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Inside Style Writer Joce Blake's New York Fashion Week Diary

Last year was one for the books, so it was time to level up once again.

Beauty & Fashion

This February, I've experienced my umpteenth fashion week, and I have to say, this season has been my best yet.

New York Fashion Week is like no other in the world. Bishop Carrie Bradshaw once said it's the time of year where we forget about the past and look forward to the future. Well, she's partly correct. In reality, the past helps us make better choices and take more risks in fashion. When I think back to 2018, I was struggling with how I was being seen and it made me doubt myself. The moment I made self-confidence my No. 1 one accessory, I no longer needed validation from anyone else. And just like that, the photographers were swarming me and I got more front row seats.

With my newfound self-confidence in tow, I had to come hard this time because I had a slew of shows, presentations, parties, and meet-ups to attend. Last season was also one for the books, so it was time to level up once again.

The hardest thing about slaying NYFW when you don't live in the city is preparing looks that will stun the onlookers while not paying an arm and a leg for baggage. I think I did just that this go-round. The whole lot of it is all here in my New York Fashion Week Fall 2020 Style Diary:

The Prelude

I started my New York Fashion Week off with Harlem Fashion Row's Prelude event celebrating fashion legends Misa Hylton, Dapper Dan, and April Walker. Sony Hall couldn't have been filled with more love than on this night celebrating the impact these three icons have made in fashion and music. Brandice Daniel, founder of Harlem's Fashion Row, has always been intentional about the events she curates during fashion week as it is one of the few places we can celebrate black culture.

I also wanted to be intentional when choosing my look for the night. That's why I chose to wear a jumpsuit and kimono designed by black designer Rachel Marie Hurst. If I'm going to make a statement, I want to do it by representing people who look like me. I felt so empowered and free as I danced the night away wearing a black designer while vibin' to old-school jams and surrounded by my people. It was a beautiful night.

Day 1

I rolled up to Spring Studios hella comfy for day one. New York City's weather gods were hating so the first day was all about comfort and warmth especially because my day was packed with festivities. I opted for a simple two-piece knit set paired with RAID snakeskin boots and a teddy jacket. I made sure to pack more comfy shoes in my purse so that I could easily chase after a train if need be. You gotta stay ready so you don't have to get ready–that's a fashion week commandment.

Despite the weather, the first day was picture-perfect and filled with eccentric designers like Mukzin x Harbin, the Fashion Hong Kong collective, and Oqliq.

I ended up in a room that changed my life by mistake. NYFW decided to do something different this season by hosting intimate talks in between shows. On day one, the talk was "The Evolving Standard of Beauty" presented by the Miss Universe organization. Here I was in a room with three black beauty queens soaking up all of their magic, and there are no words to explain how blessed I felt.

One of the highlights of NYFW was the Fashion Hong Kong after-party because I met some fellow fashion lovers and lest not forget the endless dranks. As Ice Cube would say, "Today was a good day."

Image Courtesy of The Riviere Agency

Day 2

I knew I would be hopping all over the city running from shows to meet-ups so I just had to wear a showstopper that would turn heads. I'm such a lucky girl to have designer friends on speed dial because they let me wear some of their best pieces whenever I want. This lilac neoprene vest designed by DarkM0th Industry was just what day two needed. When I added the leopard print turtleneck and skinny jeans, I knew it would be fire. Of course, I needed sensible shoes as well so I went with black Chelsea boots with a gold accented heel.

I started my day at the Concept Korea show, then went backstage to interview one of my favorite designers Son Jung Wan. Next, I swung by Vivienne Hu's runway show and hustled my way to the next gallery for Son Jung Wan's show.

The next agenda item was one of the events that leaves my heart so full, The Glow Up link up. Picture a room full of black girl magic toasting to new connections, great vibes, and genuine sisterhood.

Image by Marta Skovro McAdams

I ended the night at Pier59 at the Oxford Fashion Studio where I was blown away by Rene' Tyler's plus-size collection. Sis showed up for the curvy girls, and I lived.

Day 3

What's fashion week without a monochrome moment? I chose a warm but stylish Simply Be cord boiler suit in rust from ASOS, a UO Wide Brim Patent Bucket Hat and rust-colored booties. First up was Hakan Akkaya's edgy collection followed by Rebecca Minkoff's colorful and playful presentation.

By day three, I needed a reboot so I headed to the NYFW Happy Hour at Showfields hosted by The Riviere Agency. The happy hour had dope goodie bags, hair and makeup stylists to glam you up, along with plenty of Instagrammable spaces.

Happy hour led me to the Concept Korea 10th anniversary after-party in collaboration with V Magazine where they had a 20-foot-long table full of delectable bites and a generous open bar. To say I was in heaven would be an understatement.

Day 4

Day four was more chill so I decided to match that same energy with my outfit. Wearing sequin pants, a neon hoodie and custom kimono by C.R.Lee, my goal four days in was to show up in colorful pieces, and this custom kimono was so ideal as it read, "Support Black Designers." It was a great choice for my day as my first show was Romeo Hunte, a black designer enthusiastic about creating space for our culture in fashion.

After Romeo Hunte, I trekked back to the piers for the Global Fashion Collective show, then made my last stop at Dorothee Schumacher x Interview Magazine's party. If you ever need to know how to throw an after-party, give these folks a holler. The DJ played back-to-back hits as the bartenders kept the champagne flowing and the waitresses scoured the room with cheesecake and donuts.

Day 5

The fifth day almost felt like I had been at it for a month but nevertheless I served up an animal print moment featuring a lightweight set by COLLUSION. ASOS may want to sponsor me after this fashion week because many of my lewks were bangers from their site.

Since I had been running around for days, my feet were not so happy with me. During NYFW, a fashion friend told me that rubbing VapoRub on your feet after a shower brings some relief. It actually helped and prepared me for the five shows I was set to attend.

Every season I get to fall in love with emerging designers, and this season one of them was The Arlo Studio. Their pieces were ready-to-wear and had a specific panache that made me a huge fan.

The Arlo Studios_FALL2020_DSTNGR_9

Image Courtesy of Global Fashion Collective

Day 6

With only two shows on the docket, I was grateful I got to sleep in, but I was also super-geeked to show off this fly-ass coat by DarkM0th Industry after another outfit didn't work out. Over the years, I have learned to always pack three additional looks in case of emergency. In this case, my order was delayed.

My first show was Cynthia Rowley but that didn't go as planned due to some personnel issues *coughs.* I took that opportunity to meet up with some friends for dinner and drinks before the Turkish Designers show later that night.

Seeing rapper and snack Dave East strut down the runway in Hakan Akkaya like the original gangster he is made me want to take him home that night.

Day 7

The finale was simply a dream. I was most looking forward to a particular event. From the moment I received the invitation to Serena Williams' S by Serena show, I realized how blessed I was to be able to be me in these spaces. The invitation said that Serena would be interviewed by Vogue's editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, before the collection presentation, and I damn near pulled my wig off because it just seemed like a dream.

Planning this outfit was not that hard because I had a vision of what I wanted to wear—a cow-printed dress with animal print, knee-high boots. When the day arrived, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Walking into Spring Place felt like a life-changing moment. I couldn't believe I was sitting among icons like Lindsay Peoples Wagner, André Leon Talley, Julee Wilson, Elaine Welteroth and so many other fashion giants. When Serena and Anna walked onstage, my heart skipped a beat. They spent a couple of minutes talking about Serena's most memorable outfits, her heroes, and her background in fashion, which blew me away.

The rest of the day was just as magnificent, with more black designers like Aliette and Fe Noel's NYFW debut. The last day of fashion week just felt like a large celebration, and it left me invigorated.

And at the end of my night, I got to snap up another black-history-in-the-making moment with some more fashion lovers including Amanda Finesse, Ashley Weddington, Ella Adenaike, Adewunmi Erhabor, and the adorable Aria De Chicchis.

When I say, New York Fashion Week Fall 2020 owes me nothing, I mean it.

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Featured image by Instagram/@joce_blake

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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