Natural hair and Fashion! What could be better? Thanks to my Twitter timeline, I saw a tweet by SheaMoisture about natural hair in Italian Vogue. In this summary on natural hair in the fashion world, author Marjon Carlos details the increasing trend of well-known black models choosing to wear their natural hair on the runway.
Among the shout-outs are models Alek Wek and Noemi Lenoir. Can I just say that it’s definitely refreshing to see an article like this in Vogue Italia? Update: Tata Naka was actually first featured in Vogue UK. Thanks to a tip from reader, you can go here and read about their inspiration for the line.
Inspired by Motown, the Autumn/Winter 2012-13 Tata Naka collection is shown here being unveiled during London’s Fashion Week.
As I read through the article, I am struck by many things. This includes the author’s mention of Viola Davis’ hair at the Oscar Awards last week. Was she suggesting that her appearance at the show with a TWA made natural hair ‘famous’? It was unclear to me, maybe something got lost in translation….
Was it a pivotal moment in the culture and politics of black hair? Sure, imo. Why? Because a well-known Hollywood actress rocked natural hair at such an important event. Whether or not she intended to, Davis probably increased the visibility of natural hair in the media significantly. It may mean that more people will start paying attention to (and perhaps embracing) natural hair.
To the author’s suggestion that “this reoccurring presence of natural Black hair on the runways certainly mirrors and could be correlated to the natural Black hair craze that is currently taking place off the runway”, I *nod* emphatically in response. Not only are celebrities like Solange Knowles wearing their natural hair, but everyday women are, too. Women just like me and you. And to all the black models with natural hair: You. Better. Work.
Here is the article as it appears on the Vogue Italia website:
As if by rite of passage, the Black model archive is filled with trials of hapharzard handling of one’s hair. Left in the hands of hairstylists deaf to the temperment of Black tresses, Black fashion pioneers have recounted tales of their coils and strands being stretched to their breaking, frayed ends; scalps carelessly permed, harshly scorched, battered with color, and left to be restored by weaves, wigs, and the shearing of frazzled locks.
These haunting experiences are now often shrouded in frustrated one-off tweets, or woeful interview admissions from present-day Black fashion favorites Jourdan Dunn and Chanel Iman, messages that acknowledge a problem, but rarely hold few responsible. This while Black model stalwarts Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks have fought the effects of alopecia publicly, Banks raising significant awareness to the damaging toll modeling has caused to her hair by going completely natural in 2010, even urging Larry King to feel her restored scalp in an on-camera 2009 interview.
It is uplifting then to see the newest pack of Black models storming the catwalks in full embrace of their natural hairstyles, from cropped Afros, flat tops, to buzzed scalps–and in turn being embraced by the industry that has typically approached Black hair with skepticism and harsh critique.
As Canadian model, Herieth Paul’s, almost ubiquitous presence on the top Fall 2012 catwalks of Burberry Prorsum, Diane Von Fustenberg, Yigal Azourel, Costello Tagliapietra shown, the model’s coiffed ‘fro isn’t for a second deterring her imminent ascent. Then there is of course Ajak Deng’s signature buzz that has marked her career, creating a striking, anomalous silhouette along the runways of Suno, Roksanda Illincic, and Issa this season, as well as with her turns on couture’s Spring 2012 stages just last month. Newcomer Akuol de Mabior, the beautiful offspring of Sudan’s former Vice President, walked for Jasper Conran and Louise Gray under a crown of curls that bore a striking resemblance to the very style lauded actress, Viola Davis, made famous at Sunday’s Academy Awards. While Flaviana Mataka, Nana Keita, and Elyce Cole reimagined the Afro in its various forms for Vivienne Westwood Red, Ashish, and William Okpo, respectively.
And how could one ignore the direct nod London sister-design duo, Tata Naka, made towards Motown’s glory days? Vibrantly patterned designs seamlessly played off the leaping afros of the show’s diverse cast of models, who wore their natural styles with elegance and total assuredness, and made quite a ripple in London Fashion Week this season.
Of course these girls and designers represent a small majority of the fashion industry, but this reoccurring presence of natural Black hair on the runways certainly mirrors and could be correlated to the natural Black hair craze that is currently taking place off the runway.
Though one may beg to argue that this conclusion is far too precise in its measurement, as certain models like Alek Wek and Noemi Lenoir have made their natural tresses a signature component to their success for years. One can’t help to argue that such a general upsurge in visibility surrounding natural Black hairstyles, if they be worn by fashion darlings Julia Sarr-Jamois or Solange Knowles, or are documented thoroughly by the press (the NYTimes, most famously), is helping usher in a new era of hair treatment for Black women broadly, and Black models specifically.
As natural hair products corner the beauty market, knowledge concerning Black hair care could reach the hands of the industry’s top hair masters that have long remained unaware of Black hair’s habits, and as Herieth Paul revealed to Vogue Italia recently, it may just make a model’s career.