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BET Awards Celebrate Black Designers, Stir Calls for Fashion Change – WWD

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There wasn’t an actual red carpet, but Sunday’s virtual BET Awards was an impressive showcase of Black style nonetheless, starting with host Amanda Seales, representing all Black-designed clothing, jewelry, hair-care and makeup brands, including a custom gown by Los Angeles-based rising fashion star Claude Kameni.

“We wanted to tell a story of Black creativity, pay homage to iconic moments of Black style, and amplify the work of these Black fashion innovators,” said Seales.

“The BETs are our Oscars, our Grammys, our everything, where we are able to show ourselves and have fun and show off,” said her stylist Bryon Javar of the 13 looks, using pieces from Pyer Moss, Romeo Hunte, Sergio Hudson, Sister Love, Brother Vellies, Grayscale, Bishme Cromartie, Dapper Dan-Gucci and more, and paying homage to iconic moments in Black style history, from Hilary Banks’ Nineties power wardrobe in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to Janet Jackson’s fierce “Rhythm Nation” outfit. “It made sense for this moment to celebrate Black everything,” Javar said.

Seales’ regal, off-shoulder, high-slit gown was custom made by Kameni, whose Lavie by CK men’s and women’s label incorporates West African textile designs into body-enhancing gowns, sundresses, jumpsuits, blazers, shirting and soon-to-be-released swimwear. The look was a nod to the 1988 film “Coming to America.” And in a full-circle moment, Kameni will have clothing in the sequel “Coming 2 America,” due out Dec. 18, with costume direction by Ruth E. Carter.

“I really hope, as other awards shows start to come back, we will see more Black designers represented — not just when it’s convenient,” said the self-financed Kameni, 26, last week at her Hollywood home office, adding that she hopes to show her collection in New York in September, and one day sell at Nordstrom.

Alicia Keys performed in a sleek black coat, bra top and jewelry sourced from the Slauson Swap Meet, the legendary South Central L.A. style and shopping center. “It’s a look of strength and mourning with a nod to Angela Davis,” said her stylist Jason Bolden.

And sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey rocked custom sexy-sporty black vinyl and white utility looks by TLZ L’Femme, styled by Zerina Akers, who also promoted the small, experimental Black-designed L.A. label on her  All Black Everything list “to celebrate companies that might not have access to certain markets or get the visibility their products deserve.” The list was shared on her client Beyoncé’s web site on Juneteenth.

Besides serving up Hollywood’s first mega-fashion moments since the pandemic, the 20th annual BET Awards were an opportunity to reflect on what could be for inclusion in fashion and celebrity dressing if Black designers are considered as a norm, not just for the moment.

A custom design by LaVie by CK.

A custom design by Lavie by CK for Amanda Seales. 
Courtesy Photo

In the wake of the racial equality movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd, several initiatives have recently launched to advocate for more Black representation in fashion and support Black fashion professionals the Black in Fashion Council spearheaded by Teen Vogue editor Lindsay Peoples Wagner and p.r. specialist Sandrine Charles, with more than 400 members; the Black Fashion and Beauty Collective for glam squads started by stylist-designer Jason Rembert and hair stylist Lacy Redway; the Kelly Initiative petitioning the Council of Fashion Designers of America to hold the industry accountable; the 15 Percent Pledge from Brother Vellies designer Aurora James asking retailers to buy more Black brands, and Akers’ All Black Everything list.

But much of the disparity comes down to economics. (BET founder Robert Johnson, for one, recently made the case for the U.S. government to pay $14 trillion in reparations for slavery.)

Without the same access to capital, Black designers have difficulty establishing and maintaining their own brands, garnering attention from legacy media titles (including WWD), and competing in the high-stakes red carpet game, which is typically dominated by luxury brands with the money to grease the wheels with payouts for managers, stylists and celebrities themselves.

“It is about investing in independent Black brands and designers. And it’s not just incumbent on Black investors. It’s incumbent on those who invest in fashion period,” said New York designer B Michael, who in 2019 became the first Black designer to dress an Oscar winner — Cicely Tyson — a fashion milestone that wasn’t covered by the mainstream fashion press.

Cicely Tyson91st Annual Academy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

Cicely Tyson and designer B Michael at the 91st Annual Academy Awards in 2019. 
David Fisher/Shutterstock

Even when Black designers do dress celebrities for the red carpet, some say their accomplishments are overlooked.

“I designed at least four or five Oscars gowns for Samuel L. Jackson’s wife, LaTanya Richardson, and she said my name on the red carpet, but I never got the print,” said Los Angeles designer Angela Dean, who has been working since the Eighties, including a stint at Trashy Lingerie, where she created a cone bra for Madonna that preceded Jean Paul Gaultier’s but has not gotten the same recognition. In 2019, Dean cofounded the Black Design Collective to bring attention to bygone talents such as Ann Lowe, who created Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress, and create opportunities for new talent.

On the red carpet, the rise of the celebrity stylist in the 2000s has been a blessing and a curse for inclusion. “When we started out, designers would dress stars, and make millions of dollars from the exposure,” said Dean. “Then it got to where brands started paying [stars], and paying the stylist to get the stars, and I wasn’t in that grid…Stylists were making $6,000 a day, they became bigger than the designers.”

“Stylists are drawn by the companies that have the economic power to attract them…the same companies that have the money to hire social media influencers,” said Michael, whose custom design house is in the process of developing a new ready-to-wear collection. “You have to have Black businesses that are successful to really create change.”

But for younger Black designers, social-media savvy stylists have been a gateway to success outside the fashion system.

“She found me by my going viral,” Kameni said of stylist Karla Welch discovering Lavie by CK via Instagram, and reaching out for a custom dress for Tracee Ellis Ross to wear while hosting the 2018 AMAs. The style is still the brand’s best-seller. (Welch did not respond to a request for comment about the label.)

Host Tracee Ellis Ross speaks at the American Music Awards, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles2018 American Music Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 09 Oct 2018

Tracee Ellis Ross wearing Lavie by CK at the American Music Awards in 2018. 
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

“You don’t have to depend on print and advertising if you have Instagram and dress JLo, but the struggle is still there. We may get the red carpet, but we don’t get the stores or the backing. And we don’t get respect from the industry,” said L.A. designer Sergio Hudson, who had his first show in New York in February, and has dressed Jennifer Lopez, Michelle Obama, Amy Poehler and more in his sleek, modern designs. “I’m an American sportswear designer going for the same client Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta are going for, but when you enter that genre, there is a door closed.”

Some Black creatives are bristling at the sudden industry and media attention — often showered on the same group of people. “It feels very token. The CFDA has their picks — this is the cool designer, this is the cool organization,” said Hudson. “I’m tired of the popularity contest in fashion. It’s old and dried up.”

Amy Poehler arrives for the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, USA, 05 January 2020.Arrivals - 77th Golden Globe Awards, Beverly Hills, USA - 05 Jan 2020

Amy Poehler in Sergio Hudson at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards. 
NINA PROMMER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“I have put clients in a lot of things by Black designers, but it’s never been deemed important,” echoed Bolden, who works with Yara Shahidi, Ava DuVernay and Amandla Stenberg, among others, adding that as a Black stylist, he has not gotten the same opportunities either: “I have had managers and p.r.’s say to me, ‘I thought you only styled Black people.’ My name would never drop down when they were looking for someone for Cate Blanchett,” he said. “It’s not just our problem.”

Law Roach agreed, urging his white stylist counterparts to step up to hire and nurture Black assistants, and speak out beyond hashtags about how they are going to make the fashion industry more equitable. But he also acknowledged he has been “part of the problem.”

“I have made it part of my career, and gained some recognition with Zendaya, to find and help elevate smaller brands, most recently with Christopher Esber and Peter Do,” said Roach, who was part of the high-profile, two-season Tommy x Zendaya collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger. “In hindsight what I’m ashamed of, and heartbroken about is that I didn’t focus that energy toward African-American designers. That was me not paying attention, and not working as hard at shining a light on businesses that look like me.”

Now, in true Hollywood form, the “America’s Top Model” and “Legendary” judge wants to turn shining a light on Black brands into a TV show. “I’m not busy right now!” said Roach.

Amazon, Netflix, are you listening?

Law Roach and ZendayaCostume Institute Benefit celebrating the opening of Camp: Notes on Fashion, Arrivals, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA - 06 May 2019

Law Roach and Zendaya in Tommy Hilfiger at the Met’s Costume Institute benefit celebrating the opening of “Camp: Notes on Fashion” in 2019. 
David Fisher/Shutterstock

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Fashion

Why and whatever for? 3 ‘ugly’ fashion items the runways seem to love

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Buying “ugly” clothes and actually wearing them, rather than gifting them to our worst enemies: unthinkable?

No, this is a reality. It plays on changing tastes over the last few seasons by bringing back the items which have been said to “ruined our childhoods, even those of our parents”.

All you need to do is stroll through the streets to see the trend. From bicycle shorts to “dad shoes”, here’s a look at the fashion items igniting a debate among the fashion crowd. – AFP Relaxnews

Biker shorts

Kim Kardashian strikes again. The social media star appeared twice during 2018 wearing these – despite their disappearance from public view since the 1980s and 90s – and the fashion world went crazy.

Street style, runways, major brands: bike shorts have been everywhere for over a year, a puzzle for those who had attempted to forget they ever existed.

Read more: Fashion in pictures: The intersection of streetwear and luxury

Love them or hate them, it really depends on the individual. The argument against biker shorts though, is that the clothing should really be left to their original function: outfitting cyclists.

Dad shoes

Women have been opting for flat, comfortable sneakers over stilettos without hesitation for several years now. Their sensational return to grace shows no sign of weakening – the trend is very much on the opposite trajectory.

The problem is that between two pairs of Stan Smiths, Air Jordan Ones or Newport Classics, chunky “dad shoes” have reared their head. Characterised by their outsized soles, they are in keeping with the “heavy” trend of the moment.

Read more: Mules, sandals or flip flops? What are the choice footwear for the current season?

Today, nearly all the fashion brands offer a version and they sell like hotcakes, beginning with Balenciaga’s “Triple S” version priced at close to a thousand dollars.

We constantly ask ourselves how best to wear them. The question some people are asking though: why wear them?

While unisex fashion is definitely taking off, bringing pieces not lacking in style back into view (like classic men’s shirts, which should immediately be incorporated into our closets), dad shoes remain a point of contention.

Sleeveless down jackets and coats

Associated with sportswear for the past several years, the sleeveless “puffer” jacket has made occasional incursions into the fashion universe, though without much success.

While we are all deeply familiar with the ubiquitous versions found in fast-fashion stores, those that dislike the trend have been wearing them underneath their coats, well hidden from the eyes of others.

Comfortably warm, yes, but never to the detriment of style. Except that in recent seasons, sleeveless padded jackets and coats have made it to the runways.

Read more: Should you include tie-dyes into your everyday wardrobe again?

The biggest fashion houses have chosen to reinterpret and give them new life. Longchamp tried to make them as elegant as possible in a sort of cropped version in burnout velvet: admittedly rather tempting.

But do they work? Debatable. One must remember that we’re actually talking about puffy down jackets without sleeves. Without sleeves.

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Peaceful demonstration held at The Fashion Mall at Keystone

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INDIANAPOLIS — A peaceful demonstration was held Saturday at The Fashion Mall at Keystone.

Demonstrators wanted to call attention to ongoing issues of police brutality and what some are saying are unsafe conditions for those working in retails stores during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 30 people with The We Coalition through the Serving Up Justice initiative took part in a silent sit-in at the mall in solidarity with employees who were walking out of work.

You can read the statement sent to RTV6 from The We Coalition on the demonstration below:

On July 11, 2020 from 12:00pm-1:00pm at the Keystone Fashion Mall, The We Coalition, through our Serving Up Justice initiative, will be conducting a peaceful, silent sit-in in solidarity with a mall-wide employee walk-out. Our demonstration intends to shed light on the ongoing issues of police brutality and the unsafe working conditions experienced by service and retail workers during a global pandemic.

Racial injustice is deeply systemic, while we work in solidarity against police brutality it is important to acknowledge that there is racism present at every level of every societal and economic system.

COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting communities of color and the working poor, while this country’s administration is strong-arming state and local governments to reopen their economies. According to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll, nearly 1/3 of Black Americans know someone who has died of Coronavirus. It is too easy for some people to pretend that there is nothing problematic about going to a mall, or going out to eat, or getting a haircut – pretending that everything is normal while the American death toll approaches 140,000.

As the financial provisions from the CARES Act (intended to keep American people and business afloat) fall away, workers are forced into scenarios where they have to choose between risking their health or their financial security. Employers are asking their employees to shoulder the burden of keeping businesses afloat instead of demanding that the government protect its people. This is absolutely unacceptable in the nation with the largest GDP in the world.

We intend to conduct these demonstrations frequently and in different areas around the City of Indianapolis and the surrounding metropolitan area for the foreseeable future or until change happens.

Extra security from the mall was present during the demonstration, but they allowed the demonstration to happen without interruptions, the group tells RTV6.

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Candace Marie Stewart talks her career, diversity in fashion

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  • Candace Marie Stewart is one of fashion’s most desired social media consultants. 
  • After receiving a BA in finance from the University of Arkansas, she went on to obtain an MBA in marketing and finance from Seton Hall University and work at, among others, JPMorgan and Prada.
  • In 2020, Stewart founded Black in Corporate, an organization that seeks to champion Black individuals who work in corporate spaces
  • In an interview with Business Insider, she spoke about her career transitions, diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry, and what inspires her to create top-notch social campaigns. 
  • This is part of Business Insider’s “The Style Series,” highlighting fashion entrepreneurs and businesses across the globe.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

If Candace Marie Stewart’s life story proves anything, it’s that finance is the perfect background to have in fashion — after all, even fashion is a business.

She was tapped last year to become the head of Social US at Prada and her LinkedIn bio identifies her as working there, but she told Business Insider that she currently works as a social media consultant in the luxury fashion industry. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design — teaching its first graduate-level social media course — and she’s the founder of Black In Corporate, an organization that seeks to champion Black professionals working in corporate America. 

But before trying her hand at all fashion had to offer, she obtained a BA in finance from the University of Central Arkansas and an MBA in marketing and finance from Seton Hall University

Over about a decade afterward, she worked in PR at Alexander Wang, as a manager at JP Morgan Chase, freelance at Lucky Magazine, a market editor at Essence, and in social media at Refinery29, before becoming the senior social media and influencer manager at the late Barneys New York.

In an interview with Business Insider, Stewart talked about her rise to the top of the social media ladder, and how she and other Black professionals in fashion — such as those who created the Black in Fashion Council — are advocating for the equity of Black people, both in fashion and beyond. 

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