We're celebrating Black History Month this year with words from your peers! Black History Month means something different for everyone, but this time around, we’re finding out what it means from our fellow artists and creators:
Jasmine Anderson (She/her/hers) is from a 20-year-old from California who is currently living in New York as a full-time fashion design student at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
"I’ve been infatuated with fashion since elementary school. Finding loopholes to make sure my style stood out behind the strict school uniforms and dress code. I was always interested in art but never knew I could make a career out of it until my father told me about the number of art schools all over the world and how he wished that, instead of going to UC Berkeley, he attended RISD or CalArts studying product design when he was younger. I was fascinated by this information and decided to combine my fashion with art. I had no idea fashion schools even existed until I did my research and came across a number of design schools. FIT stood out to me the most because of it being in New York. It's one of the very few that doesn’t have a campus that is spread out throughout various streets of New York City and because of the successful graduation rates along with job rates, I knew it was the one. Moving to New York City has been a confidence boost, I took up a couple internships, joined a couple of clubs, and volunteered for shows during New York Fashion Week. After nearly two years at FIT, I have come to a stronger understanding of what I hope to do in the near future. Whether that be starting my own sportswear line or costuming for films. My goal is to become a well-known designer in sportswear or costuming, or even both and get the chance to show my designs to people wherever I go. "
How do you think that being an African American in the fashion industry can potentially affect your career?
I think that being African American definitely has an effect. I could be anywhere in the United States and I will be looked at as “ignorant” because of my skin color or even have people assume that I’m not taking fashion seriously because of it. I really don’t want people to think that this is something I’m doing for fun. Whether it’s people who work in the industry or people who don’t. The idea that some people will think that way once I get into the industry scares me. I also believe that as a black person, there may be a good amount of people who think that just because of the fact that I am African American, I won't be able to make something that will appeal to the masses. I wish it just worked in the sense where I designed something and all people like it. Not designing work for a specific group of people and only a certain race are allowed to wear it.
Do you ever feel as if people are treating you differently because of your skin color?
All the time! There are obviously people whom I don’t feel that way around but there are a number of people that I do come across every day, whether it be on the streets, in class, or shopping. There will be some people who are scared to approach me or think that I’m a bitch and don't want to interact with me. Another way it seems to go is them thinking that I’m stupid or anyone else for that matter is stupid because of the skin color. On top of all that, I’ve had numerous people think that I’m poor because of my skin color. I can say; my parents worked hard to get where they are and they taught me to use my money in a more valuable way than just using it to appease other people and change people's perception of me. However, aside from all of this, there’s a majority of people whom I don’t feel that way with at all which is always refreshing.
What encompasses “respect” when it comes to being a black woman?
As a black woman, when it comes to demanding respect, I also get that feeling that if I say something, I would be looked at as just another stereotype: bitter, angry, a gold digger, stupid, even loud. However, I have seen multiple black women be able to assert their respect and create a prominent idea of how they want to be perceived in American societies. That’s something that I really admire and think is very important. Especially with the lack of respect, black women are getting. Malcolm X said it best: “The most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” People who continuously disrespect black women already have this preconceived notion that they are those horrible stereotypes and that they are only doing what they’re doing to start irrelevant drama. That’s why I always find myself staying quiet because I don’t want to be seen that way at all. I will add that I do think that the lack of respect is not only seen in the black community but with other minority women as well.
As a double minority, do you think it gives you an advantage or a disadvantage in school and/or the workplace?
I don’t think that I’ve had enough work experience to speak on that topic, but in school, yes. I have had teachers that seemed to be super turned off by me because of my race. I had this one teacher that didn’t like me whatsoever. I got treated drastically differently because she didn’t think I was putting enough effort in just because of the color of my skin. My high school was predominately white and while I was there, I never actually had anyone blatantly be racist to my face but it was a situation where you would always find it on social media whether or not the people around you were racists. That told me a lot about how bold people can be behind a screen even if it still can affect them in real life.
How do you feel about the term “cultural appropriation” when it comes to the fashion industry?
I think that there are people who enjoy profiting off of other people’s cultures, but there are also people who really just have no idea what they're doing is wrong. I really do have mixed feelings about it all depending on the situation and it really wasn’t a phrase I heard until senior year of high school as I got more involved with social media. I like to always use this analogy when it comes to the fashion industry and their need to sometimes appropriate another group of people’s culture: if one race of a darker skin tone worn something that was usually worn by them for a number of years, they would be considered ghetto. For example, “streetwear”. But, if another race of a lighter complexion wore it, they’re considered “cool” and “hip”. It’s sort of like when social media influencers wearing Jordans, baggy clothes, sweatpants, etc. They say it’s so “iconic” and these people are “bad bitches” but when I wear it, it’s like “I’m dirty, tired, or lazy.” Because I’m black.
What is your view on “Black Culture” in the fashion industry?
I think that a lot of brands feel as if they need to use black models or include black designers because they’re afraid that if they don’t, they’ll come off like they don’t like those races. Even if they really don’t want to be inclusive and it’s just all for appearances. Aside from the fashion industry, and maybe these two things go hand and hand, I do feel like makeup brands are more prone to doing the fake diversity appreciation thing. I think they’re thinking too hard about how they’re going to come off that they’re forcing it rather than letting it happen. And because of this, they sometimes end up missing the mark completely. I remember Tommy Hilfiger once saying that he thought his brand was going downhill because a lot of black people were wearing his clothing. Now you see his brand using models of that culture, such as Zendaya, to boost his profits.
When do you think is the right time for minorities to start speaking up against inequality within the fashion industry?
I feel like people are already speaking up within the industry. I think they’re doing a good job when it comes to not letting the wrong some people are doing slide. But I still think it’s going to take more time for it to improve. I hope to see more black woman designers because I think that a lot of them have amazing ideas that people are overlooking on purpose. We need a lot more well-known and successful ones who deserve as much recognition as other well-known designers because a lot of the times they are just as good. Sometimes even better.
Follow Jasmine and her journey to success here!