It was just more than 50 years ago that the first Black model was featured on the cover of a magazine. Donyale Luna’s first cover was a Harper’s Bazaar illustration that gave her Eurocentric features, straight hair, and fair skin. Her second cover, for Vogue UK, was a photograph that featured her (again) with straight hair, and with her hand covering most of her face. Luna opened the doors of the fashion industry to women of color, though it was clear the barriers that she faced during her career as the first Black supermodel.
These barriers have been the driving force behind creating spaces of our own, not simply for separation but for celebration. This is the goal behind Texture on the Runway, an event situated during New York Fashion Week that celebrates curly hair, its versatility, and diversity. The event, which held its fourth annual show, is hosted by NaturallyCurly, which is celebrating its 20 year anniversary as an online platform for the textured hair community. The positioning of Texture on the Runway during New York Fashion Week is intentional—it not only creates a space for us to see ourselves reflected on the catwalk, but to showcase that our beauty is not separate from the New York Fashion Week sphere.
Last year’s Diversity Report from the Fashion Spot reported that models of color accounted for 37% of the representation at New York Fashion Week. This number is not broken down further by race, however. Many of the brand representatives from Texture on the Runway shared the sentiment that the few Black models that are hired for fashion shows are typically styled with straight hair. Rarely are they rocking their natural 4c curls, braids, or locs. This is the purpose for Texture on the Runway, not only to provide a platform for models of color—specifically Black models—but for natural hair to be the highlight of the show.
There is a difference between Texture on the Runway and other NYFW shows. There is a storytelling element, something that is so personal and intimate to each and every Black man and woman in that audience that cannot be replicated. Each brand brought something to the runway that communicated not only the beauty of textured hair, but the struggle, and the history. Carol’s Daughter showcased the relationship between mothers and daughters, and had us reminiscing about the women in our lives doing our hair.
Twenty years ago, relaxers were still the expected way of styling textured hair. Now, natural hair is at the forefront thanks to platforms like NaturallyCurly and so many others that encourage conversations around hair texture—everything from the big chop, protective styles, to vegan products. To sit amongst an audience that understands our story and to engage with brands that are unafraid to delve into these conversations was incredibly empowering.
No other New York Fashion Week show incorporates not only Black models, but also brand representatives, and audience members. Check out images from the show and quotes from the brand representatives below.