A watershed moment for Black people in Fashion?

Edward Enninful

A couple of months back, after 25 years in the position, editor-in-chief of Vogue, Alexander Shulman stepped down from the magazine and subsequently appointed Edward Enninful as her successor. Shulman’s decision was met with lots of intrigue and press attention, why? Because Edward Enninful was both male and more interestingly, Black, either of which hasn’t been seen in the magazine before. Pointing this fact out should certainly not discount Enninful’s legitimacy; former model, editor-in-chief at i-D magazine at 18 and a decade spent under the stewardship of Anna Wintour at American Vogue, Enninful on paper is the ideal candidate for the position. However, what makes his appointment so attention-grabbing is that, unfortunately, in the past, the presence of Black people in top positions of the fashion industry has been virtually non-existent.

Well, that was until 2017, which monumentally saw the appointment of Elaine Welteroth, another person of colour, to the top job at Teen Vogue and then, of course, Enninful at British Vogue. In an industry struggling with diversity, could Welteroth and Enninful appointments, possibly, finally, be the much-needed watershed moment for Black people in fashion? The evidence says a resounding YES.

Since Welteroth took the helm at Teen Vogue, she has steered the magazine slightly away from being solely about beauty, celebrity and fashion, and more towards a political slant. A transformation that has proven to be successful; in her tenure, Welteroth has improved magazine circulation and challenged their young readership to develop a greater social consciousness.

Despite working in a predominately White environment and answering to a male-dominated boardroom, Welteroth has not been deterred away from broaching the issues of racism and sexism in modern America, with both honesty and intelligence. Evidence suggests, if there is a glaring problem in the industry when it comes to representation and minority rights, Welteroth wouldn’t shy away from drawing attention to it.

While, even before becoming British Vogue editor, throughout his career Enninful has been an advocate for diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry, and as his influence on Italian Vogue’s ‘Black Issue’ showed, this has proven very successful. Allow me to take you back to 2008, when Sessilee Lopez, Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn and Liya Kebede majestically graced Italian Vogue covers. It was at this point that Italian Vogue editor France Sozzani, with the help of Enninful, released a ground-breaking new issue simply titled the ‘Black Issue.’ True to its name, the issue featured solely Black models in all their marvellous and diverse glory.

In an industry, that idolised Eurocentric beauty standards above all else, the issue should’ve been a complete flop and commercial failure, yet it didn’t. In fact, the issue went on to become a resounding success and led to sellouts across Europe and North America, proving in the process and with concrete evidence, that the public was hungry for diversity. With an increasingly diversifying British public, perhaps more so than any other working editor, Enninful seems most equipped to cater to it.

Diversity breeds diversity, especially when the people in the greatest positions to create it, are the ones who stand by it the most. With Enninful and Welteroth in charge, hopefully, the industry will open up its arms and embrace a wider perception of beauty on catwalks as well as magazines. After all, society reflects its media. If we want to live in a society of equality rather than racial hierarchy and provide young Black girls with relatable role models they can look up to, rather than torture them with impossible beauty ideals they can’t achieve, then the fashion industry needs to wise up to the changing tide of society. However, it seems on this occasion at least, that the appointment of Enninful and Welteroth is a step in the right direction.

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DIY Fashion and Saving the Planet

Landfil

Cotton crops decimating water sources, fuel guzzling planes crossing oceans and landfills bursting with unwanted clothes – second only to oil, the last few decades have seen the fashion industry rise-up to become one of the biggest polluters in the world. And what is the reason behind the catastrophic rise? Many would say fast fashion. Our relentless hunger for quick and cheap clothing has seen, at the expense of the environment and worker’s rights, huge businesses across the globe scramble to satisfy that growing demand, even if it means cutting corners in the process.

Perhaps in response to this, fashion in 2017 is seeing an upcycling revolution, tsunami its way across the consciousness of young fashionistas everywhere – sustainability is very much on-trend right now. With the transformative magic of embellishments, patches and distressing, it’s time the style conscious become the DIY pioneers of tomorrow. So, ditch the credit cards and pick up the needle & thread instead. Below are the top five ways to upcycle your old clothes:

Embroidery

Embroidery street style

Here comes the heavy stuff. If you’re a dab hand on the old sewing machine or a wizard with the needle and thread, then step up your outfit game with embroidery – a fashionista’s gorgeous secret weapon. With the power, well and truly in your hands, embroidery offers up a limitless opportunity to let your creativity run wild. In the immortal words of the spice girls, “Spice up your life!”

On this one, I’m saying, grab that bomber jacket and on the back, go all out with some bold floral flare or a giant mystical eye.

Patchwork

Patchwork street

Ice creams, unicorns, peace signs; patch working offers up the perfect opportunity to showcase to the world your quirky and creative side. Transform your outfits into your own big, personal, wearable mood board.

On this one, I’m saying go all rebel chick and dust off your parents old and warn Rock ‘n’ Roll patches, to give your modern look much-needed edge and a nostalgia factor.

Distressing

Distressed street

Master the outdoorsy and rugged look, with well, none of that boring outdoorsy rubbish. This look is great if you want to spend your weekend sitting on your couch and surfing Instagram and come Monday, project the rough and ready coolness of Bear Grills.

On this one I’m saying, don’t stop on a couple of scuffs or ripped knees – heck, go all out, channel the Rambo, make it look as if you’ve just stepped out of a war zone with your fashion chops still very much intact. For a real stand-out look you must bring out the whole arsenal; box cutters, scissors, razors… consider the whole process a free therapy session. You’re welcome.

Embellishing

streetfsn by Nam

Add a touch of razzle dazzle, glitz and glamour to your party dress with embellishments. I’m talking sequins, studs and even diamonds – well if you can afford them, to turn your standard LBD into a show-stopping disco ball that wows the fellas.

On this one I’m saying, be bold, let the world awe at your creative vision. Be glam, be Hollywood, treat life as one big red carpet.

Mismatching

Mismatch

Who’d have thought it, stitching two random shirts together would have ignited a high street phenomenal? But why let the fat cats at Topshop and H&M have all the fun, why not get scissors ready and get in on the action too? Mixing & matching breaks all the fashion rules and ensures you always stand-out. Be the boss of your own style.

On this one I’m saying, the more different, the more bizarre the mix the T-shirt or shirts you use, the better. The key to this look – why be like anybody else, when you can be the very fabulous you.

Top Models of Colour to Watch

Yeezy

Yes, the industry is opening-up to more to diversity and other forms of beauty, however, the industry still has a long way to go before it can be considered completely inclusive or have an honest representation of the societies it operates in. Regardless of the barriers standing in their way, this selection of talent, stunning women are on course to defy the odds, prove the naysayers wrong and conquer the industry, one catwalk at a time.

Ebonee Davis

Ebonee Davis

Impressively bursting onto the scene with a Calvin Klein campaign, followed swiftly after, with L’Oréal, Ebonee Davis’ unwavering determination and self-confidence has seen her blossom and shine brightly in the industry. However, Davis isn’t just a pretty face; she’s an activist and thinker too. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities for Black models, and even some agent’s aversion to taking them on in the first place, in 2016 she penned an open, honest and biting letter to the fashion industry, blatantly calling them out on their biases and prejudices. Politics aside, this year also saw Davis also kill it on her debut catwalk for Yeezy spring/summer 17. In a few years’ time, this girl will definitely be on the lips of every big-time designer.

Lameka Fox

Lameka Fox

One minute Fox is your average girl (if average means impossibly stunning that is) training horses in her spare time, then one Instagram account later, she’s signed to one of the biggest modelling agencies in the world, IMG Models and storming down the catwalks of Burberry and Valentino. Casual. With cheekbones chilled by Michelangelo himself and eyes big enough to fall into, there is no telling where Fox’s career could end up – front cover of Vogue, anybody?

Neelam Gill

If you haven’t heard of the incredible Neelam Gill yet, girl where have you been? In an industry desperately lacking in South Asian representation, Gill still finds a way to shine bright and strut her stuff with pride. Originally bursting on to the scene in 2014 with a ground-breaking Burberry campaign – the first British Asian woman to do so, Gill has gone from strength to strength. Most recently, Neelam Gill has been named the new face of the beauty brand, L’Oreal Paris – a great achievement regardless of ethnicity. Gill, get ready for world domination.

Zuri Tibby

Zuri

Officially the first ever Black model to represent Victoria Secret’s PINK label, Zuri Tibby joins the ranks of Naomi Campbell and Iman as a groundbreaker and ascender to role model status. And considering how charming, confident and classy she is, Zuri Tibby certainly deserves to be looked up to and admired. With a permanent slot on the Victoria Secret runway, long been fashion’s best-kept secret, it’s only a matter of time until Zuri Tibby skyrockets into the mainstream and has as much name recognition as the likes of Cara Delevingne and Bella Hadid.

Theresa Hayes

Hayes

Announcing herself to the world via a Louis Vuitton catwalk, rocking her signature large, natural, and luscious afro-hair with pride, Hayes from day one has been unapologetic of her features or heritage. Her refusal to compromise to Eurocentric beauty standards by sparing herself the torture of chemicals and straightening in pursuit of ‘good hair,’ has been both brave and inspiring, and will do a lot to ensure the next generation of young Black women will see their hair with pride, rather than frustration or even disdain. With contagious energy, charisma, and beauty in abundance, for Hayes, world domination is a mere stone’s throw away.

John Lewis & gender neutral clothing: progressive or dangerous?

John Lewis

High Street brand, John Lewis has released gender-neutral clothing for children, simply titled Boys and Girls. They also issued statement justifying their actions, “We do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes and instead want to provide greater choice.” Although with this decision, John Lewis has taken a fresh, bold and progressive leap forward, unfortunately, they haven’t been met with the landslide of praise you would have hoped, instead opinion has firmly been divided.

As usual, Piers Morgan has been one of the more vocal of naysayers as he lambasted the fashion line on Good Morning Britain, furiously questioning guest, Cheryl Rickman, “Why would you want boys looking at a bunch of dresses and think, that’s what I should wear?” Before going on to imply neutral clothing could only lead to neutral bathrooms, and then presumably in his head, the utter destruction of planet Earth itself.

Sure, some would agree with Piers Morgan in thinking gender neutral clothing could only lead to confusion within children (mostly boys) in terms of identity, and may even lead to teasing among classmates or strangers. However, I would counter that argument by reminding people that gender is ultimately a societal construct, created to put people into rigid boxes. After all, is it written in human DNA that women must like pink and boys must like monster trucks? No. From birth, we have been told our gender dictates to how we see the world and the way we should live our lives, regardless of our own personal preferences, which is destructive.

In my opinion, John Lewis releasing neutral clothing will go a long way to empowering both boys and girls, by giving them options based on their own taste, rather than what’s expected of them. Also, this type of progressive thinking doesn’t just benefit children’s wardrobes, more importantly, it allows children to open up their attitudes on gender and identity. Hopefully, with their latest line, John Lewis will be able to set a trend that others will soon follow.

Drone Regulations

drones-VR

In recent weeks, the UK government has launched proposals that require all drone owners and users, to undergo specific training and obtain licences before being permitted to operate their devices. Such tighter regulations come as the backlash over mounting concerns, that if the proliferating devices remain uncontrolled, there could be an increased risk to public safety. The potential for drones to fly into the flight paths of commercial aircrafts, is perceived as one of the greater risks. I for one am completely supportive of the new measures and will certainly be looking forwards to their implementation; considering from the beginning I was very much dubious of the devices entering the consumer market at all. Don’t get me wrong, in commercial settings such as agriculture and construction or for the public sector, drones provide an abundant opportunity to save on cost, labour and most importantly, human lives. Nonetheless, when made freely available to all, it’s far too easy for their darker potential to be exploited.

I’m sure we’ve all seen it by now; grainy footage of miniature drones with parcels, hovering over barbed wire and zipping towards the desperate, clambering hands of prisoners. While to human beings, prison walls are behemoths designed to keep them firmly out, to drones they are mere hurdles to fly over and around. Simply put, drones have opened prisons to a whole new tidal wave of smuggled contraband. The nefarious activities don’t stop there; with terrorism increasing on European soil, drones offer up attackers with more devastating ways to commit atrocities and harm human life. Of course, even before consumer level drones existed, suicide bombers were targeting civilians and in truth, there hasn’t been a drone style attack – yet, the devices still afford jihadists the increased ability to take even more lives and evade capture while doing so. On the other side of the spectrum, let’s not forget how drones can be used to invade people’s privacy. Celebrities and other high profile figures are often caught up in the relentless feeding frenzy of paparazzi; when drones are then added to the mix, the problem will only be exasperated as drones unlike humans, won’t be deterred by iron gates or barely bodyguards. Privacy will soon become a word that ceases to have meaning.

Undoubtedly most drone users are responsible and rule abiding citizens, and there are even those who rely on them to earn a living. At the same time, the drone world is currently like the wild west; untamed and dangerous, which is why I welcome the government introducing at least some regulation, and I hope IT bringing in much-needed law and order. But, I don’t think they go far enough; there should be further regulation ensuring only individuals whose livelihood depend directly on drones and possess clean police records, can be permitted to own and operate them. Strict, yes. And sure, holistically speaking drones can do so many great things; delivering medicine to the ill, helping emerging filmmakers, assisting on search and rescue missions, Etc. however, placed into unvetted, devious hands, their vast potential can be used greatly to harm society.