Make room for the 3% by Jeanette Young

Dressing up in our household was a common activity. My mum loved dressing up – I remember her fur coats and sequin-embellished garments. Mum’s style was very glamourous and chic – similar to that of Diahann Carroll.

As a family, we would dress up for every occasion – and I’m sure many Black families can relate. Dressing up for us was a form of expression, although we didn’t have much, we felt and looked like a million dollars.  

I have always had a love for fashion. I loved listening to Salt-N-Pepa, Monie Love and Cookie Crew (who were female hip-hop rappers in the 80s) and watching Diff’rent Strokes, A Different World, Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and good ol’ Dynasty. I found them relatable, inspiring, fun, and full of style and fashion! I just love the 80s. 

And let’s not forget church…

When I was little, my grandma used to take me to church on a Sunday morning. She would dress up in her big hat, tailored twinset suit and pointed stiletto heels, because “We going to church.” It was always important to wear our ‘Sunday Best’; my grandma saw it as part of worship. She would make sure that food was seasoned and prepared, and clothes pressed from the night before – something culturally that I still do today (well before COVID-19).

I was inspired by church fashion – the big hats, the elaborate colours and outfits – and remember that many of the churchwomen sewed their own clothes. My Black culture and upbringing have all had an influence on who I am today.

I would describe my style as stylish, trendy, chic – with a touch of glam. 

My style is quite versatile; it all depends on my mood and where I am going. One thing’s for sure, though… I wear heels for most of my looks, loool.

My designs are definitely ‘contemporary glam’. My last collection was more occasion wear, but my new collection will definitely be more contemporary, because this has sold well for me and is more relatable. 

I launched my womenswear online boutique in 2017, and I love and enjoy what I do, even though it hasn’t been easy at all. The fashion industry is all about who you know, and although this is an industry I have worked in for over 15 years, my main experience is on the production side. The fashion industry is very cliquey. As big as the fashion world may seem, it is a very small network and circle.

As a Black woman – a strong Black woman who looks good – I am also seen as a threat, or just not recognised due to the colour of my skin. Throughout my working life, I have found there are not many Black people in high positions, such as CEO or Director, within the fashion industry, so it is very hard to bring about change and diversity within the workplace or in general.

It is great to see Black people, like Edward Enninful OBE (Editor-in-Chief) and Vanessa Kingori MBE (Publishing Director) of British Vogue, speaking out and using their positions of influence to bring about change. Edward states: “It goes to show that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you have achieved in the course of life, the first thing that some people see is the colour of your skin” ( 16/07/20).

There is now greater awareness, due to the death of George Floyd, where fashion brands and many other organisations are beginning to look at their organisational structures to implement a more diverse workplace that is reflective of our westernised world. We hope!

It would be great to see a rise of UK Black designers being recognised, acknowledged and supported by our community and by the British Fashion Council.

The Black population consists of 3% in the UK – which is very small – so why are we not recognised in our country, which our forefathers helped to build? 

Time to make room for the 3%! Now that would be something to celebrate as part of our Black history…

I am one of the fortunate ones, and I am extremely grateful because my gift has made room for me in some areas. But there is sooo much more to be accomplished to enable my legacy to live on.  It’s my desire to pave the way for other Black designers and stylists, like myself, to help them succeed and conquer.

For more about me, please check out:
Instagram: @jeanetteyounglondon
YouTube: Jeanette Young London


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