Podcast 96, ARE YOU REPRESENTED? SARA ALI ON FASHION & INCLUSION
EPISODE 96 FEATURES SARA ALI
Sara Ali is a London-based luxury fashion consultant who focuses on Arabia and Africa. She started out in retail at Harvey Nichols and now advises retailers, brands and organisations on how to navigate the luxury fashion space with a modern, equitable, inclusive and inspiring mindset.
How does colonialism play out in fashion? And how can we encourage the fashion industry in general, and retail in particular, to be more inclusive? And when will fashion finally wake up to cultural appropriation and do better?
In this inviting conversation, we decode this sensitive subject and ask, Why don’t more conversations focus on it?
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…
CULTURAL APPROPRIATION Recent examples include Wes Gordon’s debut collection for Caroline Herrera, which borrowed heavily from the indigenous Mexican artisans of the Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo community, without crediting them. For more, read Clare’s article for Eco-Age here
DIOR RESORT 202O
ADINKRA is part of the heritage of the people of Ghana
LUXURY Sara has worked in luxury fashion for her whole career, but when asked what that word luxury mean to her, it’s not about brands or logos or designer experiences. “For me luxury is in the rituals,” she says, before describing childhood memories of holidaying in Sudan and Oman, where her family comes from. “Luxury was spending time with my grandmother, who used to pre-measure the water before the Luxury to me was sitting on the rooftops watching what people wore to go to the mosque, the relationship between architecture and clothes and rituals, you know, the taking off of the shoes, or wearing of a particular cloth. To me, it’s saying this cloth that I put on my skin… is a story, this embroidery comes from this part of my country, or this colour or this textile means something to my people.”
“The idea of a catwalk being predominantly black models? That’s great. But we need people of colour in the board rooms too.” - Sara Ali
The word TENDER. “To me, it means there’s healing to be done, and there was pain,” says Sara. “I think that’s where we are in terms of colonialism in fashion and cultural appropriation. As happy as I am when I see another black model on the runway, we have a way to go.”
IS INCLUSION A “TREND”? “As more industries look to expand their markets, the word “inclusivity” has become a bit of a buzz term. For fashion, this has caused brands to co-opt the term without making any real initiatives to fight for a more accepting and open industry. Often, the term gets confused or lumped together with “diversity,” but the two aren’t the same. While the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) defines diversity as the ‘measure of difference,’ inclusivity ensures that these varying groups of people actually feel welcome. That said, companies and organizations should avoid tokenism and surface-level advocacies. Beyond POC folks gracing magazine covers and plus-size models walking down runways, how inclusive is the fashion industry of today?” via FASHION INNOVATION NYC - read article in full here.
THE COMPLICATED HISTORY OF LOW-SLUNG PANTS According to the NYT, contemporary streetwear has its roots in prison and rebellion. “Sagging began in prison, where oversized uniforms were issued without belts to prevent suicide and their use as weapons. The style spread through rappers and music videos, from the ghetto to the suburbs and around the world…Efforts to outlaw sagging in Virginia and statewide in Louisiana in 2004, failed, usually when opponents invoked a right to self-expression. But the latest legislative efforts have taken a different tack, drawing on indecency laws, and their success is inspiring lawmakers in other states.” Read in full here. Then again, “I don't think we can definitively say that sagging began in prisons," said Tanisha C. Ford, a historian at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who researches fashion.” Read why here. Not that everyone is woke to all this obvs, case in point.
ZAHAR HADID was as an Iraqi architect. She received the UK's most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize, in 2010 and 2011.
ROSA PARKS “The story of Rosa Parks should be taught on Women’s Day as well as Black History Month,” says Sara. “The strength and the grit of a woman, I promise you, is a big part of what got her to the front of that bus.”
BME stands for Black and Minority Ethnicity, which includes members of the following British and international ethnicities: Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Indian other, Chinese, Asian other, Black African, Black Caribbean, other Black background, White and Asian mixed, White and African Caribbean mixed, other mixed background and other ethnic background. Source, Oxford University
WOMEN IN SAUDI ARABIA
A NOTE ON OUR MUSIC: IT IS BY OUR FRIEND MONTAIGNE, WHO SANG A SPECIAL ACOUSTIC VERSION OF "BECAUSE I LOVE YOU" JUST FOR US. IT'S FROM HER ALBUM GLORIOUS HEIGHTS.
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