Image via Brooklyn Museum
This week offered up some really great pieces that give us insight into film, history, business and more. First up, my fashion peer, whose amazing research on fashion and slavery, Jonathan Michael Square, published an interview with the costume designer for the WGN series “Underground.” (Fun fact: the costume designer also worked with Jurnee Smollett for the film Eve’s Bayou). The new exhibition “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965-85” opened this week at Brooklyn Museum and I hate that I won’t be able to see it. However, the piece in The New York Times listed below discusses the importance of the exhibition and lists several black women artists that you should take the time to look up and appreciate. Two fashion essays appear here that offer great insight into the industry. The Atlantic‘s piece on why so many stores are closing, are filing for bankruptcy and downsizing lists three reasons why. Refinery29 published an excellent piece on the differences between appointing a celebrity designer to head a brand and a person who has worked their way up the fashion ladder from student, intern, apprentice, etc. Last, but certainly not least, is a journalistic drag that I have sent to every contact in my phone this week. Ijeoma Olua interviews that white woman that wants to be black so bad (I refuse to say her name). Disclaimer: the woman’s quotes will make you tired. However, Olua’s narration throughout the piece is what’s important as she shares what’s going on in her head as she interacts with this woman – thoughts that we’ve all had as this whole charade has unfolded.
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In the first season, the domestic slaves’ palette matched the interior of the big house. “It’s not always about being 100 percent historically accurate,” says Wagner. “As a costume designer, there are times that I take licenses.” She worked with the set designer and had the domestic slaves’ liveries made from the same silk as the big house’s wallpaper. The idea was that Suzanna, the mistress of the Macon Plantation, would want the domestic slaves to blend into the house’s decor as an arrogant display of her power and wealth. “In my research for the show, I never encountered anyone doing this, though it is certainly plausible. It was an intervention on my part,” she explains.
And it leads us to at least one broad conclusion: that the African-American contribution to feminism was, and is, profound. Simply to say so — to make an abstract, triumphalist claim — is easy, but inadequate. It fails to take the measure of lived history. The curators of “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85” do better than that just by doing their homework. They let counternarrative contradictions and confused emotions stand. The only change I would make, apart from adding more artists, would be to tweak its title: I’d edit it down to its opening phrase and put that in the present tense.
The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Olua Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black
I am beginning to wonder if it isn’t blackness that Dolezal doesn’t understand, but whiteness.
The old guard believes that fashion, as an art form, should be led by visionaries with big personalities and even bigger reputations. The new guard believes that fashion, as a business, should be led by creatives with an understanding of what modern customers want from their clothes. This tension between old versus new, number ones versus number twos, gets at the heart of the industry’s most fundamental question: Is fashion mostly art? Or is it mostly a business?