parsons’ new exhibition explores how fashion can be less racist

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When Kimberly Jenkins debuted her course “Fashion and Race” at Parsons two years ago, many thought spending a semester unpacking topics like cultural appropriation and representation seemed too “niche.” She proved those people wrong. Today, the course amasses a waitlist each time it’s offered and her POC students remark on the life-changing experience of having a black female professor (a first for many).

“We wring our hands over topics like ‘How do you integrate diversity into brands?’ or ‘What on Earth were they thinking when they made this editorial?’” Jenkins says, speaking on the intense class discussions. “And a lot of the students who benefit from white privilege are there because they want to learn how they can help.”

On the syllabus? Texts include Representation by Stuart Hall and Slaves to Fashion by Monica L. Miller. If Jenkins could have her way, she says, the discussions in her class — centered on inclusion and diversity — would serve as a blueprint for the entire fashion system. “I always wish the real powerbrokers in the fashion industry were in the room listening.”

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