WORDS BY FLORENCE TROTT
A step by step guide on how your choices can contribute towards a more diverse fashion industry.
Fashion consumers are paying attention, and business are being held to account. In response to the events unfolding in the States, we’re learning how to take our support for the Black Lives Matter movement offline and into action. That’s why, although we know that buying a pair of shoes won’t solve systemic racism, we’re committed to doing our bit in the spaces we occupy to support the black fashion community and beyond. Consumers have the power to change the fashion industry for the better. We’re ready to take the steps that are required for us as individuals to diversify our wardrobes, by seeking out and supporting the boutiques and smaller brands that the majority haven’t heard of (yet). This will increase the visibility of black designers, resulting in an innovative and unique closet that serves to define our personal style in a meaningful way. Here are a few ways we’re planning to bring some diversity into our closets.
TAKE UP THE PLEDGE
Brother Vellies designer Aurora James’s 15% pledge might have been directed at major retailers, but taking on the pledge personally is something every one of us can do. James’s call for retailers to commit to buying 15% of their products from black-owned businesses in order to reflect the black population of the United States can be applied to our own closets. We just have to look beyond the usual retail stores and invest a bit more time and energy into familiarising ourselves with the brands we want to support. This is a life-time commitment we can make to care for and champion black creatives and designers that deserve as much shelf space as the next big-name brand.
Following James’s advice, we’ve looked closely at our wardrobes – where did our clothes come from? Who are the people behind the brands? How many pieces do we own designed by or bought from a black-owned business? We’ve interrogated the reasons why we don’t own as much as we could – be that the systemic biases held by businesses, ourselves, and society at large (meaning black designers aren’t readily available in mainstream stores), or our own apathy towards issues of race. We’re taking accountability and committing to do better.
CURATE YOUR SPACES
By diversifying our Instagram feeds, reading books and discovering new designers, we’ll naturally get a broader and more diverse range of fashion inspirations. It goes without saying that marginalised groups are not homogenous – their experiences, ideas and aesthetics are varied. Curating our feeds will help us to curate a wardrobe that is inspired by and champions black designers and their creativity. Follow the people you’re inspired by, listen to what they have to say and share it with others.
MAKE SPACE IN YOUR BUDGET
Whatever your budget is, exploring businesses beyond the usual stores you visit costs nothing. Right now, Instagram is flooded with designer recommendations and new businesses to invest in. Don’t miss our list of black-owned luxury shoe designers, here. While we’d never recommend buying just for the sake of it, ask yourself if your next pair of Bottega Venetas could be swapped for something more unique, like these Brother Vellies shoes that also nail the anklet trend? If you shop on the high-street, check out retailers that are making long-term commitments to protect black employees and diversify their creative and corporate teams, like Aldo.
The absence of black designers at mainstream retailers is a damning indictment of society’s inherent racism and something that must change. Retailers have to take accountability for not buying black-owned designer products, but so do we as individuals. If the big-name stores and your favourite boutiques don’t appear to stock many black designers, buy directly from the brands. Do your research – use Instagram and the web, talk to friends, and find black designers and value-driven retailers that match your personal style. Check out our list of black shoe designers, and platforms like @black.owned.everything (by Beyonce’s stylist Zerina Akers) and @ukjamii on IG. Champion brands with purpose, with beautiful aesthetics that compliment your own, and build a diverse, unique and empowering closet that supports the designers you care about. The goal? To have a one-of-a-kind wardrobe that both feels and does good.
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