Research Focus: Fashion And Race

 

 A juxtaposition of two pivotal  Vogue  (UK) magazine covers–model Donyale Luna lensed by David Bailey in 1966 on the left, and model Adwoa Aboah lensed by Steven Meisel in 2017 on the right.

A juxtaposition of two pivotal Vogue (UK) magazine covers–model Donyale Luna lensed by David Bailey in 1966 on the left, and model Adwoa Aboah lensed by Steven Meisel in 2017 on the right.

Innovation in education fund project, "Fashion and Race: mapping a decentralized approach to fashion history and design practice, Parsons school of design

Proposal awarded summer 2017, final project unveiled summer 2018

The aim of the “Fashion and Race” project is to create a (digital) platform providing open-source tools that will address the intersection of power, privilege and representation within the fashion system. The primary objective for this project is to expand students’ knowledge of under-represented figures throughout fashion history and incorporate critical, theoretical resources from related fields that will refine the pedagogical approach to fashion history and practice amongst our faculty. Locating the systemic implications of the social construction of race as a problem along with its notable features within the fashion system, the “Fashion and Race” project will provide a scalable solution across university curricula, envisioning new futures for teaching and learning fashion history, and encouraging insight and innovation in studio practice.

 
 Students in 2016 conducting a visual analysis exercise at The New School University Library, investigating fashion images and learning how to view the images presented critically (particularly when it comes to concepts put forth in Stuart Hall’s  Representation ). 

Students in 2016 conducting a visual analysis exercise at The New School University Library, investigating fashion images and learning how to view the images presented critically (particularly when it comes to concepts put forth in Stuart Hall’s Representation). 

Undergraduate course, "Fashion and race"

Developed fall 2014, offered at Parsons School of Design fall 2016 and 2017

I developed this course to investigate the ways in which fashioned identities emerge within a racialized context in effort to gain access, visibility and power, bridging key concepts in fashion studies with foundations in critical race theory, as well as methodologies from disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, art history and material culture.  Students in this course will come away with a deeper understanding of the intersection of fashion, race, and ethnicity, and will critically address historical and socially accepted standards of beauty and value within the fashion system. 

 A screenshot from "The Fashion and Race Syllabus" website.

A screenshot from "The Fashion and Race Syllabus" website.

The fashion and race syllabus

(collaboration with RESEARCHER and writer rikki byrd)

Launched: July 2016

The Fashion and Race Syllabus is an effort to organize and call attention to scholarship that addresses the intersection of fashion and race, and decentralizes Western fashion history.

Our mission is as follows: 

In 2008, writer Vicki Woods posed a bold and unsettling question in Vogue magazine’s July issue: "Is Fashion Racist?” It meant something, for one of fashion’s most prestigious publications to acknowledge, or at least beg the question, of racism in the aspirational industry that is fashion. This question evokes a topic worthy of further study, as new conversations in fashion criticism have emerged in recent years to further complicate existing discourses as it pertains to the social construct of race and ethnicity, challenging accepted standards of beauty and shifting the power dynamic within the fashion system. Through selected readings and links to resources in the media, this syllabus will investigate the ways in which fashioned identities emerge within a racialized context in an effort to gain access, visibility and power.

This list is by no means exhaustive, though we are optimistic that our syllabus will expand as the discourse regarding fashion and race broadens its authorship and becomes concretized within the academic discipline of Fashion Studies. Building upon the interdisciplinary nature of fashion, this living  document revisits classic texts and celebrates new research within neighboring fields such as Cultural Studies, Women's Studies, Africana Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology and Anthropology, ultimately developing a framework that decentralizes and complicates our understanding of fashion history.

This project was featured in the 2017 exhibition(under)REPRESENT(ed) at Parsons School of Design.