The relationship between the fashion industry and the practice of colourism has mostly been discussed from a singular perspective, one which accused the industry of supporting the practice. In 2013, Bethann Hardison, founder of the advocacy group the Diversity Coalition, and fashion icons Iman and Naomi Campbell came together and penned open letters to the governing bodies of fashion in New York, Paris, London and Milan demanding greater diversity. Fashion houses have since attempted to diversify casting choices, and the relevance of the conversation has not waned.
Locally, final-year student at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Simone Williams, has added a new dimension to the discourse.
Faced with the social practice, Williams decided that the best way to address colourism was through her final-year project and collection — Skin Deep.
After viewing the collection during the college's week-long showcase, All Woman Fashion (AWF) met up with the designer to unravel the threads which make up the minimalistic conversation pieces.
“This collection is meant to provoke discussions aimed at examining interpersonal interactions, especially those tainted by stereotypes based on skin tones and other societal considerations. More importantly, it is also my intention to highlight the beauty of what can be created through inclusion and integration,” Williams shared with AWF.
Armed with a palette inspired by the diverse range of skin tones, and employing various fabric manipulation techniques, the young designer set out to reshape the narrative. Pieces such as the Box Me In top and Eccentric set were fashioned to depict her interpretation of the issue.
“The distressing [technique] is used to signify the way we speak to and treat each other, the way we tear each other apart, while the layering and patchwork represents the different 'layers' of cultures that blend together to form the Jamaican people,” she disclosed.
Despite describing the collection as a “refreshing experience” which left her feeling empowered and proud, Williams noted that her true passion has always been painting, and that this is the field in which she hopes to create an internationally renowned brand.
AWF has no doubt that she will get there given her knack for using visuals to propel a narrative.