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Dress Codes: Fashion and Community in African and Diasporic Cultures

A program of
As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic

Saturday, October 22
2pm–4pm ET
Online on Zoom 

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With moderator Elliott Ramsey and speakers Jason Cyrus, Teleica Kirkland, and Caron Phinney.

Through its visual presence and coded aesthetics, clothing tells the story of how people define themselves, how they control their own visibility, and how they claim space within public or private realms. Style is a central form of cultural expression for people of African descent and diaspora yet the academic world has long ignored this rich contribution to the history of global fashion, obscuring cultural influences and undermining a comprehensive historical documentation. Through their research, curatorial and teaching strategies, the panelists engaged in this conversation actively contribute to developing and expanding knowledge and resources around the legacy and significance of African and diasporic clothing and style. In this conversation, they share insights on the methodologies and ideas that fuel their work.

About the Speakers

Jason Cyrus is a curator who uses fashion and textile history to explore questions of identity, cultural exchange, and agency. His exhibitions have explored gender, intersectionality, the cotton industry in the 1800s, and enslavement. Jason is also an Associate Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Studies at the London College of Fashion. He holds a master’s degree in Art History and Curatorial Studies from York University, Canada, and has held research fellowships at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum, Queen’s University, and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Jason’s doctoral research at the University of Warwick examines the enduring hierarchy between French and Indian high fashion, labour, and creativity.

Caron Phinney is a graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University’s undergraduate fashion program, with a major in fashion design and a minor in production. She received an MA in the History of Decorative Arts and Design from Brighton University, UK. Caron’s fashion design career consists of 15 years of industry experience specializing in bridal design, and over 10 years of teaching students how to adapt digital pattern making, 3D body scanning, with concepts of identity and belonging to become technically proficient and socially conscious designers.

Teleica Kirkland is a Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Studies (CHS) at University of the Arts London: London College of Fashion, a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths University, and the founder Creative Director of the Costume Institute of the African Diaspora (CIAD) an organisation dedicated to enabling the study of clothing and dress history from the African Diaspora. Kirkland´s projects and publications include: Cultural Dress and Costume History of the Caribbean, Churchill Fellow Report, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (2012). Tartan: Its Journey through the African Diaspora, interactive site-based project, London (2014); ‘Reflections of Durbar in the Diaspora’, Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion, Volume 8, Numbers 1-2, 1 October 2021, pp. 127-140 (14) Intellect (2021); ‘Textiles from Trees and Trash’, Surface Design Journal, The Solidarity Issue, Volume 45, number 4, Winter 2021, pp 54 -57 (4); Surface Design Association (2021). Her next projects include CIAD’s second biennial dress conference taking place on Friday 28th October 2022.

Elliott Ramsey is Curator of The Polygon Gallery, on the unceded territories of the Elliott Ramsey is Curator of The Polygon Gallery, on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwxx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ First Nations. He holds a Masters of Arts degree in Comparative Media Arts (2015) from Simon Fraser University. He is interested in themes of representation and performance in the visual arts. His 2021 exhibition Interior Infinite presented self-portraiture through masquerade and disguise, featuring internationally acclaimed artists including Nick Cave, Martine Gutierrez, Zanele Muholi, and Carrie Mae Weems. He has sat on numerous panels and juries, including the 2022 VIVA and Sobey Awards, and recently curated the touring exhibition As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic, presented by Aperture.

Title and Page Image: James Barnor, Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, Kilburn, London, 1966, from As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic (Aperture, 2021). Courtesy Autograph ABP.

A woman waring a yellow dress leans glamourously on a silver car


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