Let me start by saying Christian Siriano is an ally for the culture. He’s always leaned into dressing Black Hollywood, whether it was coming to the rescue of Leslie Jones who couldn’t find a designer to dress her on the red carpet, or stylishly shaping the curves (and even placing her on the runway) of Danielle Brooks. At the Orange Is The New Black season finale, many of the women were wearing designs by Siriano.
While we praise diversity in fashion, we still have a long way to go. It shouldn’t be a headline that a designer is dressing a curvy or tall Black woman. However, his efforts, have helped to push diversity in the industry and call out designers who are still designing for the same, monolithic customer. Nevertheless, even allies can make mistakes.
Siriano partnered with TRESemmé for hair looks for his NYFW Spring/Summer 2020 show and while they only brought the product, he brought the inspiration. According to WWD, Sirano showed hairstylists a photo of Gigi Hadid in a braided style and dubbed the look the “Gigi Braid.” And while yes, Hadid may have worn this exact hairstyle, when I think of braids, I do not think of white women.
There is nothing wrong with Gigi Hadid wearing a braided hairstyle; however, there is a huge problem in the industry (and media) with Blackness only being desired or adored when placed on white bodies. Braids have a long history going back to Africa. Specific braided styles represented class and even occasions while some braided styles were actually maps to freedom during the slave trade.
By simply dubbing one braided ponytail, which Black women have been wearing since they were kids as the “Gigi Braid” is erasure of a community of people. An erasure of history. Erasure is a form of racism that has been embedded in American culture when it comes to Black people. To not even acknowledge the history of something is to say it doesn’t exist. He could have still called it the ‘Gigi Braid’; however, it should have had some historical context. With a platform as large as his, simply adding that braids are historically from Black culture and natural hairstyles have seen a resurgence on the runway and red carpet, would have educated a mass of people who probably aren’t looking for this information on their own.
We’ve already been through this with Bo Derek and her braids. “Bo Derek Braids” are not a thing. Bo Derek is a woman who wore braids, but she did not start or create the braided style. The ‘Bo Derek Braids’ nomenclature occurred after the 1979 movie ‘10‘. If it seems like one is nit picking, fast forward to almost 40 years later to Kim Kardashian (who whether we like it or not, influences culture), called her braids ‘Bo Derek Braids.’ Mis-education is also a form of erasure.
With the CFDA placing diversity as a major importance, it’s imperative to know that it goes beyond throwing more Black models on the runway. Fashion is fantasy so inspiration will be taken from a multitude of places; it’s important to correctly site where said inspiration is derived.