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. As a fashion educator teaching fashion history and theory, I spent years combing through resources to teach and enhance my Fashion and Race course at Parsons School of Design. During this process (which began in 2016), I discovered that research about diverse fashion history was scattered, and dedicated research on the intersection of fashion and race was sparse. I decided to build my own library of diverse content and resources, and The Fashion and Race Database was born.

The goal for the database is to center and amplify the voices of those who have been racialized (and thus marginalized) in fashion, 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 students, scholars and writers both concerned with–and invested in–dismantling racism and bringing critical stories to light. This is a global effort that involves racialized participants as well as non-racialized allies. And we’re not stopping there.

The Fashion and Race and Database provides a roadmap for lasting change in the fashion industry, it will offer lessons and resources that diversify how we understand fashion and it will develop an interactive platform for those who agree that it’s time to take on dominant narratives and insensitive behavior in fashion.

This work matters and is relevant now more than ever.

This educational and supportive platform applies pressure to outdated and oppressive ways of thinking, and uplifts the stories and histories that need to be told.

Participants and stakeholders within the fashion system–which encompasses designers, C-suite executives, 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 our understanding of fashion and build a more culturally intelligent and empowering system.

Yours in service and solidarity,

Kimberly M. Jenkins

Founder, Director and Principal Researcher

top-down photo of a table with two students reading fashion photography books
Students conducting a visual analysis exercise for the course ‘Fashion and Race’ at Parsons School of Design, 2016.
Kim Jenkins stands pointing in front of a projection screen which is showing two covers of Vogue magazine

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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Similar to ‘Objects that Matter,’ this dedicated section provides an abbreviated knowledge of select racialized people who have shaped the history and business of fashion in the face of structural racism and adversity.
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Essays & News

Original content that amplifies the voices and writing of racialized scholars, students, artists, archivists, curators and business professionals–and welcomes the support of allies. Includes a roundup of issues currently ‘In the News’ and 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 various outside resources and spotlights others who are “doing the work.”
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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 of what’s on and keeps you looped in to the latest opportunities.