UNCOVERING THE CASE FOR DIVERSITY IN FASHION
tural influences stemming from the Black Diaspora have a deepted and far-reaching impact on the fashion industry. While
igenous trends and local street style often serve as the inspiration
entire collections, black designers throughout the globe still
ggle to make their mark. This is something that we see across the
rld's premiere fashion capitals. Outside of those markets, the
parities are even more palpable. In Colombia—home of South
erica’s second largest population of Blacks—the nation’s
ming fashion industry reflects few designers of color. Cultivating
unique well of talent among Afro-Colombians and all people of
African Diaspora, can achieve far-reaching gains that will benefit
industry as a whole.
Edwing D’Angelo, Lia Samantha Lozano
Rendón and Angelica Balanta are all AfroColumbian Designers who have managed to
break socio-economic boundaries and make their
mark in a highly competitive fashion industry.
Their ability to pull from cultural references,
creating looks that are at once vibrant, inspiring
and complex has set the stage for a new chapter
of burgeoning Afro-Colombian designers.
Through a SocioCultural Lense
Designers of the African Diaspora have a
meaningful and important contribution to
the Global Fashion Marketplace rooted in
the notions of displacement and innate
creativity. Understanding the unique
contextual components on why their
message is so important benefits us all.
Throughout the U.S., Latin America,
Canada, Europe and Caribbean people
of the African-Diaspora are often
marginalized and inhabit the poorest of
areas. Fashion, throughout history has
created an illustrative identity for these
communities that makes a statement
with little to no words. With that in
mind, everything from fabric, to church,
to the forming of political movements
and hair has elements of style. We saw
this among 1970s African-Americans,
who wore Afros and in-your-face looks
as a strong statement of empowerment
and Black pride.
Birthed out of
✤ Many communities of the
Black Diaspora include
natural artisans who create
clothing out of necessity and
limited resources. This often
leads to some of the most
compelling trends; however,
few talents are able to access
the professional training and
mentorship that could help
nurture their abilities on a
The Streets as the
Though they may lack a larger presence
on the retail scape, black street style
trends have always been pushed the
industry along. As displaced people,
Blacks of the African Diaspora bring a
unique perspective to their looks, pulling
from the indigenous trends and pop
culture references that surround them.
This often results in standout ensembles
that become the lifeblood of innovation.
In his book, Fashion Tribes,
photojournalist Daniele Tamagni takes a
look at the standout style of cultural
groups throughout the African Diaspora.
Cultural Appropriation and Black
From the early Hip Hop scene of 1980s New York to the Reggae culture of 1970s
Jamaica, black style has often served as the impetus for major fashion movements
and entire runway collections, however black designers are rarely at the forefront of
Though many trends are birthed out of communities of the black diaspora, they
often do not garner widespread acclaim until they are shown on non-blacks.
Even today, we see designers such as Tommy Hilfiger and Marc McNair pulling
from these very references.
Implementing channels where designers from these communities can take
ownership of their narratives can be quite powerful.
Models for Change
In today’s global society, where cultural lines are
blurred, it is difficult not to be influenced by the
diversity that surrounds us. Fashion is one of the
industries that can really bring these changes to
life. Economies that are able to become more
inclusive in these changing times can experience
widespread success. Colombia can be at the
forefront of that due to its unique positioning and
cultural makeup. This can be achieved through
several strategic steps.
It is the 3rd largest producer of intimate
apparel and manufactures the world’s
leading brands in sportswear and jeans.
It possesses a unique location for global
trade, with both Pacific and Atlantic Ocean
access to commercial harbors.
The nation is quickly becoming one of the
world’s leading emerging economies, being
dubbed the third most “business friendly”
Latin American country by The World
Bank’s Doing Business Report.
Colombia has the 2nd-largest population of
blacks in South America, an untapped
resource for ultimate creativity.
Start With the
The creative arts hold a special place in the overall
conversation of diversity as the image makers—
designers, models, fashion editors, photographers,
etc. can help create a new narrative by expanding its
portrayals of beauty.
Afro-Colombian designer Lia Samantha has spoken
of the lack of darker skinned models at runway
shows, in local magazines and in promotional
materials. Creating more diverse portrayals will
allow Afro-Colombians to see themselves as part of
the larger fashion—and societal equation.
Working with more diverse modeling agencies to
hire more Afro-Latina talent for runway shows and
campaigns can help broaden the realm of possibility.
Establish an Afro-Latina model search to run in
conjunction with top fashion expos such as
Colombiamoda as a means of scouting talent.
True diversity means transformation
from the inside out. So, creating
initiatives to grant Afro-Colombians
opportunities as wardrobe assistants,
stylists, dressers and production
assistants can create opportunities for
mentorship and growth while allowing
those in marginalized areas the
opportunity to see the possibilities
outside of their day to day interactions.
These can be done in conjunction with
Afro-Colombian designers like Edwing
D’Angelo and Lia Samantha as well as
other local designers.
Social Media &
Create initiatives with Afro-Colombian and Afro-Latina
fashion and beauty bloggers and vloggers such as
Brazilian-based Nataly Neri and Luciellen Assis, shown
Partner with brands specializing in black hair and
makeup on cross platform initiatives such as fashion
show sponsorships and modeling competitions among
Create social media campaigns that highlighting AfroColombian designers and tastemakers.
Create opportunities for Afro-Colombian fashion
designers like Edwing D’Angelo, Miss Balanta and Lia
Samantha to partner with black-owned cosmetics
brands such as IMAN, Jay Manuel and Fashion Fair on
limited-edition artist collaborations. They would design
packaging and custom color with these brands in the
vein of Mara Hoffman for Sephora or Chris Chiang for
partnerships for prime product
placement of Afro-Colombian
designers with burgeoning
celebrities and Afro-Latina
stars. This visibility will help
these designers gain global
exposure for their brands.
Partner on events in major department stores as
well as international black-owned boutiques.
These locations present new possibilities for
distribution and exposure for Afro-Colombian
designers, such as luxury concept store, Alara,
located in Nigera’s Victoria Island (shown here).
Partner with e-commerce sites like Cooperativa,
which highlight Latin-American Designers.
These could be a great source of distribution for
more Afro-Colombian designers, such as Miss
Balanta, who’s line of head wraps is currently
Create Pop Up Shops featuring curated items by
Afro-Colombian fashion designers and artisans.
Partner with NY Fashion Week on a major
runway initiative that will highlighting top
Colombian designers including those of AfroColombian descent. Gaining exposure for
these brands on an international scale during
one one of the industry’s premiere events
could really help these designers in gaining
more exposure and retail placement. There is
also major opportunity for exposure in Africa
since many of these designers pull inspiration
from their African heritage.
Secure financing from various sponsors
including international tourism boards,
global retailers (ex. Bloomingdales, Harrod’s,
Saks, etc.) and major haircare and nail brands.
Afro-Colombian designers should be
encouraged to pull from the wealth of
creativity that their unique cultural
background provides. Globally, this
model has worked for many Black
designers throughout the diaspora. Here,
we examine a few.
This Ghanaian-American designer
challenged conventional standards of
beauty with her Fall/Winter 2011
Collection Scarred Perfection, inspired
by Benin’s cultural tradition of body
Her unique collection used intensive
repetition of pleats, ruffles and
ornamentation to replicate some of the
textural complexities seen on the body
in tribal scarring practices.
The acclaimed collection went on to
show in various international markets.
The Haitian-Italian designer fuses
elements from various cultures in
her pieces, including artisanal works
from Haiti through the technique of
Métissage. The word means a mix of
culture and heritage, which not only
describes who Stella is as a person,
but also defines her work.
For her Spring 2015 collection she
partnered with Haitian artisans in
Port-au-Prince on colorful creations
that evoke traditional Haitian
artwork found in local marketplaces.
Inspired by the traditional
Xhosa dress worn by those
who have completed their
manhood initiation, Laduma
Ngoxkolo’s luxe knitwear
brand featured unique patterns
and colorful detail.
Now is the time to truly tap in to the wealth of talent
and creativity that Afro-Columbian designers bring to
the overall fashion landscape. Doing this will take a
cross platform, hands on initiative involving
mentorship, positioning and financial support.
Investing in the future of Colombian fashion means
investing in widespread inclusion. With that premise
in mind, the future looks brighter than ever.