Sharing their views on “Culture, Style and Politics” on Wednesday afternoon, four fashion insiders not only discussed the systemic change needed for social justice and racial equality, but also how individuals and companies can work there.
Led by Chioma Nnadi of Vogue, the virtual conference was part of IMG’s NYFW: BTS series and featured designer Victor Glemaud, IMG model Precious Lee and curator Kimberly Drew.
Glemaud spoke about the discrimination and abuse he has faced in the fashion industry since starting his career at age 19 as an intern for Patrick Robinson. The designer helped and protected Glemaud, and also offered him advice on whether to accept certain jobs and salaries. “Maybe I wasn’t thrown into the ocean like a lot of people have. But nevertheless the difficulty of being one of the few at a show in Europe is tough. And it’s hard to let people see you as that person who loves clothes and the art of dressing, who celebrates beauty, who is confident in being different, ”said Glemaud.
Another factor related to being black in fashion is that sometimes people of similar skin tones or backgrounds “aren’t that warm, cuddly, or friendly,” Glemaud said. “It’s hard not to take everything personally and keep moving forward. During that time, there have been many, many days where I have been thinking, ‘I just want to stay in bed… and not take care of these bulls-t.’ “
As difficult as those times were, Glemaud said he had a lot of hope for what was being done and where it was today. He said: “The awareness that we, as people of color, of different religions and values, are all trying to maintain and secure a future for ourselves and for the people we love. And celebrate those values and differences as well. “
The 41-year-old designer said he sees the current situation as “a gargantuan opportunity where we all have to use our platforms to contribute.”
Detailing some of the discrimination she has faced in her career, Lee said she was told, “You should say you’re from here. You should change your name to this. Why don’t you wear this? Maybe you should change your hair for it. Maybe you don’t tell people you have a degree. There were so many weird things. I just never supported it, and I had a lot of turmoil about it. But I stood firm. It was something that hit me like culture shock when I moved to New York.
Fortunately, she had the means to move forward and to move forward. “But there are so many people who don’t have that, or who don’t have the confidence to assert themselves like that. I have been called aggressive when I assert myself. I’ve been called short, when I’m concise, ”Lee said.
When asked about the purpose of fashion, Glemaud said, “You have to have a voice. For me, any brand that has no voice [or] does not represent something, does not exist.
From her perspective, brands that are going through tough times right now don’t understand “where we are.” Now we are talking and are very clear that this is the world we live in and we are going to celebrate it. It is not about conspiring. It’s about being honest and real because people can read it directly. The difference between yesterday and today is that they are called, ”said Glemaud. “It has to be genuine, otherwise nobody cares. Your cultural relevance does not exist. “
Lee discussed the power to say no to certain jobs and the importance of new initiatives. “Having Black in Fashion and Fashion Our Future, these coalitions are what our ancestors did. This is where we come from. I went to an HBCU. Historically, Black College and universities were hidden deep in churches when it was illegal to go to college, learning the secret, ”she said. “I think it’s a whole new generation of pioneers in a whole new industry. It’s important that we continue to uplift each other, stay connected, and not let noise get into anything that we are actually overqualified to do.
Emphasizing that fashion has always been a way of telling our stories about ourselves and that it is also ambitious at any end of the spectrum, Drew said, “It’s really important at a time like this and as part of a larger movement that we understand our incredible role and purpose. It’s not just that we are now in this pandemic moment and wearing sweatshirts. It’s always: “What sweatshirts are you wearing? Where was it made? In which factory was it made? How was it shipped to you? All of these things are so important in the way we live our lives.
As for what Nnadi has hopes for, she said conversations like those on Wednesday would be. “It’s easy to feel isolated. Hope we can learn from this point on. I feel more and more encouraged by the conversations I have. And I feel connected at a time when I’m so far from the people I love. It gives me hope because then I know we can do it. There can be a real change. “
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