Beauty,  Culture,  Fashion

Black Culture’s Influence on Fashion Today

By Alyssa Cimino | UNSW FABSOC

If I had to describe 2020 in one word, it would probably be extraordinary. Fortunately, in Sydney, we’re now able to return to our usual routines – just with lots of hand sanitiser, masks and social distancing! However, for the time that we were all staying at home, it really did feel like the world was put on pause. Whilst being stuck at home brought its own struggles, lockdown gave everyone, including myself, the time we needed to reflect on ourselves and the world we live in.

In light of the Black Lives Matter and Justice for George Floyd movements, it was clear that change was more important now than it ever had been. Speaking with the rest of the FABSOC Publications Team in our fortnightly team meetings, we all shared deep devastation regarding the racial injustice that the world had witnessed. While we don’t hold the power to create social change overnight, we realised that using our platform to acknowledge the way black and Indigenous Australian culture influences fashion and beauty today was essential in promoting change and upholding our core values.

Self- Expression, Creativity, Inclusivity, Self- Expression • Creativity • Inclusivity

Fashion Trends with Black Culture Origins

Designers draw inspiration from everywhere to deliver the fresh styles and looks that you see on the runway and in stores. Although fashion may seem superficial on the surface, it truly is an expression of social and cultural realities that shape individuals. Today, fashion trends influenced by black culture are ubiquitous and embraced by people of all cultures, races and backgrounds.

STREETWEAR

With the likes of Kanye West and Virgil Abloh bringing relaxed styles to the forefront of luxury fashion, streetwear has become one of the most hyped commodities in fashion right now. From monogram prints (a.k.a. logomania) to sneaker culture, streetwear is a trend that many designers have chosen to embrace with the rise of high profile collaborations such as Dior and Nike unveiling the Air Dior Capsule Collection.

Streetwear emerged in 1980s America through the hip-hop scene. Despite monogramming being a hallmark of Louis Vuitton, Dapper Dan is credited with being the founder of the logomania trend, running his own clothing boutique where he screen-printed designer brands onto clothing.

In the same era, trainers and sneakers became staples for urban black youth resulting from the increasing popularity of basketball. By the end of the 1990s, this trend had a global reach that continues to permeate society.

HOOP EARRINGS

Hoop earrings are a classic jewellery piece that are probably found in everyone’s jewellery collection. Although hoop earrings come in all different shapes, sizes and colours today, they were originally constructed from bronze, gold or silver as they originated from 4th Century Africa.

Hoops have also had a significant role in uplifting black culture as they were worn by Civil Rights Activist Josephine Baker and became a day-to-day accessory for women of colour during the Black Power Movement in 1960s America.

NAILS

Like our skincare routines and weekly sheet masks, acrylic nails and nail art can also be found in many of our own self-care routines. Creative nails (both long and short!) have been featured on runways, in editorials and all over social media. What a lot of people aren’t aware of is the way in which women of colour have been the driving force behind nail designs and art.

Track and field athlete Florence Griffith Joyner became known for being the fastest woman of all time and doing it in style with her long acrylic nails. In the 1990s, acrylic nails were also worn by black artists such as Lil Kim whose famous ‘money manicure’ nail set is now permanently featured at The Museum of Modern Art. 

black-owned fashion brands

It is also important to recognise that fashion wouldn’t be where it is today without labels that are owned by people of colour and Indigenous Australians. As such, we’ve curated a non-exhaustive list of black-owned fashion brands that have impacted the fashion industry by drawing on inspiration from their own cultural experiences and style.

Kirrikin are an Australian resortwear brand owned by Indigenous Australian, Amanda Healy. At the heart of Kirrikin is their design philosophy which revolves around identity through exploring Aboriginal people, traditions and their land.  Working with a team of talented Indigenous Australian artists, Kirrikin showcases their artworks on clothing and accessories for both men and women.

Founded by woman of colour Aziza Nicole, Aziza Handcrafted is a gender neutral jewellery line characterised by bold, yet minimalistic statement pieces inspired by black culture and Egyptian royalty. All jewellery pieces are also handmade and created with sustainability in mind. 

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Witnessing firsthand the impact of culture and travel on how individuals express themselves and relate to each other, Nana Boateng Osei founded Bohten Eyewear to represent contrasting identities, shifting cultural paradigms and challenging the status quo.

Bohten Eyewear creates high quality, stylish eyewear for all genders using frames sourced from sustainable material in Africa. Within the next five years, they also hope to develop a sustainable blueprint that incorporates renewable energy, allowing Bohten to manufacture all eyewear in Ghana, Africa.

Ultimately, uplifting black culture goes beyond appreciating black cultural influences embedded within the fashion and beauty industry. We can continue supporting people of colour in our daily lives by amplifying their voices on all platforms and in all industries. Supporting black bloggers, content creators and social media influencers is essential to ensure that their own voices are heard.

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