When I was approached to do the story, I knew that I had a great responsibility to tell the story with style and grace. It’s a peculiar thing to write and style editorials around my people. As a regular contributor to Vogue, it’s routine for me to research the story, pull the clothes, and then submit to the editor, but this one was special. This story was about Sanda Bland, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Philando Castille, and it was even about me. It was therapeutic in the best way because fashion is often how I show my perspective. I wanted contrast and movement because contrast and movement are how black people live their lives — and it is certainly what I’ve had to deal with as a black fashion editor.
The interviews took time because I wanted to speak to people with enough fashion credibility to make what they had to say about the industry, valuable to those in authority. Sadly, people don’t often pay attention until someone who they deem valuable speaks. The fashion wasn’t a challenge. I pulled pieces mostly in dark colors with hard lines to capture the angst that often comes with a double consciousness (see WEB DuBois quote).
I don’t at all think it my responsibility to speak for all black people. But I do think that I owe it to my ancestors to be great. They went through too much for me to be mediocre. My grandmother and grandfather struggled at a point where a stylist didn’t exist as it does now. If she was still alive, she’d probably look at what I do and say, “I do that every Sunday for church,” and she’d be right. But I stand on their shoulders. So you see, this story was about so much more than photos and a video. It was about paying tribute to the beautiful struggle and the lives that it affects.
The Black Lives Matter story is still getting traction all over the world. People who weren’t familiar with the movement are now following the headlines and I take pride in that. Fashion is translatable to everyone because the language is one size fits all. Using fashion to talk about race is a fresh and non-threatening way to educate people who wouldn’t otherwise be interested.