harlem Fashion Row, an agency that’s working to get more people of color in the room, and championing designers of color.
Brandice: There is still less than 1% of designers in design rooms for most brands that are designers of color. There is, you know, this is just again, you know, going back to Virgil. I think what his death showed us was that, wait, is there, he was the only one? And he was literally the only one. And so we’re still in the place where we’re having the only, and the fact that in 2021, 2022, we’re having conversations about the only, you know, it’s insane. like one thing about people of color is that we are resilient and we’ll find our own way and you don’t let us enter the front door. We will go through the back door, we’ll go through a window, we’ll go through a crack. Doesn’t matter. We will figure it out. But why do we always have to?
Kimberly: Fixing this takes all of us. Pushing. Building. Reaching new heights — like image architect and celebrity stylist Law Roach. Law was recently named a contributing West Coast editor to British Vogue and the Stylist of the Year by The Hollywood Reporter for the second year in a row, and he doesn’t intend on slowing down.
I’m still, I, I’m still pushing, you know, I’m still working my ass off. I’m still going into spaces where no one who looked like me have ever, has ever been before. And I’m taking the hinge, I’m taking the door with me. If you let me in, like, I’m taking the door with me, there will be no more doors.
Kimberly: When Law Roach started working in fashion, he hadn’t seen a stylist that looked like him. In 2011, he started working with actor and singer Zendaya. She was on the Disney Channel at that time. And, believe it or not, he struggled to find designers who would dress her.
Fast forward to 2019, Law’s on stage in Hollywood winning the InStyle stylist of the year award, and Zendaya is the one presenting it to him. It was a full circle moment, and Law used the opportunity to share an important message.
ARCHIVAL: Zendaya presents Law Roach with Stylist of the Year
You hold the opportunity for somebody else. You hold the power to give someone opportunity to change their life, and if you are a person of power or privilege, I beg you to give that opportunity to somebody that does not look like you. And that’s how it becomes another me and another Adir and another you know, just, great person. Thank you!
Kimberly: As a professor at predominantly white institutions, it’s not uncommon for me to be the only Black woman in the room, and honestly? It weighs on me. It’s hard not having anyone to look me in the eye and affirm my experiences and it’s draining when someone asks me to speak on behalf of my entire race. Academia and fashion are both kind of behind in representing the diversity of American society.
There are so many people working within the industry to fix these disparities and mentor the next generation. People like Sir John, best known as Beyoncé’s makeup artist who also advises cosmetic brands on how to create inclusive foundation shades. Or Antoine Gregory, a fashion stylist and consultant who founded the Black Fashion Fair. It’s a website, print book, and community where blackness is celebrated front and center, not because of some initiative or marketing tactic, but with the mission to further Black designers and design.
And then there’s my good friends Hannah Stoudimire and Ali Richmond. They created Fashion for All Foundation, and each summer, they run an eight week program to mentor the next generation of aspiring fashion professionals.
Law Roach: You know, I really think that it has to start with us. Right? It has to start, it has to start with me it to start with other people who have any inkling of, of power or influence, you know, and it’s, it’s us influencing our clients and other people that you work with, you know, like looking at even going, as far as, as the people that you work with, like, what is their, what are their interns look like? What are their assistants or who are they teaching this, you know, their craft to, and who’s gonna be the next them, you know, that’s, that’s where, where the problem is, you know, if you go to somewhere and, you know, and you happen to see the intern pool or the assistants, and there’s nobody Black there, like how can you create, how would the next CEO or somebody be created if, and have the opportunity to be Black if you’re not investing in somebody at a lower level. So, you know, I don’t think, I don’t think we’ll ever win a fight if we go straight to the top of like, this is what, no, we need to make sure that we are looking at what’s happening at the lower levels cause 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. That’s what, that’s how I feel about it.
Kimberly: We also lose a lot of context when we just focus on designers and models. There are so many different roles within the industry that you may not realize were so important, unless you read all of the tiny print at the corners of fashion magazines. Jobs like nail artists, hair stylists, styling assistants, photographers and modeling agents.
The fashion industry is actually more than just an industry – scholars like myself refer to it as ‘the fashion system’ because there’s an entire ecosystem that’s behind our clothes, from a mere idea to an aspirational look in a retail shop. It’s all interconnected – behind every brand or label, there are pattern makers, design illustrators, and retail workers.
And, the dark truth of it is that most of these brands rely upon a global network of garment workers of color, working below the living wage in unspeakable conditions.
If thinking about this fashion system seems overwhelming, that’s because it is!
But amidst this complex web of creativity and commerce, there’s Black people bringing their talent, ideas and even their activism. More often than not, Black people have had to spend their energy on their activism once they’ve found themselves to be the only ones around.
Randy Cousin: It’s tough. You, you, you sometimes feel like Black Superman.
Kimberly: That’s Randy Cousin. He’s the Senior Vice President of Product Concept and People’s Place Program at Tommy Hilfiger. The People’s Place Program partners with designers, agencies and educators, like me, to increase equity and representation in the fashion industry.
Over the course of Randy’s career, he’s worked with a lot of big names in fashion. And he’s used to the emotional toll of being the only Black person in the room.
Randy Cousin: You know, where you’ve got to wear the hat of the Black experience, but you have to also be the voice in the room to talk about bias or missteps or appropriation or, or, or just things that can be taken the wrong way. And a lot of cases we’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Right? You know, it’s, it’s not just that with the amplification, the BLM movement, all of a sudden systemic racism just started, you know what I mean? It was a, it, it just gave us this voice that we’ve always had, but we didn’t have the microphone in front of us. And now having that mic, it gives us the ability to say, “No, there needs to be more than one.” And future can’t move forward unless there’s more than one. So what are we doing not you, not, I, what are we doing to ensure that there is more than one, more than one in front of the camera, behind the camera, in the boardroom, at the top of the fashion house?
Kimberly: In 2016, I developed a course at Parsons School of Design called ‘Fashion and Race.’ I was challenged by the fact that there were no organized resources that addressed the significant omissions in fashion history along with the impact that the social construct of race has had on fashion and beauty culture.
So, ‘if you don’t see it, build it,’ right? I launched a website called The Fashion and Race Database in 2017, and, in April 2020, I decided to expand it, having no idea the kind of tragedy that would happen in May 2020. That summer the presence of the database was suddenly more urgent than ever, and it helped call attention to the need to have critical and uncomfortable conversations about the nature of popular fashion and beauty culture — how it was largely shaped by white supremacy and colonialism.
As the founder of The Fashion and Race Database, I was ready to help lead the charge towards a new way of thinking about fashion and rethinking how it should operate. I connected with Randy in 2021 and we had such similar goals around changing the industry. We both thought that one place to start was telling our stories.
Randy Cousin: I just think that we are on this trajectory to really support the next generation of young Black BIPOC creatives and thought leaders where we not only celebrate their creativity, we tell their stories. Right? We all want to hear stories. It’s not just about product anymore. That’s the beautiful thing about fashion. We don’t want to just see cool clothes, we want to know where it came from. What’s the iconography, where it’s going and I think that people want to know who made it, people wanna know who are behind the scenes. They wanna know who’s behind the brands. They wanna know how that, that, that, that photo shoot came together or, you know, how it connected to a director or music or it it’s so cool how just the consumer of today and tomorrow wanna know the inside track, right? And it just, why wouldn’t we want to tell those stories again, it’s honesty and it’s authenticity and having that ability to do that. It just changes the game and it just makes it more exciting, right? And if there’s anyone who can color outside the lines as us, as Black America, right. And that’s past, present, and future. So I I’m, I’m really, I’m really energized because I think we are on the precipice of change.
Kimberly: Just because it’s hard to break through, doesn’t mean that people haven’t done it throughout history, think about Jeffrey Banks and April Walker, and there are more every day. A lot of young black creatives are leading the industry from the inside out, showing the world what American fashion is and will be. These are the people to follow, watch, and listen to, because they could be the next Law Roach or Willi Smith, or they might just be the first Connor McKnight, Letesha Renee, and Ade Samuel, who just happen to be our final guests.
I really love talking to early-career creatives, because entering this industry is a serious investment, emotionally and financially, and yet people are guided by passion and the need to tell their stories. In order for us to have a future that we can look forward to, it’s critical that we embrace them.
Ade Samuel is a creative director, stylist, and designer who grew up in an immigrant family in the Bronx. You might not know her name, but you have definitely seen her work on the red carpet. Remember when Michael B Jordan wore that Louis Vuitton floral harness over his navy blue suit?
Ade: I will say that was the first time in my career that I got, like, negative reviews too. It was like half positive, half negative. And it was crazy because Twitter was going, like he went viral with that look, it was a Navy blue suit with the ‘L’ it was a Louisan suit with the LV harness. But instead of doing it in the traditional way, which it was drawn out to be because Virgi, God rest his soul,l is so such a legend and pioneer and icon in this industry, Virgil drew it up where the harness was supposed to be inside of the jacket. But when we were playing and fitting, I just felt like thinking about Ade Samuel’s signature, it just felt kind of bland. It felt kind of blah. So I really was like, okay, how can we take it up a notch? And I think that’s always what I’m thinking about when I’m dressing someone, how can we take it up a notch? And I, I’m not afraid to alter, I’m not afraid to redo things. Um, and when I, when I put the harness over the jacket, it was such an interesting moment. Because again, you have an awards show like SAG award. I believe it was SAG awards where the dress code is black tie it’s. You can be a little casual, but it’s really dinner, you know, jacket, suiting, attire. And I made Michael, you know, wear this loud harness over a, a suit jacket that made people wonder, what the heck is he doing? Why is he dressed like that?
Kimberly: For the most part, people loved that floral harness, but more important than that, it had people talking. Talking about Black masculinity, design, and sexuality. Such a small choice made by a stylist can leave a major impact. Ade was always drawn to fashion.
Ade Samuel: So my love of fashion really started at a young age. I was really influenced by my, my cultural upbringing, you know, being from Nigeria, having family members who always celebrated our culture, it really was, and celebrated through like prints and patterns and creating customized, you know, pieces I gravitated towards. So when I saw that, I really knew that fashion was something that I wanted to do. I just wasn’t sure what area of fashion, whether it was a designer, an editor, a stylist, a publicist. So that’s where the fun began in my internship-kind of experience of trying to discover what part of fashion I wanted to work in.
Kimberly: She did a few different internships and then she landed a job at Teen Vogue. Ade moved up the ranks in the magazine world, and eventually began styling for clients. Since she made the leap to styling, she’s been working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood: Miley Cyrus, Yara Shahidi, Big Sean.
Ade Samuel: You know, my environment from where I was from, wasn’t seeing Oscar de la Renta, Alexander McQueen. I mean, that’s the most exciting, you know, when I saw the Armadillo shoe at W magazine after Lady Gaga just wore it. Like, those were the exciting moments for me, um, you know, to be in those, in those spaces. But, um, at the time I was, I was mostly excited about just seeing these brands in person, you know, seeing Givenchy where now it’s, you know, when you’re from the hood you were saying gah-vinchy or machino, it’s calling everything so wrong. So to learn these names and then be able to share them with my neighborhood, like, no girl, you’re not wearing Gavinchie, Givenchy or it’s, you know, it’s really exciting to just have that education of fashion through experiences.
Kimberly: Ade has made a name for herself here in the United States, but for her, the future is Africa.
Ade: You know, I’m specifically, you know, looking at designers of the diaspora in Nigeria and Ghana and Senegal and Kenya and finding ways to implement them in what I’m doing here is the way that I find myself just bridging that gap and keeping things a bit more diverse than just black and white. Right. There’s, it’s really just, and that’s where the deeper conversation enters the room because as an African, and a, a, a woman that what’s brought up by immigrant parents, I don’t look at it from just a singular view. I do look at it from that worldly perspective of how can we open up diversity that includes other races, you know, other ethnicities, other cultures, um, to, to implement it, change within the companies that you guys have. We’re not just, especially now, there’s such a huge influence of Afrobeats and African culture everywhere that you turn, but are we actually providing opportunities and, and giving jobs and bringing those designers into these spaces that they probably won’t have the opportunity to go into if we don’t help bridge the gap together. Right?
Connor McKnight: I guess for my line and my collections, I like to try to think of ways to make something high-end or luxury that weren’t typically meant to be that.
Kimberly: Connor McKnight is a Brooklyn-based designer who is remixing what luxury means.
Connor: Um, so I think that that’s the, the main reason that I would even use that classification of luxury or, uh, ready to wear or something like that. I don’t really think that streetwear is like, I feel like more recently, at least it’s become somewhat of a bad word, with, with some regards. And I think that, um, basically it’s just like a struggle between like, whether you want to be categorized as that, I know that, sometimes as a Black designer, immediately without you deciding what you want your collection to be categorized, as it can be placed to label as streetwear.
Kimberly: Connor studied at Parsons and started off in the industry by working at the popular streetwear retailer KITH and the couture studio Bode, but he struck out on his own in the early days of the pandemic in 2020. His first collection draws influence from workwear, outerwear, Army surplus, and his childhood home outside of Washington DC. The historian in me loves the way he draws upon classic pieces from the archive and makes them his own, sometimes combining these influences for surprising results, like his cropped puffer, modeled after a World War II bomber jacket and childrens’ winter coats.
Connor McKnight: The shape of that jacket was basically came from my, like, attempt at making what were those World War II pilot jackets in a puffer form? Um, it’s sort of just like an experiment that I had that, I always thought those jackets were super cool, but uh, for me wearing, like a leather shearling, uh, short jacket on a daily basis, didn’t really fit the vibe for me. And I, I, I’m always pulling from sort of that, uh, like crunchy stuff that people wore like as a kid. And uh, so I wanted to combine those two ideas and see what happened.
Kimberly: Connor started his eponymous label out of his Brooklyn apartment, planting a seed during the first COVID lockdown and a nationwide reckoning around violence toward Black people in 2020. He let those events inspire him to create clothes paying homage to unexpected elements of Black history. In the past two years, the seed has bloomed into a luxury brand.
Connor McKnight: There are a lot of my peers that are coming up right now are doing incredible work. And I think that part of what’s so cool about that is I don’t, I don’t feel like competitive with any of them. I think that it’s, it’s amazing to see like what different ideas people are bringing to the table and, um, adding to the conversation. And I think that, you know, that’s sort of the, the best part about the work for me is just being involved and, um, sort of offering a new perspective in that way.
Kimberly: Another person adding to this conversation is Letesha Renee, a designer based in Chicago. Her unisex clothing brand, Eugene Taylor, is named for her grandmother.
Letesha: My grandma taught me how to sew. When I was seven, you know, like most grandmas, I had a grandma who would make like stuff for her grandbabies and stuff like that. And I kind of took a real liking and a real interest to what she was doing. So she sat me down and, you know, she gave me the technical skills, but then I also had a very fashionable dad who, you know, he was super old school. Like he always reminded me of like, the, at gangsters that you see in like, you know, those old kind of like Goodfellas, like he gave you that kind of like vibe with the fedoras, with the feather in it, you know, the silk shirts, like the long trench coats and the wool coats. Like that was like what I would see.
And like, my dad took looking good very seriously. I mean, he had like five stack gold chains of that type of, he was that type of man and stuff like that. And he took a, like a lot of pride when he would go out. And one of my chores was I had to iron his clothe. So I started to really look at like how clothing was made and the construction. And like that became something that was so cool to me at such a young age. It was so curious about how clothing was actually made, that when I went into high school, then it started to go into me cutting up my clothes, which I got into a lot of trouble for, but I was, I just wanted the things that I had to be, what I wanted to be, or I, there was just so many ideas in my head, pretty much.
Kimberly: Letesha makes clothes with a community and wearer in mind. A piece that caught my eye is her Brandy gown. It’s a long strapless satin dress with a fitted bustier top and ostrich feather accents. The gown is inspired by the 1997 version of Cinderella co-produced by Whitney Houston and starring Brandy. It so beautifully captures the whimsy of fairytales and the importance of representation at all levels.
Letesha emphasizes the resilience of Black women in her work, and that very resilience is what’s allowed her to continue on in an industry that is so often inhospitable to Black women.
Letesha Renee: I feel like the fashion industry, which is such an interesting thought, I feel like it’s a male-dominant industry and I feel like a lot of the people that are behind these bigger brands are men. And I feel like that is extremely discouraging, to women and then even deeper, Black women, because I, I, I definitely see a level of respect happening for Black men on a regular basis in the fashion world, I think that that’s been a constant thing, but I don’t see that for Black women which I think is a little weird because I know that behind all these men are definitely some Black women and, and overall just women.
Kimberly: But even though being a Black woman in the industry has had its challenges, it’s also a source of hope for Letesha…
Letesha Renee: I think the most exciting thing for me fashion and just in the work in general, is the opportunities that I feel like are coming for Black women because I just feel like we deserve it. And I think that, that I, I feel like it it’s coming. I feel like we’re just starting to be heard a little bit. Um, but there’s so much more to hear from us and I feel like I see more opportunities happening for us in general, and that again keeps me hopeful and, and I, I’m excited to see how things are gonna change and how things could potentially become more diverse in the fashion industry. I, I, I definitely am excited about and interested to see what’s gonna happen because I do see a lot of initiatives out there right now. And I hope that there’s a lot of good positivity behind it. Um, and real wants for real change and not just so that your company doesn’t get canceled. Um, yeah.
Kimberly: That part, ugh.
Brandice Daniel: You know, what’s interesting is that I don’t think it can fizzle out.
Kimberly: Here’s Harlem Fashion Row founder Brandice Daniel again.
Brandice Daniel: I’ve never, I’ve never even been at the place I’m at right now. Um, I think that the, the, the things that have happened It has changed me forever. And I think that there are so many people of color who feel the exact same way, and we’re not letting up. I’m in WhatsApp groups. And what people don’t realize is there are tons of groups that are not on social media that are not public, that are happening to make sure that this doesn’t fizzle out and that, you know, companies can’t come in and say, “Hey, we want to support Black designers today.” And then next year, you know, thery are nowhere to be found. I, I think the possibility of this fizzling out is, is next to none. Um, for companies who can just who say, oh, no, we’re not in this. I think it’s going to hit their bottom line, um, tremendously for sure. And, and this new group of, you know, Gen Z and the group that’s coming after them, they don’t have that same hesitation to speak up that, that my generation had. They don’t, they don’t care. You know, they’re gonna say what they feel. So I think companies who are not committed to the work long term, um, I think the companies might fizzle out at some point. So I don’t believe the work is going to, though.
Kimberly: We’re at what feels like a turning point. It’s been two years since the protests of 2020 gave the fashion industry a much-needed wake up call. Now, we are seeing the results of the initiatives and organizations launched during that time, and whether or not the momentum continues is up to us. And even though that’s a lot of responsibility, we owe it to the next generation to do the work together, because they deserve an industry that is more inclusive, equitable, and diverse.
We had the pleasure of speaking with a motivated young student from Fashion for All who was fresh out of high school. Their name is Zairion Lester and we asked them what they love about fashion.
Zairion: I think the creative process and seeing people wear my designs and them being happy, I think that’s what I really enjoy the most about fashion, is just, being able to create it and then knowing that I created it and now someone gets to wear it. I mean I know all the designers say that, but, it really, it’s like when people listen to your podcast, it like makes you feel good, you’re like oh my god people are listening to me? People like what I do? It’s like, I don’t know, it gives you that feeling it like gives you confidence and stuff. I definitely want to have a future in fashion. I feel like I could do it.
Kimberly: So first of all I just want to say thank you for listening to this podcast, because it does make me feel good. Black people have always been in fashion, and we’re here to stay. Despite the laborious efforts to make a name for ourselves and advocate for our culture, the fashion industry needs us because we helped build it. I’m excited for the next generation of designers, thinkers, stylists and business leaders in fashion. And Zairion, we’ll be waiting for you.
This may have been our finale, but stay tuned for a bonus episode next week about how this podcast came to be. It’s rare for an educator like myself to find a partner in the industry I study and teach, but it shouldn’t be! I’ll be talking to Randy Cousin who leads the initiative at Tommy Hilfiger that worked with me and Pineapple Street Studios to bring this podcast to life.
Randy Cousin: I just realized that, wow, this industry that I have loved so long, that I’ve dedicated so much work to, trends, colors, patterns, history, fabrics, it wouldn’t exist without the Black experience. And that erasure hurt me. And I said, okay, what can I do as a Black leader in fashion to help change that?
Kimberly: 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. And 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 episodes as part of our advisory committee. Thanks for sharing your expertise and perspective, and giving thoughtful notes.
Legal services for Pineapple Street Studios by Bianca Grimshaw at Granderson Des Rochers and Katy Alimohammadi at Donaldson Calif Perez.
Our show art was designed by Curt Courtney and Lauren Viera at Cadence 13
Other Materials Were Used From The Following Entities and Organizations: InStyle and Louis Vuitton.
I’d like to give a special thanks to Zairion Lester, Jayda Al-Hakeem, Hannah Stoudemire, Ali Richmond, Emerald O’Brien, Mara Davis and Ken Maiden. Thanks for listening!