September is the biggest month in and for the fashion industry. It starts with the glossy covers of elite fashion magazines in early August and ends with the polaroids from the ultra-exclusive Paris after-parties on Instagram.
Each fall, we see the industry's top editors, influencers, and models crammed next to each other, holding their breath while the newest trend makes its debut on the catwalk. Beautiful, handcrafted pieces that cascade down the runway flowing off of elegant, beautiful women whom society has deemed worthy enough to walk. Coveted photos of front rows and sidewalks flood online spaces for the no-goers to obsess over and share.
Year after year though, there's something missing.
I grew up fascinated by the lamented pages of fashion magazines. It was the only reason I would agree to run to the grocery with mom. Often times, she would let me grab one or two magazines from the register aisle when we checked out. In a matter of minutes, those magazines would be sprawled across my floor with tattered edges and fat red circles. I poured over the writing of Hamish Bowles, Grace Coddington, and other esteemed writers. Each story fascinated me more with how much fashion weaved into the lives of politicians, activists, and even every day people, like me. There was a sense of otherworldliness that kept my green eyes glued.
It wasn't until I had a firm understanding of what I looked like, that I stopped loving fashion.
Sure, I knew how to catwalk in heels and make my legs look long, even in flats. I still coveted the exquisite editorials, draped in a mirage of literary themes starring my favorite people. I still loved all of it. But, it was clear that fashion didn't love me. It never really had. If they did, wouldn't I see more artists and models that look like me?
Where are the women in my church, whose perfectly fitted hats complimented every aspect of their Sunday dress each and every week? Where was my mom, with her dresser lined with expensive perfumes and her closet stacked with her coveted shoes? Where was I, with my curly hair and oversized pants?
Nowhere, that's where.
Not on the catwalks, not on TV, and definitely not in my favorite magazines.
It's an interesting feeling when you love something that can't love you back.
It's dehumanizing and sad. It fills your heart with loneliness and doubt. Unrequited love isn't all the poets make it out to be. It creates a pit in your soul and starts an unhealthy cycle of resentment and love that only ends in hatred towards yourself, more than anything else. What was once my solace and comfort vanished in a matter of months.
Fashion turned even more narrow by only highlighting teeny boppers and the new-in celebs while sacrificing the style icons and tastemakers portrayed in former years.
The biggest topics of #NYFW: two black women. The most talked about designers debuting: black designers. The most talked about September covers: two black women. The stunners who shut down Paris fashion week: black women. Yet, when I look at all the glamorous models on the runway or the IT girls who occupy the front rows, I see little to no black women. Almost none, to be exact.
It continuously baffles me that black women, and other ethnicities for that matter, are constantly left out of the public side of an industry where we influence so much.
It's not enough to have black women on the covers, we need them in the boardroom. It's not enough to have black models, we need black photographers, editors, and creative directors. It's not enough to have black Editor-At-Large but an actual Editor-In-Chief.
It's not enough.
We need more. We need better.
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Featured photo by Courtney Simpson