Research Focus: Fashion and Race


As a fashion educator and independent researcher with an interest in social psychology, innovation and justice, my work harnesses the interdisciplinary nature of fashion studies to examine the implications of ‘race’ in fashion history, business and image-making. In 2016, I introduced a course at Parsons School of Design titled Fashion and Race, and in 2018 I received the award for ‘Outstanding Achievements in Diversity and Social Justice Teaching’ from The New School.

I have developed a suite of pedagogy (listed below) that explores the intersection of fashion and race through three platforms: classroom lectures, a website and an exhibition.

 Students conducting a visual analysis exercise for the course ‘Fashion and Race’ at Parsons School of Design, 2016.

Students conducting a visual analysis exercise for the course ‘Fashion and Race’ at Parsons School of Design, 2016.

Undergraduate course: Fashion and Race

I developed this course at Parsons School of Design to investigate the ways in which fashioned identities emerge within a racialized context in effort to gain access, visibility and power, bridging key concepts in fashion studies with foundations in critical race theory, as well as methodologies from disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, art history and material culture.  Students in this course will come away with a deeper understanding of the intersection of fashion, race, and ethnicity, and will critically address historical and socially accepted standards of beauty and value within the fashion system. 

 Image: ‘Rest in Peace’ by Fabiola Jean-Louis

Image: ‘Rest in Peace’ by Fabiola Jean-Louis

Digital humanities project: The Fashion and Race Database

Here I propose that it is through a re-assessment and radical revision of the curricula for fashion history, theory and design that a deepened understanding and an expanded vision of human cultural and historical memory can be established. The first concern is to create resources for fashion professionals and educators who are not fully equipped to address and teach fashion history and theory outside of the Western lens. The goal for The Fashion and Race Database is to provide a dedicated platform with open-source tools that address the intersection of power, privilege, representation and aesthetics within the fashion system. This project received initial support through the Innovation in Education Fund at The New School.

 ‘The Evolution of a Strange Fruit’ (gown and headpiece) by Lashun Costor, featured in the exhibition,  Fashion and Race: Deconstructing Ideas, Reconstructing Identities , 2018.

‘The Evolution of a Strange Fruit’ (gown and headpiece) by Lashun Costor, featured in the exhibition, Fashion and Race: Deconstructing Ideas, Reconstructing Identities, 2018.

Exhibition: Fashion and Race: Deconstructing Ideas, Reconstructing Identities (October 27 – November 11, 2018)

On view at the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries in New York, this exhibition invites you to consider the ways in which race has affected the fashion system in terms of visibility, aesthetics, and power. It features a constellation of work from students and alumni who are harnessing their creativity to transgress the limitations they have been confronted with, deconstructing the very idea of ‘race’ as they reconstruct identities of their own.