Black Women in Fashion
When I first started Ghubar, my purpose was to showcase the very existing cultural interbreeding always remaining absent from all major publications I used to purchase. And if everyone thought the magazine was willing to be a black to black initiative [only], the one year struggle my team and I led to show how global our endeavor was, has somehow been initiated by the box I was put into by default : She is black. So her work has be to black oriented.
This still very common and unfortunate stigmatization of black people - only and always - doing things #FUBU - For Us By US (ha! remember that brand?) can be a real brake in some situations that I've experienced when I started, such as approaching established luxury brands and landing major deals or partnerships.
Aiming then for a global audience became part of a strategy at a time where - let's be honest - few designers would have accepted to associate their image to an unknown small internet publication if I wasn't showing diversity - their way (...).
And if some were quite reluctant at the beginning, I finally processed it all lied in the confidence I had in my project and the strength of my work, for them to observe and appreciate the evolution : that and that only helped breaking some of their inhibitions.
I believe this prevails for everyone who might be stuck in a situation where characteristics take over the skills : it happened before, it is still happening, and it will happen again. But let's not be defeatists. If you look back or take a good look around you, you will always find one or two people who went there first, and opened the way, or are widening it right now, for us to all rise together - sometimes without even knowing it.
When I started attending fashion shows seven years ago - just for the pleasure of it - (there were no Ghubar marinade in the kitchen yet, but a good friend of my mum used to have invites she would pass to me every season) I don't remember seeing a bunch of black people here and there standing in the waiting line (...) but at the same time, I wasn't really questioning it because, before the Blogosphere, before Twitter and Instagram, before the globalization of fashion as we know it now - I believe it was just about a bunch of very professionals going to work in a very elitist industry, and the only famous faces you could cross and recognize were international established writers and fashion editors.
Still, I do not believe there was no black man or woman working in the fashion industry before that, but for the past 50 years, only few made it to the highest spheres. Now the game has changed. We've entered a new era where the Internet broke all the rules and limitations, allowing the most talented fashion enthusiasts to create their dream-job, at a moment and in fields where they would have had a hard time to climb fast. And the first to show that they could sometimes have a better eye than anyone else, slowly tightened the color gap in fashion offices, opening the way to the following generation.
For the record (and the sake of History), if you happen to be a black fashion editor anywhere in this world today, the person you probably owe it to (right after your own hustle) is Eunice Johnson (above) - because like no one - that women engaged in racial uplift through personal style, and become the very first ambitious black fashion editor this world has ever known, bringing Haute Couture to small-town America, fighting with Designers for dark skin models to be shown on the runways, and putting together the very first black style and beauty editorial pages in her own magazine : Ebony. Which is yet very far today from being a reference in what we call high fashion, but let's not forget that initiatives are something we should be thankful for, for giving us the chance to improve what has been started.
During fashion week, when I happen not to be exhausted to attend the shows (that might sounds promiscuous, I know, but I swear fashion week is not as fun as everyone thinks...), I am always happy to run into some of these ladies, because they are always in shape and on top of their style game, which drives most streetstyle photographers into an unstoppable snapping frenzy. One of them, Craig Arend, once told me : "There is just something about black women that you can't explain, it's like...magnetic (...) and even more when they wear color".
I was tempted to tell him that it's just called contrast honey, but we weren't that close for me to joke like that.
As proud to be part of this willing-to-do-better generation, but even more to be surrounded (closely or not) by some hard-working ladies (I see you Tamu McPherson, Michelle Ellie, Lyna Ahanda, Chrissy Rutherford, Shala Monroque, Oroma Elewa, Rajni Jacques, Michelle Chapoteau, Claire Sulmers, Shiona Turini, June Ambrose) who all contribute their way to change the view the world can have on Black women in fashion - simply by delivering the work.
Yet the challenge still remains consequent as far as unity is strength, and our voice can only survive if loud enough. I would love to sit down with all those women, inviting them to share their journey and advices. I am sure they would have quite interesting stories to tell.