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‘The Missing Thread’: recapturing the historical significance of black British fashion

‘The Missing Thread’: recapturing the historical significance of black British fashion

So what exactly is ‘The Missing Thread’? In short, it’s a long-term project from the BFC’s Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF) that will celebrate black British fashion and culture, in partnership with the Black Orientated Legacy Development Agency (a.k.a. BOLD).

The project will encompass black British  fashion and culture dating from 1975 to present day through a series of programmed events set to culminate in a major exhibition in summer 2022.

Given the huge surge in conversation around #blacklivesmatter and racial inequality, we  don’t need to explain why this project is both exciting and necessary. Due to the erasure or neglect of black stories and talent generally, the fashion industry is one of many areas that have lacked vital input from whole swathes of society and now seeks to promote deeper awareness of the contributions made by all races.

Inspired by black British fashion designer Joe Casely-Hayford, who died in 2019 after a three-year fight against cancer, ‘The Missing Thread’ is intended to reference, educate and present many untold black cultural narratives and design contributions.

‘I believe that as black people, we should be acknowledging our roots, but from there onwards we have the right to express our own individuality. When we begin to allow black people to be free of repressive conditioning, intolerance and self-imposed limitation, where a black man and woman can act without fear of letting the black race down, we will begin to see an end to institutional racism.’ Joe Casely-Hayford, OBE. (1994)

‘The Missing Thread’ will also address the shortcomings in academic provisions and practice at secondary, further education and higher education levels by charting the rise and impact of ‘UK black style culture’.

Andrew Ibi, the co-founder of BOLD, said “The historical significance of black fashion culture is essential to future fashion practitioners and their progress within the industry. The Missing Thread is a vehicle to examine past, present and future – to contextualise black fashion culture with authority. Retrospective acknowledgement and recognition of black cultural contribution are key components in framing the project.”

One of the key long-term objective of the project is to create the UK’s first ‘black fashion and culture’ undergraduate education programme. This specialism will document the history of black fashion and culture as well as offer a provision to train and educate future fashion practitioners. Additionally, the project aims to amplify race narratives in fashion education by working in collaboration with i-D towards a dedicated library of black fashion literature at Central Saint Martins, Joe Casely-Hayford’s alma mater (1975–77).

On 28 October, a special SHOWstudio panel was dedicated to Joe and his vision, examining the contribution the fashion industry must make towards a new era. The panel, titled Joe Casely-Hayford: An Icon For Our Times, was chaired by Andrew Ibi with Caroline Rush, Ekow Eshun, Karen Binns and Walé Adeyemi.

Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of BFC, said: “The need for far greater accountability in our industry has become increasingly apparent over the last year. Black fashion contributions are at the core of Britain’s reputation as a creative hub yet continue to be overlooked. We are extremely excited to work with BOLD on this project which aims at restoring and acknowledging cultural contributions to one of the UK’s most creative industries.”

What is the Institute of Positive Fashion?

The IPF helps the British fashion industry lead in its goal to be more resilient and circular through global collaboration and local action. Leveraging global expertise and resources, the IPF adopts standards, develops and establishes frameworks to reset and create a new blueprint for the industry. Through identifying common challenges, the IPF calls for collective action and investment in innovation to make a difference.

What is the British Fashion Council’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee?

This year, the BFC launched its Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee, an essential part of its long-term plan to fight prejudice and galvanise the industry into action. The committee is made up of industry and BFC representatives and its role is to address key challenges facing minority communities in gaining fair representation within the fashion industry. To find out more about the BFC’s Diversity & Inclusion strategy, click here.