Cancer, alopecia and diversity are not usually synonymous with fashion, yet several events are integrating these topics with their celebration of all things sartorial. Hip-hop pioneer and breast cancer survivor, Roxanne Shante will serve as co-host for this Sunday’s inaugural Beauty With Pure Purpose charity fashion show to recognize women living with cancer or alopecia.
“As a survivor you feel blessed with everyday and feel like you must make a difference. I am supposed to show how appreciative I am for life. So when it comes to participating in events I am there. I do more charity work now than I have ever done in my life,” says Shante.
Shante’s commitment to using her fame in the hip-hop community to address health issues is helping her make peace with an industry that she believes mishandled her career. “I had dreams and aspirations and then went through bad stuff with record companies, lawyers and mangers. But I can see some good in what hip-hop has allowed me to do to get the message out here. I will never love hip-hop the way I once loved it but we can be good friends.”
Dana Roberts Ross, founder of the event, hopes to successfully connect the worlds of hip-hop, fashion and health to raise greater awareness about healthcare issues. “We have to advocate for those who cannot afford medical coverage and preventive care plans. It is imperative that we reach out to each community to ensure proper representation,” she says. “Autoimmune diseases like cancer and alopecia do not discriminate. It affects people from all walks of life.”
The lack of representation on fashion runways of people from all racial backgrounds has been a controversial topic receiving media attention during New York Fashion Week. Serving as one of the most vocal advocates for more inclusion is Bethann Hardison. The legendary model and founder of The Diversity Coalition is set to meet with The Council of Fashion Designers of America to address her open letter where she listed the names of fashion houses she accuses of perpetuating racism by using a limited amount of models of color.
Dawnn Karen, founder of Fashion Psychology Success notes that the issue of diversity is significant due to the negative effect that a lack of representation can have on the mental and emotional wellbeing of consumers. “Based on one’s self esteem, any unrepresented minority including race, body type and sexual orientation may feel inferior and like second-class citizens to the world, while non-blacks are first class citizens. The psychological effects are lasting and extend to the next generations,” she says.
According to Karen, action to reverse this reality can be taken by boycotting non-inclusive brands and/or empowering designers of color to create their own collections and choose models that represent diversity. The latter is exactly what happened at the SabitNYC fashion show and Catherine Schuller’s Runway the Real Way: Innovative Integration. At the former the popular urban brand showcased its latest heavily sportswear inspired collection with a runway of youthful models from various racial backgrounds.
Schuller’s event at the Yotel Hotel took things even further with models from not only diverse racial backgrounds but also various ages, shapes, heights and sizes. Some of the highlights included the sexy plus size dresses by AbbeyPost, elegant designs of Harlem’s Heaven Hats and the pop culture inspired line of 3PTPOP (Three Point Pop). Creator of 3PTPOP, Victor-John Villanueva uses beads, bright flashes of color and whimsical patterns to produce portraits of pop culture figures such as Grace Jones, the Notorious B.I.G. and Nicki Minaj. Villanueva’s wearable art on leggings, t-shirts and chains is designed to showcase life as one big party where everyone is welcome. “We need to acknowledge diversity especially when there continues to be homophobic attacks and racism that is not dead,” he says. “I like to bring fun to the party and some in fashion might not consider it fashion. But I want to make a statement of diversity while mixing fashion and art together.”
When it comes to fashion some people aren’t afraid to wear a message on their sleeve.
The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.