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Abloh and Beyond: What Black Leadership and Legacy Means for Fashion

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Queens and Kings in the fashion-conscious monarchy currently ruling the people are given an important message to convey that the days of non-inclusive rule are gone.

These were the cries heard around the world last week during Fairchild Media Group’s Diversity Forum, in a presentation that paid tribute to tragic Virgil Abloh and his contribution to increasing the visibility of Black designers and creatives in luxury fashion industry. The goal was to ensure that his contribution — as well as the work of other designers who bring new ideas and enthusiasm into the fashion industry doesn’t become the victim of the same kind of erasure that’s caused the majority of Black designer’s names out of the history books of fashion.

Regarding fashion, the panelists from the session entitled “Abloh and Beyond: What Black Leadership and Legacy Means for Fashion” agreed that it’s the fear hindering the industry from fully accepting the diversity it’s promised for the past two years.

“I think what fashion is afraid of, it’s losing control and power,” Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing told. “Sometimes fashion could be described as the monarchy. You have the queen and king, and then, the crowd. However, the reality is that the fashion industry has opened the way to what we refer to as inclusivity and, at this point, it begins to become an entire shift in the way we think about the authority of individuals, and what is the reason why they have these powers, and what does that power will be in the near future.”

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Although Rousteing was in the directorship of Balmain before Abloh’s Louis Vuitton days, the former is still credited for being the champion of the Black contribution to fashion.

“Virgil clearly opened the mentality of fashion in many ways, not only with the idea of color, obviously, but the idea as well of bringing art to fashion and say[ing] that the art world, the art world is not a white world,” the artist declared. “And this, for me, was really important because I think sometimes, decades ago and still today, this world is so associated with one color and I think Virgil made it clear that the art world has no colors.”

While he’s worked at Balmain for the past ten years, Rousteing’s shade was not a topic of discussion at the fashion house, making the fight for inclusion and diversity even more difficult.

“People [only] started to realize that I’m Black since maybe three or four years,” the now prominent on social media pages to the public with his “Wonder Boy” Netflix documentary creative director of the show said. “It’s been 10 years since I’ve been appointed at Balmain, and every time that I was trying to bring the topic of a diversity of my skin color, I didn’t have the chance to.”

Rousteing, the designer for one of the top brands in France, said he was fighting for the right to display a more varied vision, with a diverse cast for campaigns and shows.

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“When I was doing my campaigns, some stylists or let’s say some photographers, they refused some of my propositions because it was not respecting what they call a French luxury house ….It’s really hard in France to say there is racism because the French people will say there is no racism in the country,” said he stated. “I had to fight to explain my background, what I was pushing for.”

Victor Glemaud, chief executive officer and creative director of his namesake brand, is very familiar with the battle. The fight isn’t just for Black artists; the creator says that there is often a battle to establish their work as their name “so we can sell to these department stores, so we can dress these celebrities, so we can be a part of the system.”

“And fashion is very much a system and it is about network, it is about access,” Glemaud declared. “And as an individual who has been in fashion for many years, My brand is very brand new. The public isn’t sure of what I’m talking about and whether they recognize me or don’t know me, they are waiting to see what happens.’”

The world could have witnessed Glemaud’s fashion show for fall 2022 was a show of purely Black models, a concept that he described as an inspiration from the Senegalese movie “Black Girl.”

“Having the opportunity to show this — and I am not the first designer to show an all-Black cast of models — but it was personal,” Glemaud stated.

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The world has changed, and we now live in an environment where Glemaud can be part of an all-black fashion show whereas, just a decade ago, Rousteing claimed agencies did not even have models to recommend when they sought the models. There’s a reason why the pace of progress has been slow, and the credit goes to Black creatives’ contribution is small: erasure played its role play.

This is one of the main reasons Jay Jaxon, once the chief designer of the French clothing house Jean-Louis Scherrer isn’t listed in the chronology of the house’s past within the biographical work “Jean-Louis Scherrer” by Jerome Savignon. It could also be responsible for the lack of acknowledgment of Hylan Booker’s name as one of the first Black fashion designers in Europe who was the designer in the House of Charles Frederick Worth in the late 1960s.

According to Brandice Daniel, the founder and the CEO of Harlem’s Fashion Row, the erasure of fashion is why Ann Lowe’s name will not be remembered by many who remember designers from the past. Lowe is the first African American to become a famous fashion designer, dressing the high-society ladies from the 1920s until the mid-century.

Mainly the fact that, as Daniel noted, “She did Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress. And when reporters asked her, “Who designed the dress? She responded with a color dressmaker ‘].”

“She was unable to benefit from that moment because the Kennedys didn’t grant her the opportunity to use that moment. In America is that they’ve called Black designers dressmakers for a long time to reduce their contribution,” Daniel said. “For so long, the word we use for Black designers has been dressmaker, so many incredible Black designers have been left out of American fashion history.”

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And that’s because she spoke” of “who’s telling our stories.”

“The stories are written by white men and as long as our stories are written by the oppressor, you won’t hear from the people who were oppressed,” Daniel stated.

The reality and the aging-yet-heavily-relied-upon storyline of there not being enough Black designers to hire/work with/highlight/buy from is a narrative Daniel and Harlem’s Fashion Row are actively working against.

“There’s plenty of designers. We have databases of more than 2,000 designers who are color-blind,” the actress said. “So there’s nothing to be worried about in talent. I’d like to reiterate that over and. They are there. They exist. Virgil proved it. He was a talent that was not traditional. I would say that in this field will truly open doors you must consider the talent that isn’t traditional.”

This means looking at portfolios, ideas, and work as evidence of credibility instead of relying solely on which prestigious (read expensive) fashion school brought the talent. In this unsustainable pipeline, there’s still a lack of equality in economics afoot across the globe.

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“I believe that it’s about the way we’re going do to the future Black creatives because we need to change the history of this country, and we need to make sure that we do this correctly. One way to accomplish this is to commit at minimum a 10-year commitment to this endeavor,” Daniel said. “We did not get to this point in two years. Brands have committed to various things that they’ve kept only to 2023. Some programs will run until 2025. I’m strongly encouraging brands to renew their commitments.

“Four years of doing the work and focusing on Black creatives and designers is not enough when we’ve had decades of this group being totally left out,” she added. “One of the things that Virgil did has he opened the door, so one of the things that I’m asking the fashion community to do is open the door.”

However, if you inquire about Rousteing, the door is already open, regardless of whether gatekeepers are ready to acknowledge and accept the fact or not.

The fact that fashion can’t be sustained with a coveted Eurocentric emphasis — aided mainly by the public display of social media, Rousteing stated, “happened three or four years ago” when people realized that fashion isn’t only dictated through magazines. People who buy these magazines are young, represent a new age, and look to break the rules. This isn’t just a matter of living in the last decade.

“When you start to listen to those people, you realize that the world is much bigger than the few kings and queens from fashion that have been there for decades,” said the man. “Fashion is, to put it simply, one thing, but it’s never very avant-garde. It’s always based on the old fashions.”

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Where will the industry take us from now? It’s about focusing on the following opportunities so that the mistakes made in the past aren’t repeated. The accomplishments that are being lauded and celebrated by those who ignored them before do not fade to the side when the excitement of the post-George Floyd era fades.

This means developing the pipeline from starting point and giving youngsters fashion information and opportunities to get access to it, which is something Rousteing is currently implementing at Balmain.

“If you ask me, we should start from scratch and from fashion houses, press, starting to help, not only fashion schools because…those schools are really expensive, which starts to create another kind of topic, which is more politic[al] and trying to understand the condition of Black people in your own country,” he stated. “So it’s time to start the conversation with my president and my government however, this is only the first step in a genuine discussion, in which your race does not determine your pay. If your color doesn’t determine the kind of studies you will be able to do in the future. This is the start of a real discussion.”

Honest conversations will require honesty about what is happening and what they ought to be, a denial of inhomogeneous power, and an openness to recognize the potential wherever it shows.

“There are many, across the globe Black creatives who have the potential, and are able to work with agencies to develop and develop brands that last for a long time, and to work in-house to revive existing brands. This takes patience, commitment, and true collaboration. This isn’t something that can be accomplished in an era or calendar year.” Glemaud said. “It’s about the future, it’s about the new generation and it’s truly about the powers that be, the king and queens, the C-suite, people who control the money, understanding and investing the time and energy.”

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As Rousteing put it, “Sometimes fashion, they like repetition and love to feel secure with what they’ve learned. When you begin to break it this is when fashion becomes fascinating.”

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How to Choose Wedding-Day Fashion for a Queer Couple.

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The standard question started it all: What would my ideal wedding look like? Curtis Cassell, his caterers, and coworkers often asked this question after a long weekend of weddings. Cassell shares his thoughts with Brides: “Then, I realized that we as queer people often ask if they’d wear a suit or dress.” “Our options are literally either black or white,” that is, up until recently.

LGBT+ people are opting for something other than the traditional white or black suit when choosing wedding-day attire. Queera Wang, Cassell’s brand, aims to offer a range of wedding attire beyond conventional options. Cassell says, “When I started working on the label and the first collection, it was clear that the brand did not necessarily land on womenswear or menswear.” “I took bits and pieces from masculine and feminine elements and made a Frankenstein out of them,” Cassell says.

PHOTO BY HOLTZ WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

When you think of wedding attire, what are some things that spring to your mind? Do you feel the need to look sharp and professional, which is why the sleek tux? Do you feel dreamy and ethereal in a long white wedding dress? Cassell’s work is the same. It’s just different from what is expected.

Queera Wang has replaced the traditional tuxedos worn by dapper dandies with deconstructed beige trousers and jackets. Linen is used in place of wool. The classic wedding dress has been bippity-boppity-boop into a garment that looks like an Edwardian. The sleeves of billowing shirts are dramatic with their dramatic puffed sleeves and long, elongated necklines. People are changing, and so is their vision of what they want to wear on their wedding day. He jokes that everyone wants their wedding to look like the Met Gala. Even the choices of colors are not the norm. There’s an earthy beige here and a seductive red elsewhere. You can even choose a deep blue.

The collection is beautiful, but it also speaks to the larger picture. Queer people constantly change the rules of wedding attire, and the options they have for choosing what to wear on their big day are endless. I don’t want to be seen as a ‘genderless brand. Gender-powerful is more accurate. Cassell says, “I love tapping into masculine and female fashions and merging them.” It doesn’t end there. Many of my clients have bodies that don’t fit the rack. It’s not about serving someone’s identity.

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In queer wedding fashion, avant-garde isn’t necessarily the only option. Noa Santos and Ross Matsubara found inspiration in film for their wedding dresses. Matsubara says that Matsubara and Noa Santos wanted their wedding attire to reflect their Hawaiian wedding and personalities. Matsubara states that Noa prefers to be minimalistic, clean, and simple, while I gravitate towards patterns, unique details, and sheen. We didn’t want our suits tied to any particular season or collection. The claims should be timeless.

They took their ideas together to David Hart, a New York menswear designer, to create their perfect looks. They were able to create a dream-like environment in which everything seemed effortless. Matsubara chose a bold, jade green paisley print with a sheen in dark hunter and jade. The suit created the illusion that the colors changed depending on how the light hit it. Santos chose a dark hunter green suit in silk-linen fabric. The accessories were similar: matching Magnani patent leather shoes, extensive Tom Ford bow ties, and vintage gold knots.

It was not just the beautiful final designs that made the couple memorable but also the entire process. Hart was involved in creating everything from choosing fabrics to creating silhouettes, which became a lasting memory. Matsubara says that Hart’s tailors and studio are in Greenpoint. This is an area we rarely visit, so the tuxedo designing process was a fun little adventure for us. We would always go to Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. for happy hour oysters, wine, and after each visit. We would talk about the wedding and remember the incredible journey. It became a very memorable tradition.”

The choice of wedding attire for queer couples comes down to personal preference, just like with other types of weddings. There are endless options and no boundaries, but it is essential to remember that what you wear directly affects your couple’s happiness. Cassell said that she had received emails from people stating that they couldn’t imagine getting married until they saw my clothes. “Those are the most empowering moments.

PHOTO BY HOLTZ WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

Decide on What Matters

One shoe size doesn’t fit all, just like most things. One couple who chooses to be avant-garde doesn’t necessarily mean that another couple who prefers traditional attire is wrong. Your wedding is yours, and your opinion is final. Start by asking yourself basic questions. Do you feel confident going bold? Do you prefer a more classic style? Decide what you value in clothing and how you and your partner will embody that.

Display your personality

The wedding is only one thing. It is essential to showcase your and your partner’s personalities whenever possible. It can be easy to choose something different than the norm. A red suit or a shirt and t-shirt with a billowing collar say enough about your personality. It would help if you also thought about the small details, such as changing the color of your shoes or the bow tie. Perhaps you’d like to wear a unique shirt or adorn your brooch with a stunning pin. It’s all about the details.

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Take into account the formalities of the wedding.

Although you don’t have an obligation to follow these codes at your wedding, they can help you decide on your dress. If you ask them, it might be respectful for your guests to wear black ties. At the very least, it should be in some way. A tuxedo is a dress that can be tailored to your taste.

Make a wedding wardrobe.

Do you need options? Or do you want a drastic wardrobe overhaul? It would help if you made compromises with your partner. You might consider having two wedding looks. You may feel you need a formal ceremony in a sharp tuxedo or dress, but you also want something glamorous and campy for the reception. You can never go wrong with a wardrobe change.

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Red Luxury buys US brand The M Jewelers.

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Red Luxury has taken another risky move. When the market for watches and jewelry is changing quickly, The French company’s goal is to shake up its traditional model by investing in new and directional brands. Thus, the acquisition of the majority stake with US personalized jewelry company The M Jewelers.

Mark Shami founded the M Jewelers in New York’s Diamond District in 2013. It pioneered the introduction of personalized jewelry on Instagram and was an industry leader, with annual revenue of 12 million (approximately EUR11.2 million) in 2021. It is a favorite of many famous people, including Bella Hadid. The brand is expanding and has opened an exclusive store at the number 204 Mulberry Street in New York on the 8th of January in 2022. The brand new, 111 square meters store has black lighting fixtures and an exclusive viewing area that allows customers to customize the jewelry they’ve purchased. Since the store’s opening, there have been fifty or so customers waiting to be allowed into the shop on Saturdays.

Red Luxury aims to double the M Jewelers’ revenues in the next two years and pursue growth online while also expanding the company’s distribution footprint by opening new stores in the USA and overseas, such as with concessions within Europe.

Red Luxury was founded by Romain Benichou and David-Emmanuel Cohen back in 2012. The company has a portfolio of licensing agreements with Zadig & Voltaire, Christian Lacroix, Opex, and Rochas. But more than 70% of its revenue comes from its jewelry brands, including Ginette NY, Pamela Love, Reminiscence, and Maison Montignac, all created, manufactured, and sold across the globe via Red Luxury itself. Based on the growth of these brands and expansion, by 2022, Red Luxury expects to generate sales of EUR40 million and is aiming for EUR100 million in 2027. Red Luxury is an expert in e-commerce, and it anticipates earning 30 percent of its total revenues on the internet.

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Red Luxury is positioning itself as a significant player within the market and is determined to “wake up the sleeping beauties.” As an accelerator for specialist jewelry brands, the company has joined forces with emerging talent and designers to create and promote their brands on an international, multi-channel platform. Benichou Cohen and Benichou Cohen are convinced of a healthy balance in the mix of B2B in addition to B2C operations, with the latter using both digital and physical retail.

A strategy that has paid dividends for the brands the group has purchased. For instance, since being acquired through Red Luxury in 2017, Ginette NY has grown 300 percent. Similar is the case in the case of Pamela Love, whose revenue has grown by 500 percent since it was acquired in the year 2019. Additionally, Red Luxury is preparing to launch the second Pamela Love store in Brooklyn and the eighth Ginette NY store located in Strasbourg, France.

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Dubai Design District welcomes leading Polish designers to the world-class fashion community.

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Dorota Goldpoint is now part of the design hub’s diverse collection of established and emerging fashion talents.

Dubai, UAE: Dubai Design District (d3), an international center for design, art, and innovation, has expanded its international presence of fashion designers by introducing Polish fashion designer Dorota Goldpoint. She has set an office within the community of the. Goldpoint is among the most famous figures in Polish fashion and design globally. This new addition to the d3 community demonstrates the district’s dedication to developing both young and established talent and providing the world’s most influential and diverse design and mixing for the UAE and the region.

A host of local designers and brand designers, d3 has developed an enviable environment and platform for homegrown designers like Michael Cinco and Amato Couture, who have shown their work in Arab Fashion Week and global runways raising their profile to global heights. This addition to the renowned celebrity Polish designer is in line with the district’s goal of bringing new influences and inspirations into the community, further delighting buyers and fashion enthusiasts in the emirate and the wider region.

Commenting on the newest addition to d3, Khadija Al Bastaki, the Executive Director for Dubai Design District (d3), declares: “At d3, we are always looking for ways to bring together creative talents to create a diverse creative community to work together and promote collaboration, innovation, and challenging the norm. Dubai is a melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds, and we at d3 are thrilled to play an integral role in showcasing the diversity and the very best in creative thinking that comes from not only the UAE but also the regionally and internationally.”

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“We are thrilled to welcome Dorota Goldpoint to our family and are looking forward to her showing her distinctive style of fashion and collection. Her talents, enthusiasm, and curiosity make her a perfect choice for our community. She will bring us collections we’re certain will appeal to the public throughout Dubai and the region. Her presence at d3 is an example of our ever-growing and diverse collection of local, regional, and international designers in the fashion world. It aids in establishing Dubai’s place as a leading global capital of creativity.”

Commenting on her recent appearance in d3 Dorota Goldpoint, she says: “The fashion industry in Dubai is truly inspirational and distinctive. As I have seen other designers visit huge numbers to show their collections at Arab Fashion Week, I am convinced that Dubai will continue to set the standard for international fashion. I’ve visited the region numerous times in the past five years, and it’s my privilege to set the base in Dubai Design District. It’s a stunning place with pulsating optimism and creative energy. In my numerous visits to this area, I’ve noticed that it’s popular with locals with a plethora of renowned fashion labels and intimate cafes, restaurants, and art galleries. As one of the very first Polish women to set up a base here in the d3 region, I’m glad to be a part of this wonderful community that shares an environment with famous names and the most prestigious brands, such as Channel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Hugo Boss, and Vogue and local talents from our region and locals. With people with such impressive talent and backgrounds, I am looking to expand my wings and expand my career and reach out to the region.”

Goldpoint’s debut show during Arab Fashion Week was in October of last year. In her debut show, she showed an extraordinary and vibrant collection influenced by culture, with designs inspired by the Polish folk songs and dance group “Mazowsze,” known across the globe. A reflection of her cheerful and optimistic attitude and outlook, she used vibrant colors and floral designs like poppies, roses, and peonies – the flowers and colors that are a part of the Polish landscape. The show was further enhanced with the perfect use of music and the famous Polish model Grazyna Szapolowska stepping out on the runway.

The brand has recently presented for the Fall-Winter 2022/23 collections for women in March and has created cocktail and evening styles. The cocktail designs she created referenced past eras in the classic, vintage style. The designer also showed pieces she thought would appeal to today’s market – dresses that were draped close on the body and with cut-offs that are symmetrical, as well as vintage prints and classic skirts.

Offering collections for a cocktail, evening casual and sportswear, beach wear, and abayas, the foundation of Goldpoint’s brand is luxurious minimalism, minimalist designs, and fashions with gorgeous proportions, made from natural and high-end fabrics like silk. Inspiring her style, she draws inspiration from contemporary Italian fashion and French style; she uses asymmetric cuts, scaled sleeves, and ruffles. Her designs are in line with the principles of sustainable style. Floral prints are featured in her collection every season. She’s a lover of feminine style, and her designs appeal to women of all sizes and ages. She believes that it is possible to stylishly dress any woman.

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Events like Arab Fashion Week, which is organized by d3 in strategic collaboration in conjunction with the Arab Fashion Council, are essential to increasing the district’s reputation as a leading artistic, fashion, and creative center.

The most recent version of Arab Fashion Week in March was the biggest to date, with 28 runway shows featuring fashion designers and models from Italy, USA, France, Russia, Egypt, Palestine, Indonesia, China, Poland, UAE, Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. The diverse selection of shows included famous names like Maram Borhan, Giannina Azar, Ihab Jiryis, Hian Tjen, Hamariff, LuLu Liu, and Michael Cinco, all presenting the world’s first-ever display of couture and ready-to-wear womenswear. Arab Fashion Week will return in October and June this year.

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