Sometimes you just have to say NO!

3:10:00 PM BB 0 Comments

I was watching Next in Fashion, which features experienced designers who aren't a household name. Designers work in teams and complete various challenges. 

It became immediately clear that the judges did not get the perspective of team Farai and Kiki. This was very apparent in the streetwear challenge. The 4 judges compromised of Tan France, Alexa Chung, Jason Bolden,  and Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss.

For context, Kiki was the main designer at iconic streetwear brand, FUBU. In the episode, she mentioned visiting Macy's and being surrounded by brands she had designed for. FUBU revolutionized urban streetwear. Although, the brand was iconic in the 90s and 2000s, Kiki's aesthetic has inspired a generation of designers. She's even designed for the Queen. I'm talking about Beyonce. Is Kiki famous? No. Does she get the credit she deserves for her contributions to the fashion industry? No.

One of the outfits she designed for the streetwear challenge 

Back to the show. Since streetwear is Kiki's area of expertise, she immediately took control of the challenge and decided the colours, silhouette and styling. Farai, a much younger designer, had some hesitations about Kiki's vision. Specifically about the rough edge finishing. Kiki was not open to any feedback. 

There is something beautiful about a leader with a strong point of view and sense of direction. So I admire that quality in Kiki. But there's much to be learned by putting stubbornness aside, receiving constructive feedback and being flexible. That is not the point of my reflection.

After the runway show, the judges met the designers and models up close. It was immediately apparent that Kerby got Kiki's design perspective. Kerby is a street wear designer whose New York-based label has taken off in recent years. During the judges deliberations, Alexa and Tan clearly wanted Kiki and Farai out based on construction issues, while Jason Bolden said he didn't want to be forced to make a decision. Kerby reminded the hosts that Team Claire also had poor construction. To Kerby, the difference is that Kiki and Farai's design was innovative and embodies what streetwear is. He especially liked the jumper. And felt like they were one of the few innovative ones and could be "next in fashion." I agreed with Kerby that there was nothing innovative about Team Claire's look. Sadly I can't find a picture online.

After the deliberations were over, Kiki and Farai were in the bottom 2 and they had to plead their case. Kiki was visibly surprised and said "you gotta be kidding me" As Kiki advocated for her team's place in the competition, she said something very poignant, "Streetwear isn't a trend, it's my culture."

Girl, say it louder for those in the back. But in case you're wondering what that means, let me explain. Hiphop culture has been the biggest influence in streetwear. Hip hop exists thanks to black culture and people. Brands like FUBU, Sean John, etc popularized streetwear making it more mainstream. Streetwear has evolved from something associated with racist stereotypes of hip hop, gang activity, and violence to  a trend loved by many. Yet, the people who created the trend are now erased from this history, do not get the needed credit and financial gain. 

As the team going home was about to be announced, it was clear that Farai and Kiki were gonna be cut. Kerby, clearly distraught by the decision that was about to go down, said he couldn't be in the room when this happened. This move forced the elimination to come to a halt, when it was revealed that nobody will be eliminated since the judges were not in agreement. 

I had to reflect on the irony of 2 individuals with no experience in streetwear going against the opinion of an established street wear designer like Kerby and a legendary designer like Kiki. Let's be real, what kirby did is what many black people in leadership should be doing. 

It is not a coincidence that the fashion industry, like many others, is not diverse. The Kerby's of this world remind us that representation matters. It reminds us how black people have revolutionized the fashion and music industry, but don't get the accolades they deserve. It reminds us of why we need racialized people in leadership. Without Kerby, all we get is the same silhouettes, inspiration, and perspectives over and over. I'm not talking about the cast of the show. It was very diverse. I'm referring to the systemic dismissal of black people, our experience, and perspectives. Even in industries we have pioneered, we do not get the benefit of the doubt or the recognition. When was the last time you saw authentic black/indigenous representation in art? This is the same reason only 6% of Apple's staff are black, and only 1% Native. Only 2% of Facebook staff are black, 0% are Native. Source.

As a black woman in leadership, I've had to pull a Kerby on many occasions and say NO! This dismissal of diverse perspectives will not happen on my watch. Regardless of the consequences. Seeing it happen on TV was sad and a reminder of how much work needs to be done. Sometimes, I've had to pull a Kerby and advocate for hiring black, indigenous, and other racialized people. 

Farai and Kiki were eliminated in the next challenge. Decide for yourself if they deserved that elimination. 

Be a Kirby. 


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