Men's Fashion Week is currently underway in New York City, and with the recent racial turmoil occurring around the country, many were upset with the deafening silence coming from the fashion industry — one that often co-opts Black culture. In light of some designers' non-responses to the police violence around the country, many people vented their frustration on social media and outside the main show venue. However, there's at least one designer who is speaking out and making some very necessary ripples amid the stillness.
At yesterday's Assembly New York show, Black models with dreadlocks wore all of the clothes during the presentation. The statement was neither overly political nor disruptive, but instead a respectful nod to Black culture, hairstyles, and the men who rock them naturally.
Founder Greg Armas told Mashable that it was important to him to promote diversity and create balance at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is more relevant than ever. "Unity is extremely important, and we need to rethink how we integrate our culture together and unify."
As for casting, all of the men were plucked from the streets of New York City. When it came to the hair, the direction was very minimal, Axe lead hairstylist Lisa-Raquel tells us. The ask was simple: do as little as possible. "[Greg and his team] mostly just tasked us with keeping the hair the same version of itself," she says. "They wanted me to tidy up the look a little bit, but they really wanted the natural look of each guy to come through." A little pomade to combat flyaways here, a little twisting there, and that was pretty much it.
Too often, fashion designers draw inspiration from Black hairstyles but, instead of hiring models of color, or properly crediting the styles' history, they slap locs and cornrows on white models and dub them trendy (cue the cries of cultural appropriation). Armas' calculated choice to have Black men wear their natural hair is a stellar example of how things should be done. It also adds authenticity, Lisa-Raquel says: "If you have a hairstyle like that, you really own it — you're not just acting, so your real personality is going to shine through that and you'll obviously be comfortable." Dreadlocks have had an bumpy year and a half, and possess a rich history, so it's refreshing to see the style in the spotlight again. But, this time around, for applaudable reasons.