Latest Exhibition Highlights Black Impact On Fashion
By Angela Oliver
Black cultural influence on fashion is undeniable. Few have lived that influence quite like the late André Leon Talley. Vogue’s first Black editor-at-large, Talley had a 50-year career spanning fashion journalism in New York and Paris, styling, and creative directing.
He’s one of artist Marryam Moma’s dearest influences as a former model. In Black Art in America’s current exhibition, “The Portfolio: BAIA’s Holdings and Recent Acquisitions,” Moma’s mixed media collage, Our Emperor’s New Clothes, beckons viewers with its pristine details. In it, Talley’s signature cloak and brooches shimmer, framed by blush and marigold-colored florals that soften his commanding expression. He is haloed and crowned in gold – Moma’s homage to Talley who, despite his incredible contributions, was never credited or compensated as he deserved.
“The Portfolio” also boasts Obiora Nwankwo’s painting, The Vogue, centering a big-haired Black woman on the magazine’s cover. The yellow background pops around her rich brown skin. She is poised and well dressed; perhaps her Elizabethan-era collar suggests that Black influence or practice in fashion is widespread and long lived. It’s an imaginative interpretation as Black people have graced less than 10 percent of Vogue’s cover figures in the last 30 years.
But “Merging art with fashion from diverse perspectives is the future of the fashion industry”, says Omari Williams from the throes of New York Fashion Week. The East Atlanta native and Morehouse Man found his way to NYFW as an intern in 2015 and has worked the week every year since.
“Designers are artists, and with fashion being so far-reaching, it’s one of the best ways to show the world what you have to say,” said Williams, a publicist for The Hinton Group, which represents Sergio Hudson, Hanifa, Brent Faiyaz and others. “Shows have gotten a lot more politicized and I see that continuing.”
Talley struck the match for Williams’ fashion industry fire. He’s happy to see the many ways art has continued to honor the legendary figure since the industry would not.
“Andre was everything,” Williams said. “He was so charismatic and he paved the way for every person of color that came after him.”