Historically, the fashion industry — much like popular culture at large — has found inspiration in Black culture. Whether it’s hairstyles commonly worn by the African American community, jewelry that are mainstays for a particular culture, and even the language used to describe pieces created by designers of color as “urban” or “streetwear,” Black people are often erased from the conversation, making it hard to write off these instances as “just clothes.”
Often designers receive praise for the very things people of color have been looked down on for wearing. It’s just not clothes when you factor in it’s the livelihood of marginalized communities providing the inspiration, but unfortunately, inspiration has not turned into representation, with a lack of diversity in the models that walk the runways, and the designers that are heralded and revered by the industry. How many people know that the woman who created the dress Jackie Kennedy wore when she married John F. Kennedy was a black woman named Ann Lowe? Or that the first American couturier in Paris was a black man named Jay Jaxon?