Even though there is still not enough representation of models of colour in the international fashion industry, it is getting better. Five Nigerian models walked the runway at the New York Fashion Week, which took place in September 2018.
Interestingly, these women were able to keep their ‘identity’ and didn’t have to look like their white colleagues to fit in.
Born in the US to a Nigerian father and a Chinese mother, 26-year old Adesuwa Aighewi, one of the Nigerian models, who walked the runway at this year’s NYFW, shared how her decision to own her ‘blackness’ paid off for her.
In an article written for the Guardian, titled, “The fashion industry said my dreadlocks would stop me working. They were wrong,” Adesuwa explained that there is a “lot of politics tied up in black hair,” but she believes that “nothing should stop self-expression.”
Two days ahead of the New York fashion week, Adesuwa had her hair dreadlocked but some people in the industry were worried that she may not get jobs as she may look “too black.” Damning the consequences, she took her chances and kept her dreadlocks.
“Two days later, my agents in New York called to say Coach had cast me to open their spring/summer 2018 show at New York. I couldn’t believe it – I’ve walked in other shows in the past, but this was a career-changer. I went on to walk for Miu Miu in Paris and Bottega Veneta in Milan, which is a classic Italian brand not known for using edgy models. I was thrilled – a girl with dreads walking for brands like those, that’s crazy,” she wrote.
From how they look, to their skin colour and their hair, black models have not had it easy on the global fashion stage. In the past, they are asked to wear long weaves, or straighten their hair to fit in, but recently, black women are owning how they look and its having a positive effect on every spheres of their life, including the fashion industry.
According to Adesuwa, hairstylists, who used to refuse to style their hair are beginning to learn what products work for black hair and the hairstyles that fits them because they know they would not get hired.
Thanks to social media platforms like Instagram, Adesuwa says it helps people like her to own their space and be vocal.
“When I was signed, in 2010, my agents would tell me, ‘You need to shut up and stand there and look pretty,’” but just being pretty doesn’t even work anymore as clients want their models to have more personality.
And now, Adesuwa is having more success because, “the industry’s finally caught up to me, I actually make sense in it now,” she said.