The fashion industry, like most other cultural institutions, needs to change in order to represent diverse communities and uplift people of all colors. The appreciation of and collaboration with communities of color are just a few powerful tools to help create a brighter future, but it will take more than that, according to Denver fashion designer Tyne Hall.
Here at 303 Magazine, we wanted to delve deeper into the matter and asked the acclaimed designer to share her thoughts about this moment in time and what it is like as a Black designer.
303 Magazine: Based on recent events, what are your thoughts regarding the inclusivity of Black people in fashion?
Tyne Hall: I think the fashion industry has a long way to go regarding inclusion. What we have seen in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the protests that followed are brands’ somber posts of solidarity with Black Americans and maybe you get a few photos of models of color wearing their garments. At this point, that’s not enough. We’re still underrepresented — as designers — and there are few Black people in positions of leadership. It was just in February that we were talking about Gucci’s blackface turtleneck jumper. Clearly, there weren’t any Black people in positions of power that could speak up. It’s hard for Black people to break into fashion and once you’re in, it’s hard to have your voice heard. So, unless these companies address these core issues, all of their Instagram posts are going to ring very hollow.
303: How do you think more can be done to embrace long-lasting diversity and representation in an industry that’s constantly changing?
TH: Hire more Black people, particularly in positions of authority. It’s so simple and probably a bit obvious, but having those voices in the room, influencing decisions and holding companies accountable is important. Part of this is also going to have to be shouldered by consumers. Make the conscious effort to buy from Black designers and demand that fashion companies do better in promoting diversity. Consumers wield a lot of power, so it’s really time to put your money where your mouth is.
303: How does being a Black designer in Denver’s growing fashion scene give you a unique perspective when creating your designs?
TH: I think a lot about the stereotypes people use to define Black women. We’re seen as angry, aggressive and unfeeling. These harmful stereotypes rob us of our humanity and put undue stress on our bodies. So, my designs often include some soft and romantic elements interspersed between the more powerful pieces to create a sense of vulnerability and to make the collection more multidimensional and human.
303: Have you ever experienced any barriers in the fashion industry regarding a lack of representation/diversity that you’ve either seen or overcome?
TH: I’ve had certainly less than respectful encounters with people in the industry but I think the experience that has impacted me the most is watching as Black models are overlooked at castings. I make it my goal to cast a diverse group of models and create an inclusive environment when working with me.
303: Do you feel that there have been positive social strides when it comes to the fashion community here in Denver?
TH: I do. There are more designers of color and we’re seeing more of a commitment to diverse model choices. I think there is still some progress to make. We need to do better when it comes to doing hair and makeup for Black models on set and at runway shows, and we need to make sure we are elevating Black voices about their experiences.
303: Why do you think that it’s important to have more Black designers in fashion?
TH: The fashion industry has centered white voices in defining what’s beautiful and fashionable. Fashion has a big role in how we see each other, so it’s important to have Black creatives involved in that conversation.
303: In your opinion, how does fashion bring all people together, giving a voice to the silenced?
TH: Fashion is a language and I think influencers and activists can use fashion to share a broader message. But it’s almost difficult to talk about fashion giving a voice to the silenced when so much of the industry silences Black voices. The fashion industry has an opportunity to create a space to share experiences and culture, but if industry gatekeepers continue to limit the number of diverse creatives, I don’t see how we can achieve that.
303: Where do you see the fashion industry’s progression in inclusion in the next five years?
TH: My hope is that we see more Black fashion editors, photographers, creative directors and professionals. I want to see actual changes and accountability for companies that do not uphold diversity. I’m a little cautious with my optimism, but that’s something I hope we see in the next five years.
303: How can local and global fashion communities support Black designers?
TH: Buy our clothes. Promote our work. Provide more opportunities for internships and positions as designers. Instead of stealing ideas from Black designers, collaborate with us. Respect our work as legitimate.
All photography by Robin Fulton