In the News, Issue 12, October 15, 2021
Twice a month, we bring you a curated news report that addresses some of the most critical and timely headlines as it relates to fashion and race.
NOTE: This is an abridged version of our full “In the News” issue. To read the full stories and view all of the images, continue on at our website.
This week, we consider the appropriation of Black beauty culture, dissect the systemic racial biases of photography, and dig into a worldwide labor crisis.
– Anu Lingala, Contributor, “In the News”
Design & Imagemaking
Empowering imagemakers of color behind the scenes has become an increasingly key topic over the past few years. When Simone Biles was featured on the cover of Vogue in July 2020, the magazine faced critical backlash for its problematic portrayal of the world renowned gymnast. Online commentators like New York Times national picture editor Morrigan McCarthy, lamented the choice of longtime Vogue photographer Annie Leibovitz and contended that the publication should have hired an imagemaker with a better understanding of how to best photograph Black skin (preferably a Black photographer).
The need for a specific technical skill set to properly light and photograph Black skin is a consequence of unconscious racial bias that has been built into photographic technology since its inception. In a New York Times feature on the subject, Sarah Lewis explains that “light skin became the chemical baseline” in the development of color film technology, and explores how this categorization of “light skin as the norm and other skin tones as needing special corrective care, photography has altered how we interact with each other without us realizing it.” Mainstream digital cameras – like those on our phones – are often still calibrated based on the same color-balancing baseline of original color film cameras,
Learn more about how and why color film has centered whiteness since its inception via this Vox video.
In Black Looks: Race and Representation, bell hooks delves into ‘the personal and political consequences of contemporary representations of race and ethnicity within a white supremacist culture.’
Read the full story and find the other headlines within “Design & Imagemaking” that are on our radar.
Last week, Refinery29 profiled fashion and costume historian Shelby Ivey Christie with an interview that explored the issues surrounding the endless appropriation of Black culture through beauty and fashion, “from intricately laid baby hairs and glittering acrylic nails to the overlooked designs of folks like Ann Lowe and Zelda Wynn Valdes.” Christie uses her social platforms to “[delve] into the oft-overlooked contributions of Black creators while weighing in on modern-day cultural touchpoints,” and points out that “You can be in a continual cycle of anger and agitation because every day, every week, there’s somebody copying something that we’ve done.”
While call-outs regarding appropriation of specific types of clothing are often fairly clear-cut, the issues surrounding appropriation of beauty styles like nail art are somewhat less widely discussed. A recent piece in The Cut by Asia Milia Ware examines the significance of nail art in Black culture. As intricate manicures and long nails become increasingly popular and donned by many white influencers and celebrities…
Learn more about the appropriation of black culture and cultural sensitivity from the panel, “Fashion, Culture & Justice: A NYFW Dialogue.”
Attain more knowledge on other fashion and beauty trends started by Black people in Jonquil Lawrence’s article.
Read the full story and find the other headlines within “Dress Politics” that are on our radar.
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In Issue 10 of In The News, we examined the human rights crisis around cotton production in Xinjiang, China. But a recent exposé by risk intelligence company Versik Maplecroft shows how these types of human rights violations are not limited to a single region, but have manifested in different ways in several key manufacturing regions globally. While many businesses are quick to blame such issues on the web of crises dealt with over the past year, the report “Worldwide Decline in Labour Rights Strikes At the Heart of Global Supply Chains,” provides data-based evidence of how “these recent events are more than an aberration. They form part of a sustained trend where the rights of workers are under increasing threat from multiple directions.” As summarized by Business of Fashion, the analysis shows…
Gain more insight into labor rights being a global crisis in Issue 07 of In the News.
Christina H. Moon’s book offers a unique perspective on the meaning of labor in 21st-century global fashion.
Read the full story and find the other headlines within “Sustainability & Labor Issues” that are on our radar.
In the News is researched and written by Anu Lingala and edited by Anthony Palliparambil, Jr. and Kimberly Jenkins. This newsletter is published by Daniela Hernandez.
Anu Lingala is a trend forecaster, brand strategist, and founder of Revisionary: a space dedicated to reframing our aesthetic vision and decolonizing our aspirations by centering BIPOC-owned brands. She also helped launch Public Service: a platform and creative studio working to advance equity in imagemaking. Anu has always been passionate about applying sociocultural and historical analysis to contemporary industry contexts. She holds a BS in Apparel Design from Cornell University and an MA in History of Design from the Royal College of Art, where her dissertation examined cultural appropriation in fashion.