When I began covering New York Fashion Week for NaturallyCurly a decade ago, I had a full appreciation of the power of fashion. I loved seeing the incredible creativity expressed by each designer – the gorgeous dresses, the sophisticated suits and the elegant gowns. But with each show, I was increasingly aware of the lack of diversity of the models. Whether the hair was parted down the middle or pulled back in a ponytail, there was barely a curl or kink in sight. And the models were, almost exclusively, white.
Some adventurous designers would buck the trend, but they were definitely the exception. Behind the scenes of the Spring 2012 shows in Paris, model Jourdan Dunn tweeted her frustrations about the lack of stylists who knew how to work with her coily texture.
Backstage with one of my favorite stylists at one of well-known designer’s shows, as he pulled one of the model’s long silky mane into a high ponytail - he said: “Michelle, I tried to get her to do some curls, but she wasn’t interested.”
I tried to get her to do some curls, but she wasn’t interested.
So I found myself focusing my camera on the people in the audience more than those that sauntered down the runway. That’s where I saw the most interesting styles – luscious coils and voluminous curls. One gorgeous black woman I interviewed in the audience was a model who told me she hadn’t been hired by any of the designers. She suspected the reason she wasn’t on the runway was either the color of her skin or her tight coils.
Never one to accept the status quo, I was lamenting about the runway looks with our global editor at the time, Cassidy Blackwell (now at Walker & Co.), after returning from Fashion Week in 2011. She was frustrated as well.
“We thought, why don’t we create a runway show all about curls. Why don’t we celebrate the diversity of texture on the runway!” Blackwell says.
If we were going to do it, we wanted to do it big. And that meant doing it during New York Fashion Week. We had so many people who insisted there was no way we could get people to come to our show during Fashion Week – a show that would be located more than 30 blocks from the center of the action.
“But we thought there was only one option,” Blackwell says. “It was important to celebrate a runway show when and where all the biggest and best fashion shows were happening.”
Texture on The Runway ’12 was born.
Our vision was to create a top-notch fashion show that enabled brands and their stylists to put texture front and center - to let the hair dictate the fashion rather than the other way around. We wanted to give them full reign to create their looks – whether that be a frohawks or long, beachy waves.
Brands and stylists enthusiastically jumped on board, loving the creativity of the event and the opportunity to showcase create their own looks rather a look dictated by the designer. Sponsors included Curls Unleashed, Hair Rules, Matrix, Arrojo and Mardi. CURLS sponsored the drinks.
As the day approached, there were more than a few hiccups. RSVPs were trickling in slowly. A brand needed a last-minute model call within 48 hours of the show when the stylist changed his creative vision. A blizzard was in the forecast for the night of the event and snow was falling as models toddled town the street from the salon to the venue. TextureMedia team members and volunteers were rushing to fill an hour before the doors opened. Somebody spilled a drink on the sound board and it was nobody knew for sure if the audio would work.
Would people show up?
We cautiously looked out the window. A line had formed around the block. By the time the lights dimmed and the show started, City Winery was packed to capacity with media, natural hair influencers, curly girls and VIPs.
“From the moment it started – and music filled the room – I knew it would be okay,” Blackwell says. “It was so beautiful to see it come to life. It all came together in one beautiful hour-long runway show unlike anything anybody had ever seen before during New York Fashion Week.”
Texture on the Runway created a splash, both in New York and beyond.
“From the fierce hair do's represented in the building to the merging of fashion & fros, I'm truly looking forward to the next Texture on the Runway event!” wrote Christina Brown of Love Brown Sugar.
“It's New York Fashion Week and while droves of fashion fanatics are checking out the latest clothing trends, naturalistas in the Big Apple gathered to see the hottest curls and kinks at the Textures on the Runway show,” wrote an Essence editor.
Over the past five years, texture and diversity have been steadily making their way onto the runway as designers work to better reflect society. We believe Texture on the Runway has played – and will continue to play – a role in ensuring that we view our curls and coils as something to celebrate rather than a problem to be solved.