Photo Courtesy of Pexels
The use of blackface in America dates back to the Jim Crow era. White performers of the South blackened their faces and mocked Black people by portraying negative stereotypes. These minstrel shows received a great deal of attention from Americans and perpetuated superiority among White people. Unfortunately, blackface is prevalent and today’s society. Blackface has even reached the fashion industry. This repulsive trend has influenced fashion collections as well as a women’s clothing brand in Brazil, to name
American costume designer, Patricia Field used blackface in her showing at New York Fashion Week in September. A particular dress from her collection was covered in cartoons, including an illustration of a blackface character. This is not the first time a designer attempted to be ‘edgy’ in style and ended up offending People of Color, whether as a means of cultural appropriation, or in this case: Blackface. There is nothing edgy about the fashion industry including exploitative components to their designs. Following the show, Field was bombard by comments on Twitter on her disaster of a collection. In a defensive tweet in reply to another Twitter user, she claimed, “Cartoon faces of many colors. Relax!!” in reference to her design. After speaking with the artist Young Paris however, she was convinced to take the tweet down. This is one step in the right direction; nevertheless, her show at NYFW portrayed nothing but the despicableness that is white supremacist ideas.
Photo Courtesy of Teen Vogue
A similar event occurred in Brazil, a historically racist nation. The women’s fashion brand, Maria Filó, was the target of outrage when a customer discovered a recurring print of a Black slave woman serving a white slaveowner on multiple pieces in their stores across the country. The Black population of Brazil has been the victim of racism since the colonial era of the 16th century. Although the brand made the decision to remove the print from all stores in Brazil, this does not resolve the dilemma of the racism they have provoked through their clothing and of other designers throughout the world.
How could clothing articles depicting slavery ever be sold in stores? The same reason as to why Patricia Field was able to show a garment illustrated with blackface in her runway collection. The underlying issue of racism is prevalent in fashion and must be addressed by the industry. Designers must stop exploiting People of Color in their collections and instead innovate originally as a creative should in any way.
Photo Courtesy of Black Women of Brazil <- Click for original article.
People of Color are constantly comprised of their right to go about their days without the perpetuating racism from bigots. It does not help us that blackface and other racist aspects are also included in designer collections in the fashion industry. Fashion is supposed to be a form of expression for everyone. The only time People of Color are represented in this industry should not be when they are being ridiculed. We should not have to defend and explain our self-worth to others. We deserve positive representation.
Written By Issra Said