October is Black History Month. You’d have to be blind not to notice just how much my design style is influenced by Black/ African culture and hence why I acknowledge and show my appreciation during this month.
I was born and brought up in a small Yorkshire town as part of an African-Caribbean family and close knit community that taught me how to love my culture and connect with my African roots. Throughout my childhood and into adult life, my strong sense of connection with Africa was nurtured by my mother. She endeavoured to keep the rich and heavily African-influenced heritage of her small Caribbean island alive by teaching me many aspects of their traditions. Every weekend I would adorn an African print dress and head wrap to sing songs in African tongues and dance to rhythmic drumbeats as we congregated with others to learn and celebrate the native dances that were handed down to us over the generations by our African ancestors. And on numerous occasions I was blessed with the opportunity of visiting the island and my relatives to experience first hand my culture in its natural setting.
My upbringing has shaped almost every aspect of my life and values; this strong sense of connection with my African roots has undoubtedly been a great influence on my unconventional take on fashion, Afrocentric sense of style and in turn my approach to business. You only need to look at my business and choices of fabrics I make for my designs such as the striking Kente tones and bold Dashiki prints or scroll through my personal syling blog, SJ Designer UK to see the fearless use of print and colour to appreciate the huge impact African culture has had on my business, Neckwear designs and overall personal style.
Today I can say that through my business I have managed to fuse my Black British upbringing with the pride I have in my African heritage. By using fashion to celebrate the traditions and vibrancy of Africa, my unique pieces transcend cultural boundaries and reflect a much needed diversity in fashion.
Black history and culture has had a strong impact on world as a whole and this month I take the time to reflect, show my appreciation and celebrate how Black/ African culture has personally influenced me as a designer, entrepreneur and woman of the African diaspora.
Has Black/ African culture influenced you and your personal style?