Culture Design Education Event Fashion

If Gucci Isn’t ‘Urban,’ Neither Is FENTY

The British Fashion Council drew a stellar crowd for the 2019 British Fashion Awards. The ceremony was hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross. Featured guests included Janet Jackson, A$AP Rocky, Tyler the Creator and British Vogue Editor Edward Enninful.

Red Carpet

There was a solid theme of impeccable footwear on the Red Carpet, which I always appreciate. Also fitting because Bottega Veneta was last night’s big winner. The brand, known for its footwear and leather goods, won Accessories Designer of the Year.

Winner’s Circle

Adut Akeh is booked and definitely deserves to be Model of the Year. She walked every runway from Melbourne and London to New York, Paris and Milan. And, she is featured in multiple global ad campaigns for Fendi, H&M, Michael Kors, Zara and Versace (to name a few). She looked great in green last night. 

One of the most accomplished and celebrated supermodels of the century, Naomi Campbell is every bit of a Fashion Icon. She is fashion inspiration to so many (Kim Kardashian) and a testament to how Black women transform the fashion industry.

Rihanna was recognized in the Urban Luxe category for her achievements with FENTY – a very-well deserved honor. While I take nothing away from Rihanna and past winner Virgil Abloh, the category gave me pause. According to the description on the British Fashion Awards website, the Urban Luxe award,

Celebrates the innovation and influence of a brand that has redefined new luxe and brought fashion into the cultural conversation. The recipient of this award is perceived across the globe as elevating ‘casual’ to high end and directional fashion.

This sounds like a rebrand of “streetwear.” Black people have been mixing low and high-end pieces since the dawn of time. But pieces from FENTY and Off-White are worn on the Red Carpet. That makes both fashion brands great contenders in the luxury categories that already exist. The categories that existed two years ago before the introduction of “Urban Luxe.” The categories that existed before a council decided that it’s time to publicly recognize the muses that ultimately give the fashion industry its life – the Black designers.

This categorization is yet another sign that the fashion industry is out of touch with reality. Aside from the increasing number of racially insensitive gaffes from brands like Prada, there is this persistent attempt to narrow the lane when it comes to Black achievements. Both of which are telling of the lack of representation behind-the-scenes in the some cases and Black folks sleeping on the job in others.

My suggestion to the British Fashion Council is to either call the category what it is, “The Black Luxury Designer of the Year” or be inclusive with your general categories. Sure, if you give Black designers the opportunity to win in your historically majority-led categories, your winners circle will look very different next year. Undoubtedly, FENTY could’ve won Brand of the Year. Rihanna could’ve won Womenswear Designer of the Year or even Designer of the Year.

One of my favorite lines from Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act 2 is, “If you want to be somebody. If you want to go somewhere. You better wake up and pay attention.”

British Fashion Council, I’d like to offer Whoopi’s words of wisdom to you. If Gucci is luxury, so is FENTY. It’s time to reevaluate the structure of your awards strategy.

See the full list of winners here.

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