We already know that very little in our world is untouched by the social construct of ‘race.’ So how does race influence the fashion system and the way we ‘fashion’ ourselves in society?

Welcome. I’m an Assistant Professor of Fashion Studies at Ryerson University, having taught at Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute for seven years. As a fashion educator teaching fashion history and theory, I was disenchanted with the lack of diverse resources to work with in my field and was troubled by the insidious influence of ‘race’ when it comes to beauty and power in fashion. Many of the richly diverse sources useful in expanding what we know and understand about fashion history and theory were scattered about in adjacent and unrelated fields and disciplines. In 2017, I decided to gather and organize all those sources and present it on a platform I called The Fashion and Race Database, which extended beyond a project I had initially started with scholar Rikki Byrd–The Fashion and Race Syllabus. The result was a comprehensive resource that sought to help students, educators, researchers, designers, business professionals and the pedestrian audience learn about the intersections of fashion and race. The goal for the database is to center and amplify BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) fashion scholarship, illuminate under-examined histories and address racism throughout the fashion system. What’s more, this platform will provide hands-on research and publishing opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students and showcase exciting work from established BIPOC writers and allies.

Yours in service and solidarity,

Kimberly M. Jenkins
Founder and Principal Researcher

This work matters and is relevant now more than ever.

The social problem of systemic racism and the residual effects of colonialism has experienced increased coverage in the media, as the inequitable power structure and lack of cultural awareness within the fashion system lay bare. Participants and stakeholders within the fashion system–which encompasses designers, business leaders, educators, students, magazine editors, museum curators, the modelling industry and more–can benefit from a dedicated, educational resource that reveals the inextricable link between ‘race,’ power, privilege and aesthetics. In essence, it is time to decentralize and decolonize our understanding of fashion.

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Students conducting a visual analysis exercise for the course ‘Fashion and Race’ at Parsons School of Design, 2016.

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Kim giving a lecture that juxtaposes two historically relevant covers of Vogue. The Fashion and Justice Workshop, Columbia College (Chicago), 2019. Photo credit: Jacqueline Wayne Guite.

The Fashion and Race Database is organized into six distinct sections:

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The Library

The most popular and widely-used section, we have collected and organized countless sources all in one place. Referenced by educators, students and curious minds, this multi-faceted repository provides an expanding selection of tools for learning about all matters connected to fashion, appearance and race.

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Objects that Matter

Features numerous fashion objects, images and collections that have been under-researched or left out of fashion history books and museums, as well as objects designed with racist intent. This section gathers those items and provides a brief history. In addition, we explain why they matter, as many of these items have been widely appropriated or referenced.

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Profiles

Similar to ‘Objects that Matter,’ this dedicated section provides an abbreviated knowledge of select Black, Indigenous, Persons of Color (BIPOC) who have shaped the history and business of fashion in the face of structural racism and adversity.
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Essays & Opinion

Original content that amplifies the voices and writing of BIPOC scholars, students, artists, archivists, curators, business professionals and more. Includes our signature photo essay series, ‘Our Fashion History.’

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The Directory

The discourse on fashion and race threads through a vast network of like-minded endeavors. This section catalogues other sources of information and inspiration.

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The Calendar

A global network of events and conversations will continue to evolve the discourse on fashion and race. This section remains on the pulse and keeps you looped in.