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The black women's influence on modern streetwear; Lets talk about it.

As long as I've been blogging and navigating in the streetwear industry, its a fact that black, (specifically darker skinned) women aren't featured or credited in modern street campaigns. As a black women myself, I've been wrapped up in my own journey and vision and more importantly, representing for black women that I never REALLY payed attention to the erasion so much. But the more i read into it, do my research and also look at my own experience in this industry, I've come to a point where i want to share my own views and also do my part, as small as it may be.

Black women are unsung heroes in pretty much everything when it comes to culture, music, art, politics, you name it. The unsung heroes that I have to highlight in this case within streetwear are a number of black women who have been in mainstream media I pretty much grew up watching and imitating (from what i can remember) from the age of 5.

Women part of the rnb group Xscape, who were the first group I saw wearing extremely baggy jeans, baseball jerseys, bandanas and menswear brands like Hugo Boss. Other groups like SWV and TLC followed suit and pushed the narrative of women in streetwear and masculine silhouettes all while obtaining a strong and powerful female energy. Accessories, and the make up all made up the different looks we see recycled today in every beauty and fashion campaign. These women had their own communities, lingo/slang and styles that we then saw in other black women coming up like Lil Brat who is and always will be the afro-hairstyle queen, Missy Elliot, Janet Jackson and of course, Aaliyah. When naming all these women, it is impossible to not have iconic images pop into your head associated with them. Need I say more? The looks were innovative and ahead of its time. As much as my argument is directed to streetwear, high fashion and luxury fashion have taken from this era of iconic women and their looks. But of course, I cannot highlight these artists without also crediting the amazing minds behind the looks such as stylist Misa Hylton and also designers like Dapper Dan and Karl Kani. The list honestly goes on but as much as these women were in the public eye and creating the culture, current streetwear fails to credit or at-least represent and showcase black women in streetwear today who have grown up looking at these women as an inspiration.

Ultimately, when we talk about silhouettes that are are baggy, boxy, femme but masculine, dripped in chains and gold hoops, followed by damn near AVANT GARDE hairstyles (and baby hairs) to acrylic nails and customised (often graffiti spray painted) clothing and sneakers, lets take a moment to celebrate AND credit these women. I have been for years.

As if the streetwear industry isn't male dominated enough, as a women that is also black, trying to be seen and respected for the culture we created is sadly become a losing game. We are more often sexualised within streetwear if women's streetwear is even considered or in the conversation. There is a huge blur between mens and women's streetwear with a complete 360 turn in the styles and pieces in womens streetwear today. Pinks, mesh, unnecessary fitted pieces and reworked versions of original sneakers populate the women's sections. As well as this, Buzzwords like colorism come to mind. The women we do see in current streetwear campaigns are white girls, mixed asian or lighter skinned black women.. (barely). What really is a slap in the face is the insisting of plastering baby hairs and gold hoops on white models, back combed pony tails, braids or sad attempts of afro's as thick curls. Cringe, cringe and... yes. Cringe. You would think, to save all that trouble, just cast a black girl. But a lot of these trends are "ghetto until proven fashionable"..(by our white counterparts) quote by Melody Trend.

What I also find is the lack of involvement of black women in these cultural conversations. There are a TON of black women fighting and working their backs off within the fashion and sportswear industry. Being one myself, its so exhausting at times to look at things with a conscious mind, making sure to fix any problems that your white colleagues may over look. And to add, a lot of decision making when it comes to campaigns and visuals are being made by the wrong person. If you want a diverse campaign, have a diverse team behind it, WE know how WE should be captured. If that is not possible, question like, "is this culturally correct" or "is this offensive?" makes such a difference and could be the make or breaking point of a successful campaign.

On a more personal note, as a "black-female-streetwear-micro-influence" I have had some frustrating moments myself. Constantly seeing white faces on my feed featured on streetwear-fits pages, having to work twice as hard or obtain a certain quality of content standard and constantly feeling pressured to be clueed up about the "new" fashion or beauty trends that have just been tweaked(stolen) from the black community to fit into a white lens.

What people don't understand is that, way before streetwear was streetwear, this all was just a way of life for us. A natural behaviour in our environments. I grew up in a council flat (that i still live in now, my "hood" has just been gentrified LOL), with it just being me and my mum. A lot of my style has also stemmed from my experiences. One example i can give is when I started to play outside with the other kids in the area. I loved playing sport and running round, cycling, and just being an active kid. My mum would never in a million years allow me to wear pieces in my wardrobe that were kept for special occasions or a bit on pricey side. So I steered towards trainers and sweatpants as my go-to playing gear which i grew to love and feel most comfortable in. As well as my gold name chain, bracelet and tiny rope hoops, it all started to become a uniform for me. I saw myself in other women like Ms Dynamite,  but never at that age did i imagine i would be here valuing those very moments in my childhood and linking them as such an important reason for my image and brand today.

Its good to control the content you see and take in, and I make sure to follow as much black women paving the way within streetwear and celebrate them, because one thing i know is "what you focus on, expands". Im focused on growing this network, making GDS a reliant female streetwear platform and being a positive example, as well as using any opportunity i get to SING and shout about the black women who have inspired me and continue to inspire me and give us the looks and vibes that we can only dream of replicating.

We will continue to be sickeningly good, unfathomably radiant and creative.

Other articles relating to this topic:
Lapp The Brand

To close, I cannot mention the greats without also highlighting the black women that are flying the flag today.

Black female streetwear talent/influencers to check out:
@no_feelings (Deavion Brown)

Follow my instagram for more looks



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