Go to your favorite store and you’re likely to see some semblance of the streetwear trend that is taking over. We’re talking sneakers with dresses, what some may call ‘urban’ designers, baggier clothes, and a huge comfort play. Most of the pieces that define streetwear are traditionally men’s clothing. Now, women are expressing their style by putting a feminine twist on the more masculine trend.
As women are entering the movement, it’s important to address how we mold that space into our own. As a woman of color, I have to not only think about what it means to be a woman but also what it means to be a Black woman in this fashion space. The Afro Bleus Magazine, a digital fashion, art, and culture magazine designed to inspire our community of creatives, sought to deliver that conversation. Let me tell you – they did just that. At their first event ever on Saturday, August 25th, the team fostered an open, genuine panel conversation between five women telling the stories of their experiences being women of color in the streetwear industry, titled “Streethearts.”
“Streethearts is fostering a necessary conversation about the representation of women of color in streetwear culture,” explained Editor-in-Chief Asia Riddick.
The panel, moderated by Ashley Haines of Footlocker Inc. (previously HYPEBEAST’s HYPEBAE), addressed the taboo that women exist within the streetwear space. The panel also included Ah-niyah Gold, a fashion publicist at Sydney Reising Creative; Cherelle ‘Cherry’ Moore, founder of Cherrypose LLC, a streetwear brand for women, men, and non-binary people to express their sexuality and rawness; Ciara Matos, blogger, model & KITH associate; and M’heri Jackson, co-founder of the Brown Sugar Collective, a cultural incubator that brings creatives together through events, as well as assistant stylist and brand ambassador for Staple Pigeon.
When looking at a person, you can often tell a lot about them based on what they have on. Those in the community often claim streetwear as an important part of their identity. Style is such an important facet of our personalities.
“Streetwear helped me find myself. It means so much to me – it’s changing who I am today,” says Moore.
When asked about their favorite streetwear brands, the audience had a plethora of answers. However, when asked to name streetwear brands by women the crowd grew silent. The audience could barely name any brands by a woman of color. In recent years, designers of streetwear powerhouses have realized the potential and impact of women in their sales. We see this through brands like KITH and Puma talking to women more in their advertising or even making collections just for us. Publications have created female-specific spin-offs like HYPEBAE & Snobette for dedicated content. Women now have places to see other women who are doing great things in the industry, outfit inspiration, and even the latest collection drop.
“When it comes to these platforms I love what they’re doing,” expressed Matos. “It’s about really building a community which I feel like it’s something they do extremely well at with giving us a place to be inspired, learn, and be a part of.”
Although we are getting more dedicated treatment, there still is a severe lack of recognition of female brands in the space.
“Without the backing of a male in the industry who is higher up, it’s harder for women to breakthrough – which I really hate,” says Gold. “We as women have to take responsibility. We have to make sure we’re out supporting our girls.” The panel emphasized the importance of women supporting women by expanding their closets and finding more women-owned brands to buy from or even showing engagement with the brands on social.
Across the board, brands are aiming to be more diverse not only in gender but in race. As streetwear has become more popular, there is becoming a thin line between being inclusive, drawing inspiration from historical trends and hitting on cultural appropriation of Black women. In streetwear, the appropriation comes in the form of things like cornrows on non-Black women or rewriting the narrative of something that’s “ghetto” on a Black woman but cool & trendy on a white woman. With roots in the Black community, these experiences happen uncomfortably often as brands try to carve out their lane in the space – by lacking authenticity or failing to credit where the inspiration came from.
Unfortunately, we as Black women usually have to act as the educator on these topics by guiding brands in the right direction on how not to appropriate our culture and offend people.
When asked where she draws the line on that, Jackson says that “you have to want that education. Brands aren’t listening. If you aren’t also wanting that information then I don’t want to talk to you because I feel like my words are being wasted. Brands have been around for so long – why aren’t you understanding? Why are you not learning from other brands’ mistakes?”
Even through the appropriation and slow growth of representation, each of the panelists remains optimistic about the future of women in streetwear. Through the growth of a female community in the industry and even positions held by women, the future is looking bright.