University of Fashion Blog

Category "Current Topics in Fashion"

OUT OF AFRICA: AFRICAN DESIGNERS ARE FINALLY ON THE FASHION MAP

Models holding hands, Lagos, Nigeria, 2019 by Stephen Tayo. Courtesy Lagos Fashion Week Africa. (Photo Credit: Forbes)

African fashion, along with the continent’s music and art, is having an huge impact on the world stage — and at UoF, we’re here to support it.

Did you know that Nigeria ranks in the top 5 countries of UoF subscribers! 

International superstars like Naomi Campbell, Zendaya, Tracee Ellis Ross, Angela Bassett, and Beyoncé have helped catapult some of Africa’s talented fashion designers into the limelight. In fact, Queen B wore a number of African designers in the 2020 American musical film and visual album, Black Is King, directed, written, and executive produced by the recording artist. But the African fashion industry has had to jump lots of hurdles to get here.

The Suppression of Africa’s Fashion Industry

According to the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry, Africa, like many other developing countries, has been plagued with the importation of used clothes and shoes from outside the region. This practice created an unfair advantage in local communities and thus stifled industrial growth, especially in Africa’s design and manufacturing sector. Despite imposing high importation customs duty rates in some African countries, used products continued to flood local markets. The textile industry in South Africa all but collapsed as a result of imported second-hand clothing sales and eventually efforts got underway in other African states to prevent the same thing from happening. In 2015, the Zimbabwe government banned the importation of second-hand clothes and shoes and removed the general import license so that future importations were subject to seizure and destruction. In 2016, The East African Council (EAC) Council of Ministers, composed of six countries in the African Great Lakes region, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, voted to ban second-hand clothes, handbags and shoes, to promote the region’s textile and leather industries. These measures paved the way for Africa’s fashion industry to succeed.

Beyoncé wearing a look from Loza Maléombho in the singer’s Black Is King film. (Photo Credit: Disney Plus)

Historically, the relationship between the global fashion industry and Africa has been indisputably problematic, filled with disrespect, cultural exploitation, and appropriation. From the exploitation of Ankara textiles — West Africa’s most recognizable fabric — to western fashion houses profiting from the creations of local African artisans and designers, the line between inspiration and plagiarism has become blurred.

According to Dr. Shameem Black, from the Department of Gender, Media and Cultural studies at the Australian National University, “borrowing from other cultures becomes problematic when historical context and cultural sensitivities are ignored.” By calling out designers who exploit another culture’s traditions has enabled African designers to use their rich history, culture and textiles to gain world-wide attention.

Ankara Fabrics. (Photo Credit: Waa Fashion)

Africa’s Fashion Capital

In just the past few years Lagos, Nigeria has become Africa’s fashion capital. Recognized by some of the world’s most renowned fashion editors and industry insiders, Lagos Fashion Week, and Arise Fashion Week in particular, has earned supermodel Naomi Campbell’s seal of approval. The supermodel made her debut walking the Arise Fashion Week runway in 2018 and returned in 2019, taking on a curatorial role. Emerging designers across the continent have also made their way onto the global stage. Nigerian designers Adebayo Oke-Lawal and Kenneth Ize, were both finalists for the LVMH Prize in 2014 and 2019 respectively, as well as South African designer Thebe Magugu, who actually won the Prize in 2019. For those unfamiliar with the LVMH Prize, it is a prestigious award given to young fashion designers by reputable designers in the industry.

Naomi Campbell walks Kenneth Ize’s fashion show at Arise Fashion Week in 2019. (Photo Credit: Kenneth Ize)

African fashion no longer needs the ‘approval’ of the global industry, because they are now  a force to be reckoned with on their own. Sparking this evolution are trailblazing young African designers who have taken the initiative to create innovative work that tell stories and break stereotypes, while at the same time preserving age-old techniques, as they simultaneously build viable global fashion businesses.

These creatives not only deserve props for their spectacular work, but they are  changemakers in their own right, helping to uplift Africa’s developing economy, standing up for equality, climate action, and setting a new standard for all African designers, thus ensuring their place in the global fashion world.

How to describe African design? African design is audacious and revolutionary. Nigeria’s Adebayo Oke-Lawal and Fola Francis are designers who are pushing boundaries and challenging gender stereotypes. Meanwhile, Congolese designer Anifa Mvuemba is credited as being the first designer to curate a 3D virtual fashion show for her brand, Hanifa, which went viral in 2021.

According to Statista (a German company specializing in market and consumer data), the fashion industry is the fourth largest industry in the world with global revenue in 2021 worth $1.5 trillion. Therefore, the success of the African fashion industry could have a huge impact on that continent’s economy, especially since they have the highest rate of poverty in the world. A robust African fashion industry could exponentially alter their lives.

As the fashion industry thrives in Africa, there will be more employment opportunities, investments in development and increased global recognition, not only for fashion designers, but also for the local tailors, artisans and entrepreneurs. Many fashion brands in Africa are now creating programs to provide resources, support community growth, and empower citizens who want to work in the fashion industry.

UoF is playing a part in their success 

Here are just a few globally recognized African fashion brands that are making a difference:

AHLUWALIA

Looks from Ahluwalia’s Spring 2022 Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

Priye Ahluwalia, founder of the brand Ahluwalia, was born in London to a Nigerian father and an Indian mother. Drawing inspiration from both her Nigerian and Indian heritage, she designs award-winning ready-to-wear menswear.

Ahluwalia was one of the recipients of the prestigious LMVH prize in 2020 and the following year won the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. Ahluwalia’s label also focuses on being environmentally friendly using vintage and dead-stock (discontinued and vintage items that are no longer in stock) clothing for a number of her creations.

THEBE MAGUGU

Looks from Thebe Magugu’s Spring 2022 Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

Thebe Magugu founded his luxury namesake collection in 2016. Through fashion, the South African fashion designer tells the stories of his heritage and culture while bringing important issues into the limelight. In his past collections, he has made commentary on sexism in South Africa, South Africa’s apartheid past, and femicide — with South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa describing gender-based violence as “the second pandemic we are confronting” in November 2020.

Magugu primarily designs exquisite ready-to-wear clothing for women.

In 2018, Magugu won the LVMH prize and has since been featured in a variety of magazines including Vogue.

ORANGE CULTURE

A look from Orange Culture’s Spring 2022 Show. (Photo Credit: Orange Culture)

Orange Culture was founded in 2011 by Adebayo Oke-Lawal, a Nigerian fashion designer. His beginnings are those of a true millennial, as Oke-Lawal has been designing clothes since he was only eleven years old and is self taught. Today, Oke-Lawal is one of the most prestigious designers in Africa.

The brand Orange Culture is best known for their innovative menswear, which has been worn by African celebrities like Global Citizen advocate Davido, Rita Dominic, and Ice Prince. It was also the first Nigerian brand to sell their clothing at the iconic UK department store, Selfridges.

Through the brand’s Orange Mentorship program, they provide mentorship and resources to young fashion designers throughout Africa to help them build their fashion empire.

HANIFA

Looks from Hanifa’s Spring 2022 Digital Show. (Photo Credit: Hanifa)

Anifa Mvuemba is a Congolese designer best known for her viral 3D fashion show that combined two passions, fashion and technology, in an epic presentation of her brand, Hanifa, during the height of COVID-19 in 2021.

Mvuemba founded Hanifa 10 years ago and the brand has since become known for its mesmerizing size inclusive ready-to-wear. Her debut show was held at the National Portrait Gallery on Nov. 16, 2021 Washington, D.C. with over 20,000 people streaming the show on YouTube.

This talented designer is also the founder of The Hanifa Dream, a program that empowers women-owned organizations that “elevate fashion through passion, purpose, and social impact.

CHRISTIE BROWN

Looks from Christie Brown’s Spring 2022 Collection. (Photo Credit: Christie Brown)

Aisha Ayensu is a Ghanaian fashion designer and the creative director for the label Christie Brown, which was founded in March 2008.

The luxury brand, named after Ayensu’s grandmother, creates innovative and exceptional women’s ready-to-wear apparel and accessories. Ayensu reimagines traditional clothing and gives them a modern twist.

TONGORO

Looks from Tongoro’s Spring 2022 Collection. (Photo Credit: Tongoro)

Tongoro is a ready-to-wear womenswear brand that produces playful and unique apparel. The label was founded in 2016 by Sarah Diof, a woman of Senegalese, Central African, and Congolese heritage. The fashion company’s headquarters are in Dakar, Senegal. Tongoro sources their materials from artisans across Africa, and Diof primarily works with local tailors as a way of fostering the economic development of artisans throughout Africa.

IMANE AYISSI

A look from Imane Ayissi’s Couture Spring 2022 Collection. (Photo Credit: Show Studio)

Imane Ayissi is not only a fashion designer but is also a model and a dancer. Pryor to starting his fashion label, Ayissi was a sought-after model who walked for luxury fashion houses like Dior, Givenchy, Valentino, YSL and Lanvin.

The Cameroonian designer draws inspiration from cultures all over the African continent. Ayissi not only creates luxurious ready-to-wear pieces, but he is also an advocate for environmentally friendly fashion and often uses natural and organic materials that make the least amount of impact to the environment.

AFRICA FASHION EXHIBITION

Africa Fashion exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (Photo Credit: V&A Museum)

If you happen to be ion London between now and April 16, 2023, then be sure to catch the Africa Exhibit at the V & A Museum which spans iconic mid-20th century to contemporary creatives through photographs, textiles, music and the visual arts.

And…

Speaking of textiles, we recently launched two lessons in our 5-part series on West African textiles by Mina Dia-Stevens. Broaden your knowledge of Africa and learn about the Faso Dan Fani Cloth of Burkina Faso and the Bògòlanfini textiles of Mali. 

So, tell us, do you know of  other African designers you’d like to share with us?

SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS PART 3: FUR – WOOL – DOWN ALTERNATIVES

 

Stella McCartney champions ethical fashion with fur-free collection. (Photo Credit: Stella McCartney)

Design is not just about product. Design is about responsibility.”

If you haven’t already seen this quote by Dr. Carmen Hijosa of Piñatex, you will, it is ubiquitous on the web. Every eco-friendly brand uses it as its mantra. And, every fashion student in every school on the planet is making sure that they incorporate it into every single one of their classes. After all, if the design process starts at desk of the designer, well then, it’s up to us to be on top of alternative textile and material choices when designing a collection.

In 2021, Google launched a fashion supply chain platform called called Global Fibre Impact Explorer (GFIE) in partnership with Stella McCartney, The Textile Exchange and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), to help fashion brands understand the environmental risk of their raw material sourcing. The tool, which is built on Google Earth Engine and uses Google Cloud computing, assesses the environmental risk of different fibers across regions in terms of environmental factors such as air pollution, biodiversity, climate and greenhouse gases, forestry and water use. In 2022, Google and WWF transitioned GFIE to Textile Exchange, a global non-profit focused on positively impacting climate through accelerating the use of preferred fibers across the global textile industry. Their Friend Level Membership is reserved for small to medium-sized enterprises that generate under $5million in annual revenue, as well as universities, non-profits and NGOs.

Last week we educated our viewers on earth-friendly leather and silk alternatives, that are being created using a variety of materials made from pineapples to coffee grounds, sea shells, cactus, bamboo, mushrooms and spiders, just to name a few. This week we’d like to focus on fur and wool alternatives.

Cruelty-free Fur Alternatives

Last Chance for Animals – Global Ban on Fur (Image credit: lcanimals.com) 

The wearing of fur, just like leather and silk, has long been associated with luxury and wealth. However, beginning in the 1980s and after decades of massive pressure from PETA & activists, many designers and retailers announced that they would stop selling fur due to the cruel methods used in killing the animals. In 2019, California became the first state to make it illegal to sell, donate or manufacture new fur products and in 2021, Israel became the first country to ban the sale of fur clothing, although their are several carve-outs, including one for educational reasons and another that permits residents to buy skins and pelts for religious purposes.

Enter…Tencel® and Koba® faux fur

Faux fur was first introduced in 1929 but didn’t become popular until the 1950s. Due to fur’s growing unpopularity since the 1980s and the fact that many countries are now banning fur farms, the use of faux fur increased. Two reports issued by eco experts at Ce Delft, an independent research and consultancy company, found that five faux fur coats have significantly less impact on climate change than that of one mink fur coat.

Since most faux fur is manufactured with non-renewable petroleum-based products and synthetic fabrics it can be toxic to the environment unless it is recycled properly. Today, technologies and innovations offer new ways to design amazing and ethical alternatives to fur and fake fur as well. Popular kinds of faux fur include faux rabbit, faux fox, shearling, sheepskin, and sherpa and luxury faux fur fabrics include chinchilla, sable, beaver, ermine, marten, lynx, and leopard.

KOBA®  the first vegan faux fur (Image credit: Ecopel.com)

Ecopel, a leader in the development of high end faux fur, supplies more than 300 top fashion brands that have stopped using real fur. In partnership with Dupont, they launched KOBA® faux fur, integrating DuPont™ Sorona® fibers, creating the first faux fur made with vegetal ingredients.

UGG’s new faux fur shoe brand using Tencel®  fiber (Image credit: Tencel.com)  

Lenzing, a leader in the field of botanic cellulose fibers and famous for its flagship brand Tencel®, is providing solutions to faux fur production. Their fibers are derived from certified renewable wood sources using an eco-responsible production process that generates up to 50% lower emissions and water impact compared to generic viscose. In 2021, the company partnered with UGG and debuted Plant Power, a collection of shoes made with carbon-neutral, plant-based materials.

Wool Alternatives

Spinnova partners with the outdoor brand The North Face. (Photo Credit: The North Face)

As we have previously reported, controversies surrounding leather and fur are well-known, however there is a common misconception that wool is a ‘gentle’ fabric that simply implies a ‘haircut’ for sheep. Wrong. According to Plant Based News, “One little-known fact about wool production is its environmental impact: sheep, just like cows, emit large quantities of methane gas, which has several times the global warming potential of CO2. The 2017 Pulse of Fashion Industry Report put wool in the fourth place on its list of the fashion materials that had the highest cradle-to-gate environmental impact per kg of material.” And that doesn’t even touch on the undercover reports of the systemic cruelty involved and the abuse the animals suffer.

Enter…hemp, organic cotton, Tencel®, Spinnova®,  soybean fiber, linen, bamboo, woocoa and nullarbor

Wool had its peak in the 1990s and then continued to be replaced by synthetics and cotton blends. Today’s eco-conscious consumers are shunning animal-derived or petroleum-based fabrics and are searching for alternatives. Luckily, there are options. From cotton to wood to coconuts and soybeans, technology is helping drive the movement. As we have already discussed, Tencel is a great replacement and we covered the benefits of organic hemp, cotton, linen and bamboo in a previous blog. 

But did you know about Woocoa? This is a material created by a group of university students in Colombia made from a coconut and hemp fiber ‘wool’, treated with enzymes from the oyster mushroom. Keep you eye on this space. Another bio-tech creation is Nullarbor, developed by Australian material innovation company Nanolloose. This fabric is created by using bacteria to ferment liquid coconut waste from the food industry into cellulose. Spinnova

Spinnova® is a fiber made by Spinnova, a Finnish sustainable materials company. They are the only company in the world able to create textile fiber out of cellulose without involving any harmful chemicals, minimal water use and emissions, and zero waste.  The company has worked with a number of recognized brands, such as Bestseller, The North Face and Marimekko, in fact, Adidas is one of their investors.

A Pangaia fitted short puffer. (Photo Credit: Pangaia)

Down Alternatives

A little known fact about the use of down feathers in the production of down jackets, handbags, pillows and comforters is the level of cruelty involved in the extraction of the feathers. According to Gentle World, “while most down and other feathers are removed from ducks and geese during slaughter, birds in breeding flocks and those raised for meat may be plucked repeatedly while they are still alive. This process is repeated every 6-7 weeks before the bird’s eventual slaughter (or death from the trauma of the plucking process itself). For birds that have been killed for their flesh and/or internal organs (foie gras) the process usually involves scalding the birds’ bodies in hot water for one to three minutes so the feathers are easier to pull out. The body feathers can then be plucked (often by hand), after which the down is removed by hand or machine.”

Where using polyester microfiber was once considered a cruelty-free alternative to down comforters and clothing they use a mass-produced petroleum-based polyester, a nonrenewable resource. They are also known to contain chlorinated phenols, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carcinogenic dyes, allergens and irritants. The production of these materials require a lot of energy, are impossible to break down and eventually end up in landfills.

Enter…next-gen down

Rather than using a polyester microfiber, try a next-gen down, which uses plants, recycled PET, or other sustainable materials to create the pillowy feeling many brands and customers crave. While many, like H&M and Jack Wolfskin, have incorporated next-gen down into some of their products, Pangaia, a materials science company and Save the Duck are two companies that have set up a ‘business-to-business’ line selling their eco-friendly down alternatives to other brands.

Pangaia’s FLWRDWN™ is a bio-based down-fill material made using a combination of wildflowers, a biopolymer (made from maize (corn) and is fully compostable) and a patented biodegradable aerogel. This warm, breathable and animal-friendly innovation is the first of its kind and is used in their outerwear jackets, vests and accessories.

Save the Duck’s RECYCLED PLUMTECH® is a padding made by polyester fiber entirely coming from recycled materials, including plastic bottles. All the jackets from the RECYCLED collection are distinguished by the green and white logo.

A large part of unsustainable fashion is the result of poor fabric choice. Many materials that make it into our clothes harm humans, animals, and the environment. Not to mention, they release harmful chemicals and microplastics into our environment for hundreds of years. So, all of you designers out there, get onboard the eco-textile train. It starts with YOU!

Are you as excited as we are about material innovation and the exciting developments that are still to come?

 

BARBIECORE & WHY BARBIE IS NOT JUST SOME DUMB BLONDE

Celebrities embracing the Barbiecore trend. NY Post Photo Illustration. (Photo Credit: NY Post)

As we all know, fashion is cyclical. Trends come and go, hemlines rise and fall and each season we await the ‘color’ of the season (last season it was periwinkle). Well, this summer the color is pink and has its roots in the style icon, the Barbie doll. Yes, Barbie is Back!  The last time Barbie made it into pop culture was in the ’90s when the Danish/Norwegian band Aqua released their hit song, Barbie Girl, with the ear worm refrain,  “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world. Life in plastic, it’s fantastic. You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere. Imagination, life is your creation!”

The massive publicity push is on, a full year in advance, for the July 2023 release of the Barbie film directed by Greta Gerwig (Little Women and Lady Bird) starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. The trends surrounding the film are known as “Barbicore” (the word ‘core’ referring to the aesthetic associated with a film, for example ‘Regencycore’ for the series Bridgerton).  The new vibrant pink trend is getting a massive push in the fashion industry and actually began during the fall-winter 2022 shows when Valentino featured it for both their women’s and men’s styles and at Michael Kors, Versace, Act No. 1 and Dolce & Gabbana.

In a world where gender fluidity has been center stage (ex. Harry Styles), Barbicore is definitely bringing gender extremes back to the forefront of fashion. And if Barbicore is not the look for you, well then, grab your baggiest basketball shorts and oversized tees and try “Sandlercore“, a lazy man’s dressing trend made popular by actor Adam Sandler. Fashion has something for everyone, right?

Fashion marketers and influencers have jumped on the Barbicore trend as have celebs, from Megan Fox to Kim Kardashian. In an interview with the New York Post, Kim Culmone, Senior VP at Mattel, Inc. said “BarbieCore is the summer’s latest fashion trend influencing everything from clothing to home decor, and we are here for it. It’s been delightful seeing celebrities decked out in their best pink looks – Barbie would approve.”

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling filming the new Barbie film. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The iconic Mattel doll has always been an inspiration to young women, even if she has sometimes been given a ‘ dumb blond’ moniker. The original ‘Barbie look’, consists of sexy curves and hot pink, bright neons, feminine makeup, and sparkly accessories, and has taken over TikTok. In fact, the hashtag #Barbiecore has more than 7 million views on TikTok and, according to Google Trends data, interest in Barbie has spiked to new heights as fans await the live-action movie.

In today’s #MeToo environment, director Greta Gerwig has a bold new vision of the iconic doll’s story. She is both writing and directing the movie, with input from her partner Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story). The plot of the story will revolve around a doll leaving Barbieland due to her so-called ‘imperfections’, only to discover along the way, that perfection can truly be found within.

Robbie’s costumes are being designed by Gerwig’s Little Women collaborator Jacqueline Durran (for which she won an Oscar) and are already inspiring street style. The Barbie aesthetic has entered the fashion zeitgeist, inspiring A-listers and fashion lovers worldwide.

Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly have embraced the Barbiecore trend head on. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

One of the most famous quotes from fashion legend Diana Vreeland was “Pink is the navy blue of India.” And for Fall 2022, Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli showcased a pretty in pink collection in partnership with Pantone. The runway, backdrop, floors, and even the seats were the same shade of pink, which created a dazzling impact.

“Pinks are no doubt ‘having a moment.’ In fact, pink is having more than a moment,” Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, told The Post in an interview. “It is a color family we have seen growing in popularity across the spectrum since 2013, one which sparked the intro of Millennial Pink and with the rise of the ‘gender blur’ became even more prominent. A time where we began doing away with all color rules and breaking down the boundaries.”

Left to Right: Hailey Beiber, Khloe Kardashian, and Kim Kardashian rocking the Barbiecore trend. (Photo Credit: Michigannewstimes)

“The bright pinks and fuchsias we are seeing today are exultant and empowering. They are stand-out statements being worn with confidence,” Pressman continued. “Vibrant and high-energy. they help us to feel uninhibited and free.”

Barbiecore, as a fashion movement, has been building for years. Remember in the early aughts when Tyra Banks took on the doll’s tailored aesthetic as Eve in the 2000 Disney film Life-Size? And, when Reese Witherspoon, as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, (circa 2001) was essentially a Barbie in a lawyer’s world?

Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

In the 2010s, we often saw Nicki Minaj sporting some serious Barbie-inspired looks after her own Barbie doll hit the market in 2011 (to this day the rapper still wears her signature diamond Barbie nameplate necklace). In 2015, Paris Hilton wore a hot pink Barbie one-piece by a pool in Ibiza, and footwear designer Sophia Webster collaborated with Barbie on a collection of limited-edition shoes the same year.

Kacey Musgraves at the Met Gala in 2019. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

In 2019, Kacey Musgraves wore a Barbie-inspired outfit for her Met Gala appearance: A floor-length, hot pink motorcycle dress designed by Moschino (a very Barbiecore brand!), complete with a matching hairdryer clutch, sunglasses, chandelier teardrop diamond earrings, and shiny silver pumps. The look was almost an exact replica of the Barbie x Moschino doll, which was being sold in the museum’s gift shop at the time.

Moschino’s Spring 2015 Barbie inspired Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

Kim Culmone told InStyle that, like the beloved doll, what constitutes Barbiecore is ever evolving. “Barbie is inspired by pop culture and fashion. And like many of us, her style evolves to be reflective of today’s trends and culture. For 2022, as we move past the pandemic and regain our social lives, it’s Barbie’s genuine playfulness and bright, bold color palette that people are trying to incorporate into their daily routines.

Anne Hathaway at the Valentino Haute Couture Fall 2022 fashion show. Right Lizzo. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

HISTORY OF BARBIE

Artist Reinhard Beuthien created Lilli in 1952 for the German tabloid Bild as a comic strip character (Image credit Hobbylark.com). 

The Stolen Legacy of Bild Lilli

Barbie was modeled after a comic strip character called Lilli, created by Reinhard Beutheien in 1952 for the German tabloid, Bild. She soon became known as Bild Lilli and was marketed as a racy gag gift doll that men could buy in tobacco shops. The Bild Lilli doll became extremely popular with women and children too and eventually there would plenty of knockoff dolls worldwide.
Ruth Handler (co-founder of Mattel) discovered the Lilli doll while on vacation in Hamburg, Germany, had her copied and named her Barbie (after her daughter Barbara). Handler’s version, which launched in 1959, was made of vinyl with rooted hair and curly bangs rather than a wig-cap, and included separate shoes and earrings, which were not molded on, as were Lilli’s.  Handler acquired the rights to Bild Lilli in 1964, and production of the German doll ceased. 

The original Barbie launched in March 1959. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The first Barbie doll came with a black and white striped swimsuit with cat-eye glasses, gold hoops, and her signature ponytail, mimicking the glamour of 1950s divas Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. At the time, many toy buyers were uncertain of the doll’s sexy/curvy appearance as compared with traditional baby dolls, but Barbie took the world by storm with sales of 300,000 dolls in its first year of production. Today, over 90 percent of American girls between the ages of 3 to 12 have owned a Barbie doll.

It didn’t take long for Mattel to see Barbie as a voice for women’s rights. In 1962, before American women were even permitted to open their own bank accounts, Barbie bought her first Dreamhouse, becoming a symbol of independence and empowerment. In 1965, Astronaut Barbie made her debut, two years after Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space and four years before Neil Armstrong and his team landed on the moon. Barbie opened the eyes and imagination of young girls to imagine a future in any field they desired. So much for that dumb blonde moniker!

The Oscar de la Renta Barbie Series, 1985. (Photo Credit: Mattel)

Professional & Activist Barbie

In its 63-year history, the American mass-produced Barbie doll has been a colossal success, and over the decades she has assumed many professions, from doctor and archeologist, to rock star and computer engineer. The first Twiggy Barbie was distributed in 1967. Others celeb Barbies include, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Cher, and current young icons like Zendaya and Gigi Hadid.

This year, the Barbie Inspiring Women series added a Maya Angelou doll alongside figures like civil rights activist Rosa Parks, feminist leader Susan B. Anthony and tennis star Billie Jean King. Barbie has also enjoyed stints as a model for major fashion designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Maison Margiela, Ralph Lauren, Anna Sui, and Burberry, as well as a CEO, a presidential candidate, and a vlogger.

In 2022 Barbie teamed up with heritage house Balmain (Barbie x Balmain) featuring a clothing collection and an NFT! (Image credit: highsnobiety.com)

The Jane Goodall Barbie doll as part of Mattel’s Inspiring Women series (Image credit: Mattel.com) 

For decades Barbie has had Black friends – Christie and Francie, but in 1980 Mattel introduced the first Black Barbie. Today, Barbie is an advocate for body inclusivity and diversity on every level, as promoted in Mattel’s WE ARE Barbie video in 2020. The Barbie Fashionista series includes a Barbie in a wheelchair and in 2022 Barbie became a sustainability advocate through a partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute. The dolls are now made from recycled ocean-bound plastic.

Sales for Mattel’s Barbie brand in 2021 amounted to about 1.68 billion U.S. dollars, up from about 1.35 billion U.S. dollars the year before.

Today Barbie is truly a woke toy, in fact, she is more than just a toy.

 

Meet Ann Driskill – Barbie Designer

Ann Driskill (Barbie designer at Mattel ) 

 

Ann Driskill, a Parsons graduate, had a 20-year career designing for Barbie at Mattel in Pasadena, California. Recently, our founder Francesca Sterlacci had an opportunity to talk with Ann about her experience and what is was like to design for such a style icon.

Francesca: Can you talk about your experience as a Barbie designer for 20 years?

Ann: Mattel designers design the entire doll: the prints, all the accessories, her hair, her makeup – specifically for each doll, plus sometimes new and unique body parts and poses. Mattel has artists specializing in all of these departments.

Francesca: Where is Barbie manufactured?

Ann: The production of the doll and the clothes are done in China, using super narrow seam allowance sewing machine attachments to handle the tiny seam allowances on the clothes.

Francesca: What was the best part of working on Barbie at Mattel?

Ann: The most fun about working at Mattel was collaborating with so many creative people.

Francesca: What were some of the challenges you encountered in the 20 years that you designed for Barbie?

Ann: The hardest part about designing for Barbie was learning how to adjust to her small size. You have to choose thin fabrics that don’t add bulk to Barbie’s slim  figure. You also need to design very small prints and patterns that don’t overwhelm her. Otherwise, it’s a lot like designing for real people,  except she never complains!

Ann was kind enough to share some of her designs for Barbie over the years

Ann Driskill’s original Barbie sketches (Images courtesy Ann Driskill) 

 

So tell us, in what way has Barbie been an inspiration to you?

MUSEUMS ARE CRAZY FOR FASHION: FIND OUT WHY

The Met’s Costume Institute “In America An Anthology of Fashion” tells the untold stories of American Fashion. (Photo Credit: Fashionista)

Beat the heat this summer and head over to your local museum, you might just find a fascinating fashion exhibit to check out. After all, museums have discovered that fashion brings in “visitors/customers/patrons” and money. With museum closures during the pandemic, what better way to lure visitors back in than to host a fashion exhibition?  One only needs to look at the number of fashion exhibits that brought in the BIG bucks and that made the MET’s Top 10 Most Visited Exhibitions: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (2018) attracted 1,659,647 visitors;  China: Through the Looking Glass (2015) with 815,992; Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology (2016) with 752,995 and the Alexander McQueen Retrospective: Savage Beauty (2011) which brought in 661,509 visitors. Add up all of those ticket sales and there you have it, not to mention the number of new patrons that are drawn to shows like these.

Where once only big city museums staged fashion exhibitions, now pretty much any museum can mount one. For example, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) just announced a partnership with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in America’s heartland, Bentonville, Arkansas. Joining the celebration of its inaugural fashion exhibit, Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour, the exhibit will feature over 90 designers and iconic American labels from September 10, 2022 to January 30, 2023.

And, if you find yourself in San Diego, be sure to check out the Mengei International Museum, a museum founded in 1974 dedicated to preserving folk art, craft and design. Their current exhibition entitled Fold-Twist-Tie: Paper Bag Hats by moses, features the most incredible hats made from the ubiquitous brown paper bag.

Brown Paper Bag Hat called the Shangri-la,  by designer/artist moses, at the Mengei International Museum San Diego.

If you find yourself in Austin, Texas on August 14th, visit the Blanton Museum of Art to view their new show entitled, Painted Cloth: Fashion and Ritual in Colonial Latin America. According to the museum, the exhibit “addresses the social roles of textiles and their visual representations in different media produced in Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela during the 1600s and 1700s. Beyond emphasizing how aesthetic traditions of European and Indigenous origin were woven together during this period, the exhibition showcases the production, use, and meaning of garments as well as the ways they were experienced both in civil and religious settings.” The show ends on January 8, 2023.

 Painted Cloth: Fashion and Ritual in Colonial Latin America at the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas (Image credit: BlantonMuseum.org) 

And if you can’t physically visit a museum, you can now take a 360° tour at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) to see the  Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery of Fashion and Design. Or go in person to see their Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love exhibit on view from June 25, 2022 to November 6, 2022. Sebastian Errazuriz, 12 Shoes for 12 Lovers (The Gold Digger, The Heartbreaker, The Boss), 2013. 3d-printed abs plastic, resin, acrylic. Museum purchase. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Kathy Tarantola.

We all know the importance of fashion in the broad context of our civilization. According to Lynda Roscoe Hartigan (PEM Executive Director /CEO):

Museums offer us an environment in which people, ideas, life experiences, and feelings can come together across time, place, and cultures. We seek out art and creative expression to feel grounded, to feel awe, and, yes, to question and understand who we are and who we can become through our shared humanity.”

In our rapidly changing world, museums use fashion exhibitions as a means of cultural expression and to stimulate conversation. From The Costume Institute’s “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” at the MET (May 5, 2022 – September 5, 2022), to the upcoming Gianni Versace Retrospective at the Groninger Museum (Netherlands December 3, 2022 – May 7, 2023), UoF has rounded up some of the major exhibitions you should check out now and into 2023. As every fashion designer knows, fashion exhibitions are a treasure trove of inspiration, so be sure to check out the UoF website for our free Fashion Museum Resource List.

VIRGIL ABLOH: “FIGURES OF SPEECH”

Abloh’s extensive fashion collaborations are also on exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. (Photo Credit: Brooklyn Museum)

The Brooklyn Museum has curated some of the strongest fashion exhibitions over the past few years from Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, to Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion, and now, the museum just opened its Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech” exhibition on July 1, 2022 which runs until January 29, 2023.

Since the beginning of his career, the multidisciplinary work of late creative artist/designer Virgil Abloh (Rockford, Illinois, 1980–2021) has reshaped how we understand the role of fashion, art, design, and music in contemporary culture. Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech,” developed by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, is the first museum exhibition dedicated to Abloh’s work and spans two decades of his practice. The show includes his collaborations with artist Takashi Murakami; musician Kanye West and architect Rem Koolhaas. Designs from his fashion label, Off-White, and items from Louis Vuitton, where he served as the first Black menswear artistic director are also on  display.

Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speechvideo. Video Courtesy of The Brooklyn Museum for You Tube

Figures of Speech” traces the late designer’s exploration of the communicative power of design. His use of language and quotation marks turned his creations, and the people who engage with them, into literal figures of speech.

For the Brooklyn Museum exhibit, they just added never-before-seen objects from the artist’s archives, as well as a “social sculpture,” which draws upon Abloh’s background in architecture. The installation offers a space for gathering and performances, designed to counter the historical lack of space given to Black artists and Black people in cultural institutions.

FASHIONING MASCULINITIES: THE ART OF MENSWEAR

London’s V&A Fashioning Masculinities The Art of Menswear Exhibit. (Photo Credit: Gucci)

The V&A Museum in London has opened its first major menswear exhibition, “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear”, featuring looks by a multitude of designers such as Harris Reed, Gucci, Grace Wales Bonner, Rick Owens, JW Anderson, Comme des Garçons, Raf Simons, and Craig Green. The exhibit, which opened on March 19th and runs until November 6, 2022, celebrates the power, artistry and diversity of masculine attire and appearance. It features approximately 100 looks from fashion’s legendary designers and rising stars, alongside 100 historical treasures and acclaimed artworks. The presentation is displayed thematically across three galleries, outlining how menswear has been fashioned and re-fashioned over the centuries by designers, tailors and artists, and their clients.

With androgynous fashion ‘au courant’, the exhibit showcases masculinities across the centuries, from Renaissance to global contemporary, with looks worn by familiar faces such as Harry Styles, Billy Porter and Sam Smith to David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich, highlighting and celebrating the diversities of masculine sartorial self-expression.

Co-curators of ‘Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear,’ Claire Wilcox and Rosalind McKever, said in a statement, “Masculine fashion is enjoying a period of unprecedented creativity. It has long been a powerful mechanism for encouraging conformity or expressing individuality. Rather than a linear or definitive history, this is a journey across time and gender. The exhibition will bring together historical and contemporary looks with art that reveals how masculinity has been performed. This will be a celebration of the masculine wardrobe, and everyone is invited to join in.”

THE ROYAL COLLECTION TO CELEBRATE THE QUEEN’S PLATINUM JUBILEE

Royal Collection Trust; Her Majesty The Queen’s Coronation Dress and Queen Elizabeth II on her Coronation Day by Cecil Beaton. (Photo Credit: The Royal Palace)

If you’re into all things “Royal” then here’s an exhibit for you! This year, the Queen celebrates her historic Platinum Jubilee with three special displays marking significant occasions in Her Majesty’s reign: the Accession, the Coronation and the Jubilees, held at the official royal residences at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession exhibition will be at the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, opening on July 22 and running until October 2, 2022. Here, portraits of The Queen taken by Dorothy Wilding, alongside items of Her Majesty’s personal jewelry worn for the portrait sittings will be on display. The exhibit will also include The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, which was a wedding gift to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, later Queen Mary, on the occasion of her marriage to the future King George V in 1893.

The Queen’s Coronation exhibition is held at Windsor Castle. The exhibit opened on July 7 and will run until September 26, 2022, featuring the Coronation Dress and Robe of Estate designed by British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell and worn by The Queen for her Coronation at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.

The final exhibition will be at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and will run from July to September, featuring looks worn by Her Majesty on occasions to celebrate the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees. This will include the pink silk crepe and chiffon dress, coat and stole by royal couturier Sir Hardy Amies for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, which will be displayed with the matching hat designed by Simone Mirman with flowerheads hanging from silk stems.

TIP: And if you haven’t read The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor- The Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown…get going. It’s the perfect summer read.

AFRICAN FASHION

Left A look by Chris Seydou. Right A look from Imane Ayissi’s Spring 2020. (Photo Credits: Fashion United)

Africa Fashion, an exhibition curated by Dr Christine Checinska, London’s V&M Museum’s new curator of African and African Diaspora fashion, celebrates the vitality and innovation of Africa’s vibrant fashion scene, as well as explores how music and the visual arts form a key part of Africa’s cultural renaissance. The exhibit, which runs from June 11, 2022 to April 16, 2023, brings together more than 250 objects, drawn from the personal archives of a selection of mid-twentieth century and influential contemporary African fashion creatives such as, Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah, and Alphadi, alongside textiles and photographs from the V&A’s collection.

Commenting on the exhibition, Dr Christine Checinska said in a statement, “The exhibit will present African fashions as a self-defining art form that reveals the richness and diversity of African histories and cultures. To showcase all fashions across such a vast region would be to attempt the impossible. Instead, Africa Fashion will celebrate the vitality and innovation of a selection of fashion creatives, exploring the work of the vanguard in the twentieth century and the creatives at the heart of this eclectic and cosmopolitan scene today. We hope this exhibition will spark a renegotiation of the geography of fashion and become a game-changer for the field.”

PART TWO –  IN AMERICA: AN ANTHOLOGY OF FASHION

A look by Marguery Bolhagen on display at the Met Museum Costume Institute exhibit, A Lexicon of Fashion. (Photo Credit: AP)

Yes, we had previously covered Part One of The Costume Institute at the MET when it opened on May 7th, but how can we cover some of the best fashion exhibits and not include Part Two? In America: An Anthology of Fashion explores the development of American fashion by presenting narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of those spaces featuring women’s and men’s historical and contemporary dress dating from the 18th century to the present in vignettes. If you happen to be in New York and would like to see this exhibit, you better hurry because it runs until September 5, 2022.

GIANNI VERSACE RETROSPECTIVE

Groninger Museum  Gianni Versace Retrospective. (Photo Credit: Groninger Museum)

The Groninger Museum (Netherlands)  will showcase a retrospective on the late designer Gianni Versace and describes Gianni Versace as one of the “most influential couturiers” in fashion. The Gianni Versace Retrospective exhibit, which is scheduled December 2, 2022 to May 7, 2023, promises to be a colorful, daring, and emotional exhibit that will honor Gianni Versace and his trailblazing designs. It will feature his men’s and women’s collections, accessories, fabrics, drawings and interior design, plus footage of the legendary runway shows from the Italian designer’s glory days between 1989 and 1997.

Curated by Versace experts Karl von der Ahé and Saskia Lubnow, all items on display are original pieces sourced from international private collections. The exhibition will highlight how Versace linked fashion with music, photography and graphic design, and led the way in the transformation of fashion shows and advertising campaigns into works of art.

BARBIE: A CULTURAL ICON EXHIBITION

Barbie A Cultural Icon The Exhibition. (Photo Credit: The Shops at Crystals)

Barbie: A Cultural Icon Exhibition celebrates over sixty years of fashion and inspiration, proving that Barbie is more than just a doll, she is a cultural phenomenon. On display will be the very first Barbie doll produced in 1959 and will lead visitors through the decades, paying homage to Barbie and the world around her. The installation also features 150+ vintage dolls, artifacts, and life-sized fashion pieces that come to life through custom-themed displays. Video media and interviews with Barbie designers will expand the narrative. Plus, the Barbie Exhibition Gift Shop offers a select collection of the latest Barbie collector dolls, sets and accessories, exclusive merchandise, and a curated collection of high-end vintage Barbie dolls and accessories.

The exhibit is at The Shops at Crystals, in Las Vegas and runs through December 31, 2022.

LEE ALEXANDER MCQUEEN: MIND, MYTHOS, MUSE

Lee Alexander McQueen Mind, Mythos, Muse at LACMA. (Photo Credit: LACMA)

If you are a fan of Alexander McQueen and weren’t able to catch the Alexander McQueen Retrospective: Savage Beauty at the MET in 2011, well, he’s back! The first McQueen exhibition on the West Coast, Lee Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse contextualizes the designer’s imaginative work within a canon of artmakers who drew upon analogous themes and visual references. The exhibit can be seen at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) until October 9, 2022.

One of the most significant contributors to fashion between 1990 and 2010, Lee Alexander McQueen (London, 1969–2010) was both a conceptual and technical genius. His critically acclaimed collections combined the designer’s proficiency in tailoring and dressmaking with both encyclopedic and autobiographical references that spanned time, geography, media, and technology. The exhibit explores his imagination, artistic process, and innovation in fashion and art, while examining the interdisciplinary impulse that defined McQueen’s career.

LACMA looks to the myriad of cultural inspirations behind more than 70 of Alexander McQueen’s conceptually and aesthetically imaginative dresses.

In conjunction with the exhibition Lee Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse, renowned scholars and artists explore imagination, artistic process, and innovation in fashion and art to further examine the interdisciplinary impulse that defined McQueen’s career, legacy, and sources of inspiration. Video Courtesy of YouTube.

SHOCKING! THE SURREAL WORLD OF ELSA SCHIAPARELLI

Elsa Schiaparelli’s exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. (Photo Credit: Luxferity)

Earlier this month, on July 6th, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris opened its much-anticipated exhibit Shocking! The surreal world of Elsa Schiaparelli. The installation runs until January 22, 2023 and celebrates the creations of Italian couturière Elsa Schiaparelli, bringing together 520 works including 272 silhouettes and accessories by Schiaparelli herself, alongside paintings, sculptures, jewelry, perfumes, ceramics, posters, and photographs by the likes of Schiaparelli’s dear friends and contemporaries, Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau, Meret Oppenheim, and Elsa Triolet. The retrospective will also feature creations designed in honor of Schiaparelli by fashion icons Yves Saint Laurent, Azzedine Alaïa, John Galliano and Christian Lacroix. Daniel Roseberry, artistic director of the House of Schiaparelli since 2019, also interprets the heritage of Elsa Schiaparelli with a design of his own.

“Shocking! The surreal world of Elsa Schiaparelli” (Video courtesy of Schiaparelli on Youtube)

The exhibit, displayed on two levels, guides visitors into thematically and chronologically significant points in Elsa Schiaparelli’s career that included various combinations of her collections through the years with the works of friends and contemporaries who inspired her. The installation addresses the artist’s awakening in fashion and modernity along with the critical role that designer Paul Poiret played as a mentor in Schiaparelli’s life beginning in 1922. Although it has been nearly 20 years since the last Schiaparelli retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, this time the focus is on how she drew inspiration from her close ties to the Parisian avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s. “Schiap”, as she was known as, was a brilliant designer who exposed her sense of feminine style to the modern public. Her designs were powered by a tongue-in-cheek aesthetic while at the same time a sophistication that was new to the world of fashion.

GUO PEI: COUTURE FANTASY

Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy exhibition. (Photo Credit: Legion of Honor Museum)

Guo Pei, the couturier behind Rihanna‘s viral yellow gown at the 2015 Met Gala, received her very own exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor that opened on April 16th and will run through September 5th. The installation entitled, Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy, features over 80 of the designer’s creations, including those showcased on runways in Beijing and Paris. Pei spoke of the show, “As a creator and artist, there is no greater honor or privilege than to share my creativity with a wider audience. I am therefore honored and humbled that the prestigious Legion of Honor Museum will be presenting a retrospective of my work. In doing so, I hope that it will bring greater awareness and understanding of my life’s passion, and convey Chinese culture, traditions and show the new face of contemporary China.”

So tell us, did we miss any shows that you want to recommend?

EQUALITY: HOW THE FASHION INDUSTRY IS SUPPORTING THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY & WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Looks from Pink by Victoria’s Secret Pride Collection. (Photo Credit: Pink by Victoria’s Secret)

As we process the overturning of Roe v Wade and what it means for women’s rights, we know one thing, the fashion industry will not take this lying down. There are many organizations mobilizing in defense of women’s equality, one of the newest is Don’t Ban Equality. The list of companies that support women’s reproductive rights is growing and you can bet that the impact of this decision will have have far-reaching consequences, both on and off the runway.

And, as we near the end of Pride Month, we’d like to dedicate this blog to women’s and gender equality. This year, the fashion community has stepped up and given back to the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Month, which commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City where spontaneous demonstrations by the gay community in response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, was a tipping point in the Gay Liberation Movement. The community originally observed the Stonewall Riots for a day at the end of June, but it has since evolved into a month-long tribute.

Over the last two years, due to Covid-19, the parades and parties celebrating Pride Month were cancelled, but this year, the month-long festivities were in full swing. Fashion brands also did their part in supporting the LGBTQ+ community with their “Pride-themed” collaborations and merchandise.

H&M’s video titled My Chosen Family Pride Month 2022 at H&M. Video Courtesy of H&M

Fashion brands working with the LGBTQ+ community isn’t new: H&M has been a longtime collaborator with LGBTQIA+ actors and activists, and their “My chosen family” initiative donated $100,000 this year to the UN Free & Equal campaign, a global fight for equality led by United Nations Human Rights.

Still, LGBTQ+ leaders have accused brands of pushing “pinkwashed” merchandise—basically using Pride Month as a marketing tool and profiting off the LGBTQ+ community without offering anything back. This is particularly distasteful after two years that’ve hit the community especially hard, financially-speaking.

The Rainbow Flag. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

In prior Pride months, companies released everything from sneakers to that notorious mouthwash with Pride-themed packaging and not much else, not a single donation to support the community. Is an identifiable, color palette enough to persuade the LGBTQ community and supporters, to spend their hard-earned money after two long years of pandemic fatigue, inflation, and record-breaking gas prices?

According to YouGov, a quarter of Americans say that they are more likely to shop from LGBTQ+ friendly brands, and over 80% are likely to try new products from brands who actively support LGBTQ+ communities as opposed to ones that don’t. Authenticity is the key, although retailers have taken a financial hit the past few years due to the global pandemic, we’re seeing more companies putting their money where their mouth is and donating to worthy causes.

So here are a few of the Pride Month collaborations, from brands that are using their platform to support the LGBTQ+ community.

CHER X VERSACE

Cher and fashion house Versace are teaming up to celebrate Pride Month. (Photo Credit: Versace)

The music legend Cher and luxury Italian fashion house Versace have teamed up to create “Chersace,” a limited-edition capsule collection with all proceeds benefiting Gender Spectrum, a charity that works with LGBTQ children and youth.

The “Chersace” collection includes T-shirts, socks and a baseball cap designed with Versace’s iconic Medusa motif and the Versace logo reimagined to read “Chersace.” A portion of all the proceeds will benefit Gender Spectrum, a nonprofit organization chosen by both Donatella Versace and Cher for their advocate work supporting LGBTQ community, especially youths and families.

CONVERSE

Sneakers from Converse’s 2-22 Pride Collection. (Photo Credit: Converse)

Converse’s Pride 2022 Collection puts a twist on the iconic Chuck Taylors, as each shoe from the collection is united by a vibrant patchwork representing diversity, belonging and unity. Alongside the Pride collection, Converse released a digital campaign, “Found Family,” which presents stories from the brand’s LGBTQ+ community. Converse also gives annual grants to seven organization partners that work to create safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.

COACH

Coach’s Pride Collection. (Photo Credit: Coach)

Coach didn’t just slap a rainbow on some purses, the fashion house has been a longtime supporter of LGBTQ+ causes. The brand releases annual Pride collections, partners with nonprofits and donates to community funds around the world through the Coach Foundation.

This year, the Coach Foundation’s “Go All Out For Pride” campaign will make donations to the brand’s longstanding LGBTQ+ partners, including the Hetrick-Martin Institute, Point Foundation and CenterLink to support their work connecting young LGBTQ+ folks with supportive communities. Coach’s Pride collection includes the labels iconic canvas bags, sneakers, and slides – all with the brands classic logo remixed with pride flag-inspired colors.

LEVI’S

A look from Levi’s Pride Collection. (Photo Credit: Levi’s)

Sure, there are a number of brands brandishing gender-neutral fashion lines this summer, but the Levi’s Pride collection celebrates the spectrum of identities in the LGBTQ+ community. Levi’s latest line of tees, denim and accessories are designed to be worn by anyone, but feature pronouns across the pieces as a call to respect everyone’s lived experiences.

The denim company says that they will donate $100,000 to OutRight Action International, a nonprofit working year-round to defend and advance human rights for LGBTQ+ people around the globe. For this year’s collection, the brand also photographed the fashion line on five social justice advocates from within the LGBTQ+ community.

RALPH LAUREN

Ralph Lauren’s pride collection. (Photo Credit: Ralph Lauren)

For over 30+ years, Ralph Lauren has committed to the LGBTQ+ community. The fashion houses recent Pride campaign explores the complex and intersectional history of Pride. In the video, the former editor in chief of Out magazine, Phillip Picardi interviewed luminaries like Ariel Nicholson, Keith Boykin and Staceyann Chin as they provided insight on the community, the history of Pride and the New American Dream.

In addition, Ralph Lauren will merchandise a rainbow assortment of merchandise throughout the month, including rainbow cashmere sweaters, Polo shirts and canvas sneakers. The company has also partnered with the Stonewall Community Foundation once more, providing a donation to support the LGBTQ community.

VINYARD VINES

Looks from Vinyard Vines’ Pride Collection. (Photo Credit: Vineyard Vines)

Perfect for this month’s beach life, and more, Vineyard Vines’s 2022 Pride Collection is here for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate and toast to the good life. A portion of all proceeds from their Pride collection will be donated to GLSEN, a non-profit whose mission is to ensure that every school-aged youth is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

UGG

Ugg’s Rainbow Sandals. (Photo Credit: Ugg)

This year Ugg has collaborated with The Trevor Project for its “Feel Heard” campaign, starring advocate and writer Alok, model Chloe Vero, yoga teacher and artist Isa’ah, science teacher and model Sarina Moralez and vintage collectors Robert and Orren. Ugg has also donated $125,000 to the nonprofit organization.

For their Pride 2022 Collection, Ugg featured rainbow Pride-inspired detailing on its signature slides as well as apparel, including a T-shirt, hoodie, socks and more.

PUMA

Cara Delevingne launches pride collection with Puma. (Photo Credit: Puma)

Puma has teamed up with model and actress Cara Delevingne and illustrator Carra Sykes, to create a collection called “Together Forever,” which encourages wearers to raise their voices and celebrate their strength. The collaboration includes T-shirts, hoodies, shorts, a patterned bralette, and matching leggings, all of which feature vibrant logos and graphics.

Puma has also pledged to donate 20 percent of the proceeds from the collection, with a minimum of $250,000, to GLAAD.

KATE SPADE NEW YORK

Items from Kate Spade’s Pride Collection. (Photo Credit: Kate Spade)

Kate Spade New York is celebrating Pride Month with their latest campaign, “Celebrate with Pride”. The fashion and accessories brand also announced a year-long partnership with The Trevor Project for the third year. As part of their partnership together, Kate Spade has pledged to donate $150,000 to the organization.

Additionally, the company will also release a series of videos on its website and social media channels, inviting members of the LGBTQ+ community to share their stories.

SAKS FIFTH AVENUE

Christian Cowan for Saks’ “Show Your Pride” campaign. (Photo Credit: Saks)

Luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue launched their Pride campaign called “Show Your Pride,” which celebrated notables from the LGBTQ+ community and their stories. Additionally, the retailer is continuing its support for the community by partnering with the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative (the official charitable giving organization of the historic landmark site of the 1969 riots) for the fourth consecutive year, with a cumulative donation of $245,000.

Throughout June, Saks Fifth Avenue will be featuring names like singer and drag performer Adore Delano, designer Christian Cowan, actress Dominique Jackson and comedians Jes Tom and Sam Jay on social media, the Saks website, and its editorial hub, The Edit. On its TikTok channel, influencer Emira D’Spain will host a “get ready with me” style video, while Jackson will be featured in a Reels video on Instagram.

Additionally, the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship windows in New York City will be transformed to create a deconstructed Pride flag.

NORDSTROM

Nordstrom’s Pride 2022 Campaign. (Photo Credit: Nordstrom)

Throughout Pride Month, the luxury department store will highlight labels that are launching initiatives in support of the LGBTQ+ community. The brands include BP., who released a Be Proud collection, Bombas, Converse, Dr. Martens, Happy Socks, Vans, The Phluid Project and Toms.

The retailer’s Pride Month initiatives will also include celebrating and supporting their LGBTQ+ employees and corporate donations to and partnerships with nonprofit organizations who work to support the LGBTQ+ community. Nordstrom will donate $200,000 to The Hetrick-Martin Institute, $100,000 to Trans Lifeline and $135,000 to Human Rights Campaign, among other charity programs.

CAROLINA HERRERA

A closer look at Carolina Herrera’s jewelry capsule celebrating Pride. (Photo Credit: Carolina Herrera)

The luxury house Carolina Herrera launched an exclusive jewelry capsule inspired by the rainbow colors of the official Pride flag, featuring a crystal necklace and earrings. Carolina Herrera will be donating 100 percent of the proceeds from the sales of the collection to Callen-Lorde, a community health center providing healthcare and other related services for New York’s LGBTQ+ communities.

According to Don’t Ban Equality, “77% of consumers consider reproductive health care (i.e., access to contraception and abortion) an important issue; 91% of Gen Z and 86% of Millennials say it is important“. Who knew that we would still be fighting for women’s rights in today’s day and age?

So, tell us, how important it is for fashion brands to include equality in their brand identity?

CELEBRATING JUNETEENTH – UNIVERSITY OF FASHION STYLE

Happy Juneteenth!

In celebration of Juneteenth, we’ve launched the first in our 5-part series on West African textiles taught by Mina Dia-Stevens. Mina’s first lesson covers the Faso Dan Fani Cloth of Burkina Faso and how this many hundreds-of-years-old textile, considered the woven loincloth of the homeland, was handed down from generation to generation. Not only is Faso Dan Fani Cloth the national symbol of Burkina Faso, it also commemorates the country’s emancipation from colonialism in 1960 and the country’s name change from The Republic of Upper Volta to Burkina Faso in 1984.

In this series, Mina discusses African textile yarns, threads, and the local, seasonal, and traditional materials that are native to specific West African countries. Mina also covers traditional methods of production and how the processes are still maintained and celebrated today. Her journey continues with lessons on the textiles of other West African countries such as Mali, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana, so stay tuned!

The first in a 5-part series covering the textiles of West Africa by Mina Dia-Stevens: West African Textiles- Faso Dan Fani Cloth of Burkina Faso

Our newest Instructor: Mina Dia-Stevens (Photo credit Mina Dia-Stevens)

 Mina Dia-Stevens is a 19-year veteran of the fashion industry, as life-long creative, educator and design entrepreneur. As a faculty member for twelve years in the fashion department at Moore College of Art and Design, Mina provided instruction to second- and third-year design students, in the areas of pattern making, construction, illustration, and concept design, in the categories of menswear, swimwear, womenswear and childrenswear. She has also researched, established, and implemented, extensive curriculum for 9th, 10th, 11th– and 12th-grade creatives in the areas of fashion and textile design.

Mina’s professional experience includes various roles in the fashion industry ranging from designing junior activewear apparel to shoe design and trend consulting. Currently, Mina is involved in expanding her family’s West African textile business into the brand, Royal Fulani Living.

As a design entrepreneur, Mina fully understands the delicate balance between nurturing an independent artistic spirit with a business mind. Her philosophy as a creative and educator is based upon words that she vividly remembers hearing as a child:

“You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” –  Glinda from The Wizard of Oz

For Mina, this quote encompasses the mind, heart, and spirit of who she is as an educator of young visionaries. She not only leads her students through the educational process but nurtures their creativity for a lifetime. We are thrilled that Mina is now part of the distinguished instructors at UoF.

Image courtesy: Custom Collaborative 

Celebrating Our 2-year Anniversary with Custom Collaborative

We are also celebrating our 2-year partnership with Custom Collaborative, a New York City-based entrepreneurship and workforce development program, founded in 2015, that trains and empowers low-income and immigrant women of color to start careers in the fashion industry.

Since 2020, Custom Collaborative’s fashion-preneurs have expressed their appreciation to us in both words and deeds, for donating full access to our fashion education library.

Thank you for giving me the chance of membership and scholarship to increase my skill and to take a step forward in my life to support myself.”  ~ Kulwant Kaur

I would personally like to thank you for this amazing opportunity to participate in the University of Fashion.  I’m so excited and grateful for your generous gift.  I’ll give a 💯 and the best of abilities. Thank you for the beautiful blessings” ~ Regina Madison

It is an honor to be chosen for the University of Fashion scholarship. 

 I am truly grateful for this opportunity. This scholarship allows me to focus on my studies and additional work opportunities. Thank you for your support.” ~ María Isabel Espinoza

I never knew about this amazing opportunity until Custom Collaborative a few Wednesdays ago. I have been so hungry to learn more about garment construction and I am thankful to you for founding University of Fashion so I can learn and be exposed to much more. Thank You.” ~ Analisa Charles

Image courtesy: Custom Collaborative

Ngozi Okaro Executive Director Custom Collaborative (Photo: Heather Sten)

We’d like to give a special shout-out to CC’s executive Director Ngozi Okaro for her dedication in helping so many women reach their potential.

And how about Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic for The New York Times (and Constance C.R. White) who just recognized Custom Collaborative on June 17th in Vanessa’ s Open Thread column along with other hot Black-owned brands.

Fun Fact: Constance White gave me, Francesca Sterlacci, my first WWD cover!

So, as we celebrate Juneteenth, it’s a time for all of us to keep on supporting small businesses run by Black founders. Our new fav is Brooklyn-based Parron Allen, a soon to be UoF instructor, who specializes in super fab sustainable design clothing. Check him out and stay tuned…

So, tell us, how are you supporting Black brands?

THE HOTTEST FASHION COLLABORATIONS OF 2022

A look from Loewe x Studio Ghibli. (Photo Credit: Loewe)

Let’s face it, the past few years have been tough on everyone, from a global pandemic to a raging war between Russia and Ukraine, the world is emotionally and mentally drained. So, for spring/summer, designers are offering fun and playful collections to give customers a bit of joy and to hopefully break out of the rut many have been feeling.

A look from Dior Vibe and Technogym. (Photo Credit: Dior)

This year has been full of exciting collaborations. While some may view fashion collaborations as a cliché, let’s not forget that they are a profitable form of marketing that benefits both collaborating brands. Collaborations can bring luxury designs at a lower price point, reinvent a brand’s image, and offer “unattainable” fashion to the masses.

While the phenomenon began back in the ‘00s, most noteworthy was the Karl Lagerfeld x H&M collab in 2004, almost 20 years later we are noticing a peak in brand collaborations at all levels in the market. Here are a few collaborations that will be all the rage this summer:

GIVENCHY X DISNEY

The House of Givenchy is pleased to announce its collaboration with Disney on a limited-edition capsule collection celebrating the iconic legacy of the Walt Disney Animation Studios. (Video Courtesy of Givenchy’s YouTube Channel.)

In mid-May the house of Givenchy announced a collaboration with Disney,  introducing a limited-edition capsule collection of luxury ready-to-wear designed by creative director Matthew M. Williams.

Fittingly named, The Wonder Gallery, the collaboration will focus on t-shirts and hoodies, featuring graphics of Disney characters, iconography, and silhouettes, inspired by the most iconic and beloved Disney characters, such as Bambi; Pongo and Perdita, from the animated feature film, 101 Dalmatians, Oswald from Lucky Rabbit; and Elsa and Olaf from Frozen.

This is not the first time the French luxury house collaborated with Disney’s beloved Bambi. In fall 2013, Bambi made an appearance on a sweatshirt at Givenchy.

The celeb must-have Bambi sweatshirt from Givenchy’s fall 2013 collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

Williams also admits to being a big fan of Disney. The creative director stated on his website, “Disney has always held a special place in my heart, as it has for so many across generations, countries and cultures. As a boy from California and a father in Paris, Disney has always been a source of meaningful moments throughout my life. It’s a true honor to bring out two iconic brands together for this project.”

In the past Disney has collaborated with a number of luxury fashion houses such as: Coach, Gucci, and most recently, Stella McCartney, on a capsule collection inspired by the 1940s animated feature musical film, Fantasia.

ADIDAS X GUCCI

A look from Gucci x Adidas. (Photo Credit: Gucci)

Adidas x Gucci is one of the most hyped and praised collaborations of the season. The collection launches on Tuesday, June 7th, and is anticipated to fly off the shelves as soon as it launches. The partnership offers a unique take on super-luxe sportswear, offering glamorous retro inspired looks straight out of Wes Anderson’s cult hit The Royal Tenenbaums. The collection comes complete with sweatbands, micro-mini running shorts and a sweatshirt emblazoned with a hybrid Gucci logo mixed with the instantly recognizable Adidas Trefoil. The collection offers a variety of ready-to-wear pieces and accessories that perfectly merge the two brands’ aesthetic, from chic canvas bucket hats and Gazelle sneakers to chic knit dresses and an updated version of Gucci’s iconic Horsebit 1955 crossbody bag.

ADIDAS X PRADA

The Adidas x Prada Re-Nylon Collection is a mixture of minimalism and functionality. (Photo Credit: Prada)

Adidas has had multiple designer collaborations throughout the years, one of the most popular has been the Adidas x Prada collab. Following the sell-out successes of their first two collaborations, the powerhouses of sportswear and Italian high fashion are back with a third instalment of their unique partnership. The past capsule collections relied solely on sneakers, but with the 3rd installment, the duo introduced their first capsule collection of co-branded apparel and obviously accessories. But what makes this collaboration truly unique is that it is centered firmly around sustainability. Adidas x Prada has reimagined luxury sportswear through a more eco-friendly lens, all nylon will be switched out for Prada’s signature Re-Nylon fabric, which is made from recycled plastic waste collected from oceans. The 21-piece capsule featured sportswear staples including tracksuits and anoraks, as well as bucket hats, backpacks, bags and a reinvented, and Prada-branded version of Adidas’s Forum trainers.

FENDACE

Looks from Fendace. A collaboration between Fendi and Versace. (Photo Credit: Fendi)

What is Fendace you may ask? Well, it is the brilliant collaboration between two Italian luxury powerhouses – Versace and Fendi. The collection was shown in September during Milan Fashion Week to great fanfare. Fendace Is the creation of Donatella Versace, Silvia Venturini Fendi and Kim Jones, Fendi’s artistic director of women’s collections. The capsule collection sees the designers creatively swap, fusing the brands’ signature aesthetic and DNA into two collections – Versace by Fendi and Fendi by Versace – encompassing everything such as ready-to-wear, handbags, footwear and other accessories. The campaign was shot by photographer Steven Meisel and features a string of supermodels including Naomi Campbell and Kristen McMenamy, it’s a match made in fashion heaven.

KENZO X NIGO

The Kenzo x Nigo Collection Jacket embroidered with a signature flower. (Photo Credit: Esquire)

Kenzo x Nigo is a collaboration between the creative Japanese fashion designer Nigo and French luxury fashion house, Kenzo. This collab makes Nigo one of only two Asian creative directors at European luxury houses, as well as the first Japanese director to take the lead of the brand since Kenzo Takada launched it in 1970.

Nigo infused his signature style into the brand and gave the collection a breath of fresh air. The men’s fall 2022 collection featured denim jackets, pageboy caps and work attire; button-up shirts, pants and jeans. Functionality was ubiquitous in this capsule collection, with a whimsical touch of flowers embroidered onto the clothes.

BIRKENSTOCK X MANOLO BLAHNIK

Manolo Blahnik for Birkenstock. (Photo Credit: WWD)

Manolo Blahnik is known for his beautiful and elegant shoes. He became a household name when Carrie Bradshaw, the fictional character of Sex and the City, wore his creations frequently and the shoes were written into a number of episodes. But did you know that Manolo Blahnik is known to be a Birkenstock fan?

So for Spring, the distinguished Spanish designer reinvented the classic birk as you’ve never seen them before, morphing it into a shoe with unparalleled glamour, charm, and chicness. The reputation of the beloved “ugly” sandal is challenged in this collab, with Birkenstocks adorning a vibrant color palette and sparkling buckle.

BURBERRY X SUPREME

A look from Supreme x Burberry. (Photo Credit: Burberry)

When you think of the label Burberry, streetwear is the farthest description that comes to mind, however, the latest collaboration between Burberry x Supreme is a successful ode to each of the brand’s established identities.

The Supreme led collaboration includes a variety of pieces including a collar puffer jacket, hoodie, jeans, t-shirt, silk pajamas, and of course, a skateboard.

BARBIE X BALMAIN

A look from Barbe x Balmain. (Photo Credit: Balmain)

Barbie x Balmain is a fusion of two of iconic labels in fashion. Reimagining childhoods around the world, Balmain’s creative director Oliver Rousteing stated that the unisex collaboration of Barbie and Balmain was designed to challenge gender limitations and celebrate diversity. Barbie’s iconic pink meets the bold spirit of Balmain in a limited-edition collection of t-shirts, hoodies and badges.

“Barbie and Balmain are embarking upon a distinctly multicultural, inclusive and always joy-filled adventure”, Rousteing said in a press release.

The Barbie x Balmain collaboration created a new chapter in the legacy of the toy and fashion industries.

Speaking of all things fashion, did anyone catch the launch of the series Follow the Thread, that premiered June 4th on TCM? If not you can catch it June 17th on HBO MAX? It’s inspired by The Met Exhibition, In America, An Anthology of Fashion. Let us know what you think.

So tell us, as an aspiring designer, what would be your dream collaboration?

FASHION’S LONG ROAD TO INCLUSIVITY

China Machado – first Asian supermodel photographed by Richard Avedon in 1961 (Photo credit: arogundade.com)

Since this is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we thought we’d discuss the fashion industry’s long battle with inclusivity. Historically, fair-skinned, ultra-thin white models dominated the runways, ad campaigns, and magazine editorials. It would take decades for models representing racial diversity, body inclusivity, sexual inclusivity and the disabled community to be accepted.

Contrary to popular belief, the first non-white model to make it in mainstream fashion was not Black but East Asian. Her name, China Machado, a mix of Indian and Portuguese ancestry who, in 1956, became the first non-white beauty to break through fashion’s apartheid system when she secured a job as a fitting model at Givenchy. Ten years later, Machado would grace the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1971 and the cover of New York magazine in 2011.

China Machado – Harper’s Bazaar cover 1971  (Photo credit: arogundade.com)

According to L’Officiel’s 21 top Asian Models – Kimora Lee Simmons at age 13 signed a contract with Chanel. Canadian supermodel Yasmeen Ghauri of Pakistani-German descent was the first South Asian woman to get a major luxury beauty contract and become a Victoria’s Secret Angel. Chinese beauty Liu Wen, who is the number five model in the world according to models.com, became the face of Estée Lauder in 2011, while Taiwanese male model Godfrey Gau secured a campaign for Louis Vuitton. At the same time, China’s Sui He has fronted campaigns for H&M and Karl Lagerfeld.

                                       Asian model – Kimora Lee Simmons (Photo credit: L’Official)
                                         Asian model – Yasmeen Ghauri (Photo credit: L’Official)
The first successful black model was Dorothea Towles Church (1922-2006) who broke the color barrier in the 1950s by modeling on the runways of Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior in Paris. At the time however, U.S. modeling agencies, designers, and editors traditionally favored one body type and skin color; thin and white. Church enjoyed modeling in Paris so much she decided not to return to the United States, but her success and acceptance there was widely publicized in black magazines and periodicals in the U.S., including earning her a place on the cover of the African-American weekly Jet in April 1953. When she did return to the U.S. she was mostly ignored by the fashion industry.
 

Dorothea T. Church (1922-2006) – considered the first Black fashion model (Image credit: Brown Girl Collective Facebook)

 

Naomi Sims started modeling in the 1960s and was the first African American model to sign to Willhelmina Models. (Photo credit: L’OFFICIAL)

While Church received notoriety in Europe, it was not until the ‘60s that the U.S. fashion industry embraced its first Black model, Naomi Sims. In 1968, Sims was the first African American model to grace the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal. And in 1969 Sims landed the cover of LIFE Magazine–making her the first Black model to do so. Sims was also the first Black model to be signed by a renowned modeling agency, Wilhelmina Models, thus paving the way for other Black models such as Pat Cleveland, Toukie Smith, Naomi Campbell, Iman, Beverly Johnson, Tyra Banks, plus the new generation of Black models, Joan Smalls and Winnie Harlow.

Supermodels Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks. (Photo credit: The Sun)

Considered the fashion industry’s first fashion publicist, Eleanor Lambert was the first to use 12 Black models on the runway at the 1973 Franco-American fashion show held at the Palace of Versailles. This show became a defining moment in the acceptance of American fashion on the global stage.

In 2008, famed photographer Steven Meisel made news when he took on racism in the fashion industry by choosing only black models for a Vogue Italia spread.

Today, inclusivity is becoming the defining word in the fashion industry. Within the past few years, industry beauty standards have changed rapidly, with Generation Z voices and sociopolitical movements taking center stage across all forms of social media. The fashion industry has faced a broad array of criticisms involving diversity, inclusivity, ethicality, and sustainability and while fashion brands have made some progress, there is still a long way to go. Today, fashion houses are pushing for more diversity and inclusiveness in their shows and ad campaigns. It makes good business sense too.

Inclusivity and diversity have become vital components of retail for fashion consumers. Brands that have recognized the need for racial diversity, body inclusivity, sexual representation and representation of the disabled community are realizing that it is not only necessary but is the future of fashion.

Emily Barker in Collina Strada’s spring 2021 Lookbook. (Photo credit: Collina Strada)

Size inclusion was one of the first culprits of fashion inclusivity. For decades, only one body type was seen on runways, advertising campaigns, and fashion editorials – the ultra-thin, long-legged model with fair skin and sharp features; thankfully, the fashion industry has begun to embrace the body positivity movement, where women and men of all body types and sizes are represented.

The impractical beauty standards of U.S. sizes 0-4 are no longer tolerated by the public and the body positivity movement is the “largest push-back against a lack of diversity and positive self-images in the fashion industry,” according to Luxiders magazine. According to the magazine, body positivity was one of the first aspects of fashion inclusivity to be highlighted in the public eye, largely because traditional modeling agencies wanted “white, skinny, young and female.”

For decades young women suffered from low self-esteem due to constant fashion images of super thin, extremely tall, and primarily fair skin models, a mostly unattainable standard of beauty. According to Park Nicollet Melrose Center, a well-known eating disorder treatment facility, nearly 70% of perfectly healthy women desire to be thinner and 80% simply “don’t like how they look.”

Ashley Graham – the first body-inclusive model to star on the cover of  Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue 2016. (Photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Ashley Graham has been a pioneer in the plus size modeling industry. In 2001, Ashley Graham began modeling as a young teenager, but in 2016 she became a breakout supermodel and graced the cover of the infamous Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The model was initially criticized for her size, but today she has become a well-known name in the industry and tells her story through her Instagram and Twitter posts. She’s even written a book, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Looks Like. Graham constantly works to inspire confidence in people of all sizes.

Of course, size inclusivity is only one part of the problem. Consumers are demanding diversity in the fashion industry, particularly racial and ethnic diversity. According to the Business of Fashion, the practice of “occasionally putting a non-white face on a magazine cover” is no longer enough (nor has it ever been). Fashion should reflect the consumer it serves, which means representing all types of people.

Racial and ethnic diversity is not just confined to models; true diversity requires hiring non-white stylists, designers, art-directors, and producers. It requires building fashion agencies with both diverse staff and diverse models, because doing so brings diversity into perspective.

Edward Enninful after receiving his Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and Naomi Campbell in London on Oct. 27, 2016. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Edward Enninful, the editor-in-chief of British Vogue since 2017, is the most powerful Black man in his fashion industry. He sits at the intersection of fashion and media, two fields that are undergoing long-overdue change and clambering to make up for years of negligence and malpractice. Since becoming the only Black editor in history to head any of the 26 Vogue magazines—the most influential publications in the multibillion-dollar global fashion trade—Enninful has morphed British Vogue from a white-run glossy of the bourgeois oblivious, into a diverse and inclusive on-point fashion platform and shaking up the imagery, according to a Time Magazine profile piece on Enninful.

However, inclusivity doesn’t end there. Representation of the   LGBTQ+community is also vital to the future of fashion and given that this community’s cumulative spending power would represent the fourth-largest economy in the world, the fashion industry better start representing this disregarded demographic. Consumers are forced to decide between two genders (male or female) regardless of whether they identify with either one and, for young individuals who are still figuring out both their sexual and personal identity, this is extremely limiting.

April Ashley –  one of the first transgender fashion models in the 1960s. (Photo credit: Out magazine)

Modeling has also failed the LGBTQ+ community, with many transgender and non-binary models feeling “forced to conceal their identities” in order to achieve success in the fashion industry, according to Women’s Wear Daily. Members of the LGBTQ+ community should not have to hide their sexuality or gender to succeed.

When unrepresented individuals begin to see their community represented and succeed in a world as cut-throat as high fashion, it opens the door to a whole new market of consumers who wish to support the brands they see themselves represented in.

One of the most unrepresented groups are people with disabilities. According to Glamour magazine, individuals with disabilities are “often ignored in the world of fashion” despite having an estimated population of 1 billion. Vogue Business claims that, “in the U.S. alone, the collective spending power of people with disabilities is $490 billion.

Seeing models in wheelchairs, with canes or wearing colostomy bags, among other types of physical disabilities, are images that disabled individuals are only now just barely seeing in the fashion industry. In 2017, London-based performing arts school founder Zoe Proctor  and her sister-in-law, Laura Johnson, created Zebedee, the first-ever modeling and acting agency to focus exclusively on talent with disabilities.

Sofía Jirau Makes History As the First-Ever Victoria’s Secret Model With Down Syndrome. (Photo credit: Left: Victoria’s Secret, Right: Sofia Jirau Instagram)

Recently, American lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret introduced its first model with Down’s Syndrome, and the world took note. For one, it was hailed as a big step towards inclusivity and diversity. The Puerto Rican model told Victoria’s Secret “It is a dream come true. I am happy to be able to show everyone that Sofia Jirau is going to shine around the world. I feel confident because fear is not in my vocabulary.”  Jirau modeled for the brand’s latest collection, The Love Cloud.

Ellie Goldstein, a British model with Down syndrome. (Photo credit: Gucci x Vogue Italia)

In 2020, 20-year-old Ellie Goldstein became the first model with a disability to land a Gucci Beauty campaign, and earlier, in 2017, personal care brand Dove featured a blind YouTube star Molly Burke for its campaign.

Winnie Harlow modeling for Vogue Magazine. (Photo credit: Vogue)

Jamaican-Canadian supermodel Winnie Harlow rose to fame in 2014 and has embraced her skin condition, vitiligo, with confidence while walking the runway with grace. To set an example and to inspire children with vitiligo, Harlow-inspired dolls with vitiligo are now available.

As the first black, transgender and physically disabled model to be signed to a major modeling agency, Aaron Rose Philip is making fashion history. (Photo credit: Moschino)

Aaron Rose Philip is the first black, transgender and physically disabled model to be signed to a major modeling agency, Elite Model Management.  The Antiguan-American model was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby and began modeling at age 16 for brands Collina Strada and Marc Jacobs. At Moschino’s spring/summer 2022 runway show during New York Fashion Week, Aaron became the first model to use a wheelchair on a runway show for a major luxury fashion brand.

Nina Marker, the model changing the way we think about Aspergers walking the Versace show, left, and the Fendi show, right. (Photo credit: Vogue)

Also, Danish model Nina Marker, who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, didn’t let it affect her career path as she walked the ramp for brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Chanel, Fendi and Stella McCartney.

Inclusivity and diversity are allegiances that must be committed to in every aspect of the fashion industry, from employees to models to vendors and producers. It can no longer be a “side project.” The good news is that committing to increased inclusivity and diversity will enable long-lasting social change and benefit both the brand and the consumer. At last…the fashion industry is committing to inclusivity and doing right by its consumers.

Be sure to check out UoF’s Plus Size and Gender Inclusive lessons:

Ink Drawing Plus Size Female Figure

 

Drawing Androgynous Men’s and Women’s Figures

 

Plus Size: Statistics & Body Types 

 

Plus Size: Models, Illustrators, Designers and More

 

Plus Size: Social Media Influencers

 

Plus Size: Social Media Influencers 

So tell us, what fashion brands do you want to give a shout to for being inclusive?

 

THE MET EXHIBIT – IN AMERICA: AN ANTHOLOGY OF FASHION

Prabal Gurung’s spring 2020 show poses the question, Who Gets to be American? (Photo Credit: Nylon)

After a global pandemic hiatus, the MET Gala celebration is back! On May 2nd, fashion insiders, celebrities, and street style stars will gather for an exclusive fundraiser that benefits the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Better known as fashion’s Red Carpet.

This year’s MET event once again celebrates American fashion in an exhibit entitled, In America: An Anthology of Fashion“. It is the second and final installation of their two-part series, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, which debuted September 2021. Who will ever forget the image of Kim Kardashian climbing the MET steps in her black fully-covered masked Balenciaga?

HBO’s The Gilded Age. (Photo Credit: Landmark Media)

Those of you who follow MET gala events know that for attendees there is always a ‘dress code’. This year’s code takes inspiration from New York’s Gilded Age (1870 to 1890). The show’s theme and exhibition asks the question “Who gets to be American?” A question posed at Prabal Gurung’s spring/summer 2020 show, and according to Andrew Bolton, Costume Institute’s head curator, the dichotomy of fashion exclusivity vs inclusivity.

(Left to Right) Regina King, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

This year’s MET Gala will be hosted by Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Regina King, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Meanwhile, continuing their roles as MET Gala honorary co-chairs are, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour (who has run the MET Gala since 1995), Council of Fashion Designers of America chairman Tom Ford, and Instagram head, Adam Mosseri.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, Anna Wintour, Timothée Chalamet, Naomi Osaka and Tom Ford attending the 2021 Met Gala. (Photo Credit: Net-A-Porter)

Aside from the celebrity co-chairs, so far, no other stars have confirmed their attendance for the MET Gala. The event’s guest list has always been closely guarded, with attendees generally kept secret until the event itself. Many fashion fans are speculating that the event’s usual attendees, Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and Gigi Hadid will attend fashion’s biggest night. Unfortunately, fashion’s hottest star of the moment, Zendaya, will not be attending the MET Gala for the third year running, due to her busy work schedule.

Zendaya dressed as Cinderella in a light-up Tommy Hilfiger dress at the 2019 Met Gala. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

While celebrities are expected to wear Gilded Age theme looks created by American designers, last year’s September event saw a majority of stars wearing European labels, Balenciaga, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Givenchy and Chanel. What was that about? Where were the Charles James gowns?

The exhibit opens to the public on May 7th and runs until Sept. 5, 2022. Through its curation, it addresses issues of social justice, identity and diversity and is meant to “illustrate the shifting tides of American fashion,” according to the Met’s director Max Hollein.

ABOUT THE EXHIBIT

The Costume Institute’s In America: An Anthology of Fashion is presented in collaboration with The MET’s American Wing. This section of the exhibition will highlight sartorial narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of 13 of the American Wing period rooms and “provides a historical context for Lexicon, in a way,” Bolton told Vogue. “The stories really reflect the evolution of American style, but they also explore the work of individual tailors, dress-makers, and designers,” he says. “What’s exciting for me is that some of the names will be very familiar to students of fashion, like Charles James, Halston, and Oscar de la Renta, but a lot of the other names really have been forgotten, overlooked or relegated into the footnotes of fashion history. So one of the main intentions of the exhibition is to spotlight the talents and contributions of these individuals, and many of them are women.”

According to a press release from the MET, both men’s and women’s fashion dating from the eighteenth century to the present, will be featured in vignettes installed in select period rooms spanning from 1805 to 1915: a Shaker Retiring Room from the 1830s; a nineteenth-century parlor from Richmond, Virginia; a panoramic 1819 mural of Versailles; and a twentieth-century living room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, among others. Viewing fashion in the context of their actual surroundings, rather than in a display line-up, is so much more interesting. Don’t you agree?

Ball gown, Marguery Bolhagen (American, 1920–2021), ca. 1961. (Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

These interiors display a survey of more than two hundred years of American domestic life and tell a variety of stories—from the personal to the political, the stylistic to the cultural, and the aesthetic to the ideological. The exhibition will reflect on these narratives through a series of three-dimensional cinematic “freeze frames” produced in collaboration with notable American film directors. These mise-en-scènes will explore the role of dress in shaping American identity and address the complex and layered histories of the rooms.

A wedding dress by Ann Lowe is on display and will be part of The Costume Institute’s 2022 spring exhibition. (Photo Credit: Sarah Yenesel)

HOW CAN YOU WATCH THE MET GALA COVERAGE?

Yes, we can all watch the MET gala coverage on May 2nd. Vogue is exclusively streaming coverage from the event and red carpet on its website and social media platforms. Red carpet coverage will be hosted by Vanessa Hudgens and La La Anthony.

SO TELL US, WILL YOU BE WATCHING THE MET GALA COVERAGE ON MAY 2nd ?

WHO REALLY INVENTED THE MINI? AND THE Y2K BREAKOUT TREND: THE MICRO MINI

A look from Miu Miu’s Spring 2022. (Photo Credit: iMaxTree)

In August of 2021, the UoF blogged about Y2K fashion making a major comeback, and almost nine months later the trend is still going strong. The breakout Y2K trend is no doubt the micro mini skirt, according to online search engine retailer Lyst. Demand for mini skirts is at a three-year high, with over 900 searches a day for the now-infamous, Miu Miu-sanctioned bottom (reported on March 7, 2022, in Vogue Business).

Left to Right Zendaya, Yoona, and Hunter Schafer, a;; in the Miu Miu mini. (Photo Credit: Elle Singapore)

Miu Miu’s ultra-short, low-rise, pleated skirt has taken the fashion world by storm — with celebrities ranging from Nicole Kidman to Zendaya, all sporting it on their social media pages and magazine covers. The hottest item of the season has barely enough fabric peaking out from under its belted waistband; for those of us who were teens or young adults in the early aughts, the itty-bitty skirt reminds us of Britney Spears’ iconic, sexy schoolgirl outfit in her 1998 Baby One More Time music video.

Britney Spears music video Baby One More Time. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

While the micro mini is not a trend for everyone, some have even called the look trashy, nevertheless, demand for the mini is skyrocketing. The Miu Miu skirt is so popular it even has its own Instagram account, @miumiuset. Miu Miu has been sold out of the coveted item for weeks and has a long list of fashionistas eager to get their hands on the coveted skirt, despite its hefty price tag. Are you ready? Are you sitting down? The skimpiest version of the khaki miniskirt costs $950, with a slightly longer version available for $1,150. Those of us who can calculate garment fabric consumption, that’s about a quarter of a yard or 9 inches worth of fabric!!

Miuccia Prada presented the infamous micro-mini skirt during Miu Miu’s spring 2022 fashion show last October. It was an immediate hit as the skirt was seen on nearly every red carpet. After so much buzz and success of the barely-there skirt, the designer revamped the bold style for her fall 2022 Prada collection.  And of course, plenty of designers followed in her footsteps, creating their own versions, like Balmain and Valentino.

A look from Prada’s Spring 2022. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Now that we know the leggy silhouette will continue to reign supreme for fall, let’s dig into the history of the controversial piece.

HISTORY OF THE MINI

The Mini has always been on of society’s most controversial fashion items. (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

It is common knowledge that the mini skirt craze began in the sixties as an empowering fashion choice during the birth of the woman’s liberation movement. But hold on, let’s discuss.

British-designer Mary Quant has often been credited for ‘inventing’ the miniskirt, that started the mod fashion movement. In a 2014 interview with the New York Daily News, Quant stated: “A miniskirt was a way of rebelling.” The Quant definition of a mini required the bottom edge of the skirt to hit roughly halfway up the thigh and fall no more than four inches below the butt. In today’s terms, a ‘modest mini’.

Designer Mary Quant, pictured with models in 1967. (Photo Credit: PA Prints)

But perhaps the real truth about the birth of the ‘mini’ should be traced back to the 1950s when ‘above the knee’ skirts appeared in couture alongside rock & roll and the youth dance craze. In reality, the most era-defining look of the 1960s, the mini, was a gradual process. According to England’s Victor & Albert Museum, (which held an exhibit on Mary Quant’s fashion movement from April 6, 2019 – Feb. 16, 2020) very early signs of the mini were detected in late-1950s couture. Case in point, Balenciaga’s ‘sack’ dress, which introduced a simple, semi-fitted shape that took the emphasis away from the wearer’s waist and Yves Saint Laurent’s 1959 ‘trapeze’ line for Dior, that promised to show more leg, or even some knee. Paris couturier André Courrèges achieved international publicity for a couture collection featuring short skirts and space-age dresses in April 1964.

Contemporary photographs and surviving dresses show that it wasn’t until 1966 that skirts became really short. Quant herself has acknowledged how the trend for rising hemlines was influenced by an emerging London street-style, and a wider cultural shift towards informality and the break-down of social codes. Away from the rarified world of Parisian couture houses however, it took a young women like Quant and schoolgirls on the streets, who were improvising short skirts.

André Courrèges, 1969. (Photo Credit: AP Photo)

For decades fashion historians have debated who actually invented the miniskirt, André Courrèges or Mary Quant. Although Quant has famously said, “It wasn’t me or Courrèges who invented the miniskirt anyway—it was the girls in the street who did it.”

Quant was an early ambassador of the ‘above the knee’ look, rocking a knee-skimming skirt during a visit to New York as early as 1960. As a designer she enjoyed adapting minimal styles that disrupted traditional social and gender roles – short hemlines suited her simple shift dresses. With a growing presence in the media, Quant played a significant role in the adoption of the miniskirt by contemporary women in England, Europe, and the USA.

Mary Quant At Work Around 1967. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

In 1965 the term ‘miniskirt’ was used to reference above-the-knee hemlines by newspapers and magazines (Quant named her iconic skirt the mini after her favorite car). In 1966, Quant’s contribution to fashion was recognized by the Queen, with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) medal. Quant was photographed at Buckingham Palace wearing one of her own trademark jersey minidresses, which promoted her distinctive look around the world.

Twiggy and Justine De Villeneuve. (Photo Credit: AP Photo)

In the mid-sixties, supermodel Twiggy became the unofficial poster child for the miniskirt look. In 1965, model Jean Shrimpton caused a stir when she wore a miniskirt with no stockings, hat, or gloves to the Melbourne Cup Carnival in Australia. That year the mini also got a boost when Yves Saint Laurent debuted his famous and very short ‘Mondrian’ dresses.

Paco Rabanne introduced his iconic, plastic, chainmail miniskirt in 1966, followed by the throw-away minidress. The mini was officially a high fashion statement.

Goldie Hawn on Laugh In in the Sixties. (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

By the mid to late sixties the television show “Laugh In” debuted American actress Goldie Hawn in her mini, inspiring American girls to copy the actress’s signature mod style. By 1968, former First-Lady Jackie Kennedy cemented the trend with her Valentino short white pleated Valentino dress when she married Aristotle Onassis.

The historic Valentino wedding dress worn by Jackie Onassis in 1968. (Photo Credit: The Corbis)

When the Vietnam War began and political tensions began to rise, mini skirts fell out of fashion and the maxi skirt was the sartorial choice among young women.

Mini-skirts became fashionable again in the mid-seventies when singers like Blondie regularly wore mini skirts on stage. The mini also became a staple for the Punk crowd as it was reinvented in black leather and PVC.

By the early eighties, the mini-skirt was once again reinvented and became known as the rah-rah (or ra-ra) skirt, originating from cheerleading uniforms. The Oxford Dictionary noted this as the first successful miniskirt revival. And in 1982, the rah-rah skirt even appeared on the cover of Time magazine. In 1984, Madonna performed at the MTV Video Music Awards, wowing the crowd in a white tulle minidress resembling a wedding dress as she sang “Like A Virgin”.

Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell in the ’90s. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

In the early nineties miniskirts were all the rage with icons like Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and the Spice Girls keeping the powerful item, hip, trendy and in the public sphere. Once again, the controversial sartorial choice suggested both empowerment & vulnerability, liberation & exploitation, and shifted the dynamics, allowing women to take charge of their own sexualities.

Paris Hilton in the early 2000s wore mini skirts from day to night. (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

In the early aughts, miniskirts made a major comeback thanks to fashion icon Paris Hilton, who raised her hemline even further to “macro mini” length. And let’s not forget Tom Ford, who proclaimed the ‘mini-est’ of micro skirts to be the ‘it’ item of his spring/summer 2003 collection.

A look from Gucci’s spring 2003 collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

Fast-forward to 2022. After living through a global pandemic and social and political unrest around the world, designers are raising hemlines once again to micro-mini status. And just as the miniskirt was provocative back in the ’50s & ’60s when the trend made its way into the wardrobes of fashionable girls everywhere, the micro-mini today offers the same kind of sartorial edge. Although today’s micro version may be harder to pull off, there’s no denying that it is becoming one of the most popular trends of the moment. As the saying goes, “what comes around goes around”.

A street style star in Prada during Milan Fashion Week, Feb. 2022. (Photo Credit: Phil Oh)

So tell us, who do you think invented the mini?