‘Everything we do in life, the clothes we wear, food we eat, architecture, medicine and of course – the music we hear everyday have been brought about, influenced, changed and channelled by the development and history of black people within our society.’
October is traditionally the Black History Month in Britain and it closed in style this year with Noir at Somerset House. Untold held an inspiring event combining fashion, art and design to celebrate and emphasize the role of diversity in the construction of our society. It was the perfect opportunity to showcase the work of emerging or more confirmed talents through an exhibition, the projection of a short film and a catwalk show.
Two parts of the event particularly caught my attention, the first one being a glass wall near the entrance of the Embankment Galleries, covered with press clips and quotes from fashion industry professionals. All were related to the obvious under-representation of black models both on the catwalk and in magazines. Some of the quotes were from models themselves, from Naomi Campbell to Veronica Webb, others from fashion designers, editors or even historians, all pointing towards the same sad conclusion, which is that if things have slightly changed in other areas, they remain desperately the same when it comes to fashion. Reading these press clips, one after another, was deeply shocking – whether it be designers feeling they have done their bit with regards to diversity when they have casted one black model in their whole show, or advertisers arguing they prefer not to cast a black woman because they fear it won’t be appealing enough to the majority. As Maame Baryeh, Founding Director of Untold Design, underlined: “In an industry where colour, shade and texture form the lifeblood of creativity, it remains distinctly one dimensional in its representation of diversity.”
The other highly enjoyable part of the event was the Pecha Kucha session. If you are anything like me, your first reaction would be “pecha what?”. I wasn’t at all familiar with this concept before Noir and I’m very happy to have discovered this brilliant way to present one’s work. Devised in 2003 by Tokyo based architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, for young designers to meet, network and show their work, the concept has turned into a huge success, inspiring creatives worldwide. Pecha Kucha, which draws its name from the Japanese term for the sound of conversation, rests on a presentation format based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. Five very brave speakers embraced the challenge at Noir, including Maame Baryeh, but also Elsie Owusu (Architect), Jocelyn Jee Esian (Comedian & Actor), Annegret Affolderbach (Designer) and Nii Awikye Parkes (Author).