Black Queens Catwalk on Glass Ceilings
By Eboni Lacey
Two things I must get off my chest.
One, at my core, I’m an extreme feminist that knew nothing about fashion until only four years ago. Two, I never, ever thought feminism and fashion could ever find a place together in this world.
But, things take an intense turn when a feminist writer decides to cover fashion week.
My decision to cover fashion week stemmed from my growing partnership with Style Stalkers, who has quickly given me a crash course in all that is the glam life.
I’ve been to Phoenix Fashion Week for quite a few years now as it was my very first real introduction into the fashion world. I have even worked for the organization for two years and last year I showcased TIOS at Community Night, but until now I’ve never actually written about my experiences of the show. This is mainly because I really never thought a story talking about the giltz and glam behind fashion would work well behind the loud voice of an intersectional feminist.
Truth is, I believe that the same beauty standards we gawk over in the fashion industry are the same ones I am trying to rid our society of: a member’s-only club of super skinny white women wearing tons of makeup in overpriced attire most ordinary people would never even wear.
But, ladies and gents, let me tell you, that fashion today is just not that definition anymore. Every single day, we see brands that have redefined the entire industry by giving us something a real feminist would give a standing O to.
Addition Elle came through with the sexiest high-fashion curve models at NYFW such as Ashley Graham and Jordyn Woods. Louis Vuitton closed Paris Fashion Week and made history by selecting the first black model, Janaye Furman, to ever open for them since the fashion house was founded 163 years ago. And Phoenix Fashion Week, right here in the valley, gave us black girl magic each night of the show by selecting three powerhouse clothing brands all founded by young black women.
Go head Phoenix Fashion Week!!!
I see you fighting the patriarchy and catwalking all at the same time!
One of the first brands I saw on Thursday night was Shalaja Swimwear. Now, we’ve seen many heavy-hitting swimwear brands grace PHXFW’s stage such as Dolcessa Swimwear and Charmosa Swimwear, both who have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and also both founded by women of color; Charmosa by Brazilian designer Neide Hall and Dolcessa by Bulgaria Designer Katya Leoncio.
But Shalaja Swimwear, founded by African-American designer Shaquoya Jackson, is definitely creating its own lane as the new brand, founded in 2011, has already been featured in GQ and Kontrol Magazine.
I see an amazing recipe PHXFW keeps cooking for us. Take young women of color with amazing swimwear using patterns and designs influenced by their ethnicities, showcase them on the runway with a dash of wow and watch history continue to be made over and over again.
And that’s just Thursday night.
On Friday, I was mesmerized by Ennye Collection, a clothing brand featuring amazing one-of-a-kind tribal prints and urban-chicness with beautifully constructed garments. From their bold colored dresses to their beautiful models rocking afros and headscarves, it truly was a visual cultural masterpiece, something African ancestors would be so proud of. I was overjoyed to see two beautiful brown girls being the founders of this incredible brand.
Saturday was pretty shocking for me. I knew that I would see some designers again such as Yas Couture and Rocky Gathercole. Both great designers, yes, but that wasn’t the wow moment for me. Instead it was the brand Taussy from Maputo, Mozambique with gowns made of breathtaking material I’ve literally never laid eyes on before. Each piece was more jaw-dropping than the one before it.
I immediately googled the brand and discovered that it was founded by a gorgeous 24-year old African girl who is a candidate architecture and Mozambican stylist. Also, a fun fact is that the brand often uses peacocks as a major source of inspiration because in Swahili, one of the common languages of Mozambique, peacock means Taussy.
(Bet you didn’t know you were getting a cultural lesson today huh? )
An Incredible Discovery
All the brands were very incredible and I did peep that the Emerging Designer winner of Saturday night was ACONAV, a Navajo inspired brand. How fitting that ACONAV received the award just two days before Indigenous People’s Day (what feminists define Columbus Day to bring true respect and appreciation to the sacred Navajo land that Christopher Columbus, well, stole. – just saying. )
To my fellow feminists and everyone else reading this blog, instead of us bashing the fashion industry (I mean unless something deserves appropriate bashing because there is still SO much work to do), let’s also acknowledge that fashion can create a new lane of identity by visually representing different bodies, different cultures and different ethnicities on the runway.
And I must say Phoenix Fashion Week did that so ridiculously well this year.
Final Thoughts Of PHXHW's Show
Many people have made comments about Phoenix Fashion Week’s show being a “repeat” show as the organization does tend to use some of the same trends and designers over again. And I get it, people like to be wowed every year. I’ve got two things to say to these people.
One, sometimes you have to find the story, as any journalist would tell you. My story wasn’t about the established brands nor the celebs seen in their apparel. My story was seeing beautiful black queens running international brands, changing history and catwalking on glass ceilings. As author and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal) received the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award for Women in Entertainment, she defined a term called “breaking the glass ceiling that exists in the face of being a woman and being black in this very male, very white town.”
And sadly, fashion is no different. I’m happy to see PHXFW provide an opportunity for a glass ceiling to be broken with a classy catwalk and a high stiletto. Thank you for creating a platform.
Second, I want to say that if you want to see a change sometimes you have to BE the change, which is why I have officially applied for the 2018 Emerging Designer Bootcamp. If things firm up and I am selected, I promise to purchase a front row seat for Beaky Bartkowski of Phoenix New Times, only because I live for a good critique. Granted TIOS is a simple “t-shirt” line but that’s never stopped us from breaking our own ceilings nor giving the man (and the people) something to talk about. And to quote yet another black woman, Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) I’ve got two words:
Stay tuned babes.