Fashion and Race: "Deconstructing Ideas, Reconstructing Identities"

By Parsons School of Design

Curated by Kimberly M. Jenkins

This section of "Fashion and Race: Deconstructing Ideas, Reconstructing Identities" responds to the aftershocks of race as a construct and ideological worldview. In different ways, the artists featured here all confront the ramifications of race through creative acts of subversion, ultimately deconstructing the idea of race and attempting to repair its social implications by reconstructing identities on their own terms.

"Rebranded" (look book image) (2017) by Joy DouglasParsons School of Design

Consisting of two large, framed conceptual garments, Cecile Mouen’s project, “Unchecked: A Collective Interpretation of Race and Ethnicity,” enables viewers and participants to start conversations around race and ethnicity through the medium of clothes and textiles.

Visual ID: "LAURA" and "SARAH" (mounted) (2018) by Cecile MouenParsons School of Design

"'Visual ID' is an experimental collection of custom printed garments created through the process of an algorithm fed by information extracted from a survey exploring identity."

–Cecile Mouen

"Visual ID: SARAH" (2017) by Cecile MouenParsons School of Design

"Visual ID: LAURA" (2017) by Cecile MouenParsons School of Design

"Laura and Sarah are two mixed-race French/Cameroonian women whose testimonies aim to convey that ethnic and racial identity is profoundly impacted by personal experiences and physical surroundings."

–Cecile Mouen

"Visual ID: LAURA" (2017) by Cecile MouenParsons School of Design

Subverting reductive assumptions of Black identity, Avery Youngblood’s "How to Be Black" riffs off the prescriptive nature of a “how to” guide, using the booklet as a document to record the multidimensionality of young womanhood.

"How to Be Black" booklet (mounted) (2018) by Avery YoungbloodParsons School of Design

"I chose the title of this piece not because I wanted to tell people 'how to be Black'–in fact, there is no one way of 'being Black'–but there are processes and perspectives that differ day to day when you are living in the skin of a Black person."

–Avery Youngblood

"How to Be Black" booklet (front) (2017) by Avery YoungbloodParsons School of Design

"I include Black historic moments and figures for the reader, a clock that represents the day in the life of me, and a color-by-numbers piece where I provide colored pencils for the reader to 'rainbow-fy' the illustration of a Black woman provided in the accordion fold.

–Avery Youngblood

"I use my type in this how-to manual to elicit certain emotions that I want the reader to associate with my perception of Blackness. Therefore, thick bold sans-serif type that is kept consistent throughout the manual with Headline Gothic. I use Mrs. Eaves in contrast with the headline type, as paragraph copy, in order to display the different dimensions of my Blackness through two typefaces that represent the different sides of myself."

–Avery Youngblood

"How to Be Black" booklet (back) (2017) by Avery YoungbloodParsons School of Design

The fashion film for Joy Douglas’s BFA thesis collection, "Rebranded," provides a synopsis of her design research and development, proposing to redefine and reclaim the labels of post-incarceration identity whilst taking a step toward prison reform and rehabilitation.

"Rebranded Project" (fashion film) (2017) by Joy DouglasParsons School of Design

Douglas's thesis project challenges the U.S. Declaration of Independence's "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," noting the dissolve of personal identity within the prison system. Her goal is to remove the stigma from those who have served time and to break the cycle of criminality.

"Rebranded" (look book image) (2017) by Joy DouglasParsons School of Design

"Rebranded" is also a fashion collective made up of designers, artists, photographers and dreamers, working in collaboration with formerly incarcerated individuals.

"Rebranded" (look book image) (2017) by Joy DouglasParsons School of Design

"'Rebranded' seeks to encourage ideas and dialogue between individuals with multidisciplinary backgrounds in order to effectively make change in prison reform and rehabilitation."

–Joy Douglas

"Rebranded" (look book image) (2017) by Joy DouglasParsons School of Design

Credits: Story

This concludes Part One of the exhibition, "Deconstructing Ideas, Reconstructing Identities." Part Two of the exhibition, "The Racialized Body and Fashionability" can be viewed here and Part Three, "The Intersection of Race and the Gaze in Fashion Photography" can be viewed here .

The exhibition pursues a critical reflection of race through creative practice and is based upon the elective course, Fashion and Race, taught by Kimberly M. Jenkins from 2016-2019 at Parsons School of Design. Topics explored in the course include, but are not limited to: how the body is racialized, how the concept of race has influenced aesthetics in fashion and art history, how material culture and style is appropriated or misrepresented, and how the business of fashion comes to terms with race.

This exhibition was curated by Kimberly M. Jenkins and made possible with support from the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons School of Fashion, and Parsons School of Art and Design History and Theory.

The curator wishes to thank the following contributors for their insight, support, and resources:

Sheila C. Johnson Design Center staff:
Christiane Paul, Kristina Kaufman, Daisy Wong, Daniel Chou

Exhibition interns and graphic designers:
Fatima Coulibaly, BA Culture and Media ‘21
Allison Esannason, BFA Fashion ‘19
Karla Maria Dipuglia Perez, BFA Fashion ‘19
Manasi Vashi, BFA Communication Design '20
Daveed Baptiste, BFA Fashion '20

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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