What do you do when you can’t see yourself represented? Create your own space of course. Black Girls In Fashion, a growing digital media group and community, is here to highlight black women in the UK and beyond. Found by Deborah Tonet in 2018, Black Girls in Fashion offering business mode and reporting, content creation, community events and brand partnerships. This is a convenience store to raise and create a platform for black women who work in the industry and connect young creatives with their industry colleagues.
Now, more than ever, industries and brands are held accountable for their commitment to anti-racism and diversity, and the fashion industry is no exception. Being Black in modes is not easy and lack of diversity at London Fashion Week and the fashion industry in general is not new. While there have been some historic changes and successes such as Edward Enninful being the first black person to be editor in chief British Vogue, who can forget the haunting image English Vogue editorial class in 2017 and don’t even have Black’s face? There are still many ways to go and Black Girls In Fashion is here to focus and highlight the work and talent that is often overlooked by black women. Bustle met with Tonet to find out more about the birth of Black Girls In Fashion, her trip to the industry, and what was on the media platform dedicated to celebrating black women hard.
How did you first enter the fashion industry?
2021 will mark my first decade working in the fashion field. [I started] out of my career the old-fashioned way through internships, gaining experience and building good relationships with brands. I switched from making jewelry at Erickson Beamon’s studio, working in the Somerset House basement to Fyodor Golan, packing my bags to New York to work with Zana Bayne, to get a job as a wholesale production coordinator for Erdem. I must say that on many occasions, this girl from Rayners Lane estate in North West London pinched herself with disbelief at how far my hard work and persistence had taken me. Not bad for a small-town black girl who lives on the outskirts of Greater London.
What made you want to start Black Girls in Fashion? And when does it all begin?
Fashion Week is approaching. Buzz has already appeared on social media about a new potential designer [with] the mode editor posts their initial invitation and my WhatsApp appears with friends asking what program I will propose. When I scrolled through the street style photos of the previous fashion week, it occurred to me that no black woman had been captured. This prompted me to look for pictures of black girls on Google during Fashion Week and to my surprise, there were only a few of them who were mostly composed of the same fashion editor. I tried researching the creative director of black women, visual traders, casting agents, fashion designers and couldn’t find it. A light bulb flashed in my mind – I decided to create a platform to visualize and represent black girls in fashion at all levels of the industry. With only one week to go before creative London gets together for an unstoppable experience again, I build the first Black Girls In Fashion team that will catapult our mission.
Why do you think black women need space in the fashion industry?
Black women have been quiet for a long time in this industry. The contribution of black women is very important in setting seasonal trends and enhancing certain aesthetics. Overall, the industry fails to recognize that fashion inspiration mostly comes from individuals in smaller creative communities. This is why safe space is important for maintaining unique and authentic creative expressions, especially among black women whose style continues to be commercialized without credit. This space allows black girls to celebrate, develop and connect with each other in ways that industry fails to provide for them.
What would you say about the relationship between black women and fashion / style in England?
The relationship shifted, it is amazing that we black women have developed space for ourselves, but it is unfortunate that the British fashion industry seems to only recognize the same individuals who make waves and put the same creative on the pedestal. Although there is a vortex of Black’s creative talents, this can often be translated into tokenism, which results in others not being able to shine. It is very important for us to recognize the positive impact Black women contribute to the industry not only from popular roles but also from behind the scenes.
What do you want to give to your community, why is that so important?
Black Girls in Fashion is the first data-based media brand in the UK, which broadens the scope of industry opportunities, for women working in the fashion industry. Behind the brand, we are a collective community of black women with extensive industry experience, using the empowerment and empowerment of others to transform the industry by means of magnetization. We exist not only to collectively strengthen Black-powered brands, but also to create discourse around challenging social topics that uncover the difficulties faced by black people.
Black’s creative community has had enough and made a conscious effort to direct the talents and strengths of their consumers to platforms and businesses that fully represent them.
What do you like most about Black Girls in Fashion?
I love the pride of the community in our work, in seeing themselves reflected. Our community is one of the most active in sharing our content and voicing their opinions on popular topics that most influence them. This makes our job easier when playing more difficult talks based on fashion, business and entrepreneurship, and keeps us ahead of the competition.
Do you think the fashion industry in the UK is changing, especially considering the events in 2020?
With the events of 2020, ignition of the Black Life Movement, the brand is now held to account. The company closed overnight due to poor treatment of staff, failure to provide a healthy work environment, lack of concern for talent retention. Black’s creative community has had enough and made a conscious effort to direct the talents and strengths of their consumers to platforms and businesses that fully represent them.
What do you want for the future of BGIF?
Throughout my career, I have rarely met black women in leadership roles that I can uphold, study and relate to. The most important thing I want for the future of BGIF is to develop and serve the global community of black women who will become a forward-thinking generation that continues to revolutionize the way we work and learn in fashion. From London to Tokyo, professional black women and tastemakers will connect and work wonders by challenging the norm in fashion like never before.
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