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.
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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.
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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.
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“Texture on the Runway is a really huge thing, especially in the space that we are in right now, with New York Fashion Week where we are not represented as much as we would like to be. So a place where we are not the norm, but a place where you can connect with people that look like you, that feel the way you feel, and see them being highlighted it does nothing but make you feel better about yourself. After this event is over and you’re at home in your mirror, you’re going to think about this event and think about that girl that looked like you on stage and remember that you are also beautiful and that you can step out and own the world like they did the stage," says Lauren Smith, creative director for the Mane Choice.
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“We make a statement. Putting Texture on the Runway within New York Fashion Week claims its space. Our culture has been a part of fashion, our hair is a part of fashion, it drives fashion forward. We’re reclaiming our space. We are fashion, so certainly we’d be in New York Fashion Week” says Pekela Riley, lead hair stylist for Creme of Nature.
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“You get to see people that look like you — who you have a lot in common with and can identify with. It is extremely important to make sure textures are showing up not only on this runway but on all runways during New York Fashion Week,” says Janell Stevens, founder of Camille Rose Naturals.
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“It’s bigger than fashion, it’s bigger than hair. How can you impact people and leave a lasting impression?” says Monique Rodriguez, founder of Mielle Organics.
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“For so long, beauty aesthetics were one-dimensional. If they wanted to add texture it was always by design, it wasn’t a natural movement. So now the community of natural hair has embraced texture in so many ways. Texture on the Runway is just adding to it and taking it to the next level which is fashion of course. When people see it on the runway, they can take it home, morph it and make it their own, and that’s what we’re here to do,” says Diane Bailey, brand ambassador of Shea Moisture.
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“There’s a representation of our culture here. A lot of times if you have African-American models or even Latina models at New York Fashion Week, they make them wear bone straight hair. So having a show where you can be you and embrace your curls, and even make your curls curlier, it’s amazing,” says Mezei Jefferson, director of education for Carol’s Daughter.
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