2018: a visibility game-changer for black style

December 21, 2018
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At the age of 48, her Highness Naomi Campbell, goddess of catwalks and living forever, has just scored her first ever beauty campaign with beauty brand NARS Cosmetics, to which we say: wait, what?

We’ve already explored the eye-popping firsts that came from Black people in 2018 but this speaks to a shift in visibility that Black people in media have fought for. It may be 20 years too late for a Naomi Campbell brand ambassadorship but 2018 seems to be the perfect year for it to happen as the style and influence within fashion and beauty has shifted to look considerably Blacker.

This year was a long year and the mere thought of how long might detract from the fact that it was a watershed moment for Black visibility, even in the whitest of spaces. Take for instance, fashion. Black style was front and center in a way that went far beyond being unapologetic. It’s as if Black people became less interested in defying the need to apologize for our Blackness and instead just went on with the business of being so Black. Brilliant and Black to be specific because “Every nigga is a star,” a quote newly minted Teen Vogue Editor-In-Chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner had in her profile picture while working her way through the industry, prompting a warning that it would prevent her from getting hired. The poetic justice manifests in the form of that specific incident inspiring her powerful The Cut article that unpacked the reality of being Black in the fashion and beauty industry. That very article landed Peoples Wagner her current post at Teen Vogue.

Another Black woman changing the face of the fashion and beauty industry is make-up genius Pat McGrath. With pigments you can see from space and lip colors that could ruin lives, McGrath, like many Black women who aren’t given their flowers, has been a dark horse in the beauty industry. Pat McGrath Labs just got an influx of $60 million from New York-based company Eurazeo Brands according to Teen Vogue, pooling the value of the company at over $1 billion dollars. “It has always been my dream to create an iconic beauty brand that goes beyond the usual limitations, that lives outside the parameters of what is expected,” McGrath said in a press release. Going beyond limitations and living outside the parameters of what is expected is practically the norm for a Black person in any space, especially one with the gall to be brilliant in an industry as snow-white as fashion.

Kerby Jean-Raymond is an artist and activist who uses his fashion line Pyer Moss to create intricate and elaborate designs entrenched in Black liberation. The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner for 2018 hasn’t strayed from his vision and its accompanying message as his profile and acclaim grew. He has used his designs as canvases for conversation, speaking to issues like police brutality and mental health in the Black community. He also kept his fashion show in the community, presenting his latest line at the Weeksville Community Centre in Crown Heights, which was one of the first free Black communities in the United States in the 1900s, according to our profile on him. Phrases like “See us now” and “Stop Calling 911 On The Culture” were featured big, bold and Black on statement white silks and cotton tees, bringing a pertinent societal conversation to the catwalks of New York Fashion Week. It was commentary on Black visibility through Black visibility — a reminder to those who didn’t know that Jean-Raymond was true to this, not new to this.

Listen. Naomi BEEN Campbell. Peoples Wagner, McGrath and Jean-Raymond didn’t just end up here either. Their genius shone through long before Blackness became en Vogue enough for Black artistry to be the main event instead of some diversity-driven feature. Black influence on style has been apparent for as long as style has been recorded (we remember Saartjie Baartman’s influence on those big-booty bustle skirts of the Victorian era) but we are now in a place where Black creatives are finally in the driving seat. Our influence comes directly from us, meaning our crafts carry our stories, unfiltered for white comfort and consumption. The times have changed but the Blackness has remained inspired by and rooted in the cause that allows it to be that much more visible with no signs of stopping.