On Monday, Dec. 2, the international fashion community will descend upon The Royal Albert Hall in London for the annual Fashion Awards. This year, the British Fashion Council will be celebrating "New Wave: Creatives," a list of 100 of the most innovative and inspiring young creatives from around the world, for the second time.
The 2019 list was voted for by panel of 2,500 fashion industry insiders from across the world, encompassing talent from over 20 countries. It assorts members from fields of art, activism, casting, floristry, hair and makeup, image-making, music, styling and writing. To mention but a few names: activist Sinead Burke, watch dogs Diet Prada and photographer Tyler Mitchell.
The primary goal of the list is to spotlight a diverse selection of talent, each with valuable contributions to changing a relatively archaic system. We spoke with a selection of the forces reshaping the industry for a better future of fashion. Read on for highlights from those conversations.
"It's always lonely being an outlier of any sort," says Adesuwa Aighewi, born to a Chinese mother and Nigerian father in America. "I try to be the change I want to see, so it's a lot of internal battles on my end."
Aighewi was once told her dreadlocks would interfere with casting opportunities as a fashion model. Yet she refused to accept the industry's outdated standards. "I'm dealing with racism and professional workforce politics, but think the majority of the problem we are facing is the barrier with communication and education," she says.
Championing her hair and striking looks, Aighewi skyrocketed to become one of the most sought-after models for the most important shows of the season: Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Miu Miu, among others. She also went on to become one of the late Karl Lagerfeld's regular muses, appearing in Chanel's Spring 2019 campaign.
"I would like to have discussions where people aren't scared of being 'canceled' or sounding silly; less political jargon and tokenism but further discussions of how we can work together where it's mutually beneficial for all," says Aighewi. Although 2019 was a turning point of sorts within the industry, such as Gucci and Prada weathering racism scandals and subsequently hiring experts to bring forth a greater understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion, there is still a way to go. "What I've noticed is everyone’s yelling, scared or just simply don't give a damn," says Aighewi. "But we're all part of this one system so something's really got to give."
"The systematic racism that exists off the back of humanity's history is what we need to unravel," says London-based Madeleine Østlie, referring to an issue that led her to open AAMØ Casting with friend and model Adwoa Aboah in 2013. The street-casting project encompasses underrepresented groups, such as people of color, trans and non-binary persons.
"Brands are now being held accountable and also challenged by the force of social media. However, it should always have been so," says Østlie.
Østlie is responsible for completing a designer's vision, finding the characters who embody the season's mood and look. She put together an inclusive cast for Burberry's Spring 2019 campaign, as well as the businessmen-cum-rave-attendee crew, young and old, at menswear designer Martine Rose's Spring 2020 presentation in June. Her job is to convince — and represent. "My obligations are to address these issues in whichever way I can; challenging the system, educating my clients, encouraging for more diverse casts throughout, thus moving away from tokenism — however, avoiding the notion that an underserved demographic is an 'obligation,'" says Østlie.
Wilson Oryema, a former charity finance administrator turned fashion model and poet, keeps an exploration of the darker side of fashion at the core of his practice: consumption. Oryema is endeavoring to shift the paradigm with his insight as a model but vocal opponent to the environmental impact. "Sustainability and environmentalism are also very central to my relationship with fashion. I don't think we can progress as an industry unless we all collectively embrace them," he says.
Having appeared on runways for Maison Margiela and A-Cold-Wall*, his most recent stint was at the Charles Jeffrey Loverboy Spring 2020 show at the British Library, where his two worlds collided, as he performed a self-written poem called, "Here We Are."
Later this year, he will release his sophomore poetry collection based on consumption. "I am trying to bring about change in fashion by raising awareness about the negative environmental impact of fashion globally and working together with brands, schools, individuals, etc., to provide alternative solutions, which sustain and add rather than take away from the world," says Oryema.
While studying fashion communication and promotion at Central Saint Martins, Campbell Addy launched Niijournal and Nii Agency, a magazine and casting agency, respectively, to combat fashion's racial diversity issue.
"It was a conscious decision in part; for my photography, not so much. Within my photography, I just wanted to portray a world that incorporated me, my family and my friends — you could say naively, I unknowingly was thinking of empowering myself," says Addy. "However, within the other mediums I work in, Nii Agency and Niijournal, I most definitely made it a conscious decision to reflect empowering myself and any like-minded individual."
In the past year, Addy has appeared in "Get Up, Stand Up Now," a major exhibition of Black creativity at Somerset House with imagery studying the lives of queer artists of color, as well as having work featured in the pages of i-D and WSJ magazine. "It fills my heart with joy to have my work praised in a way that is meaningful and that is also pushing the culture forward in a positive manner," says Addy. "Just to be recognized for the work I do is enough, but in that context it's sometimes overwhelming."
Recently appointed senior fashion editor-at-large at i-D, Ibrahim Kamara was born in Sierra Leone, grew up in the Gambia and, at 11 years old, moved to London where graduated from the fashion communications and promotion course at Central Saint Martins. His final year project in 2016, entitled "2026," imagined what Black masculinity would look like in 10 years. "I hope my work gives men or women from all walks of life the ability to fully express themselves and let their imagination and let them be," says Kamara.
"As a stylist, I can enact change through inclusion, working with people from all backgrounds, designers however young or small," he adds. "For me, it's an exciting time to be able to collaborate and support other young people, too."
Kamara earned the much-coveted position as stylist for Vogue Italia's September issue cover starring Adut Akec. "It was very humbling for me to do it with the Vogue team who are incredible and to shoot with [photographer] Paolo [Roversi] is a dream," says Kamara. The cover symbolizes a shifting paradigm in fashion, when one of the most-wanted names in fashion is a person of color.