So Hot It's Cool: Street Style with an African-American Flava
Victoria Moore in Cool Street Style
My Obsession With Kuro Gyaru Started With African-American Style
With the release of the movies "Lincoln" and "Django Unchained" and the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday on January 21 I've been thinking about what it means to dress as an African-American now. Does it mean following conservative guidelines exemplified by Michelle and Barack Obama, or does it mean being a free spirit and copying the Japanese Gothic Lolita style in frilly little girl dresses and matching parasoles? Fortunately we have a choice, so one day we can sport a preppy look and play golf and another, wild club gear, and dance at a club to electronic grooves. I, for one, am overjoyed that this new latitude has resulted in a wider definition of African-American style.
Influenced By My New Surroundings:
Since my recent re-awakening I can't help noticing the changes in my life that led me to my current mind set. It started with a major culture shock when I moved from one area where, within walking distance, I could go to my favorite thrift stores, art galleries, and restaurants in a multicultural neighborhood to one where I have to catch a bus or tram to wherever I need to go in town. In my new place I've become exposed to a predominately African-American and Hispanic population who wear different uniforms: for girls and women it consists of skinny jeans with layered tees under hoodies and boots, pajamas and house shoes in the winter and short shorts and mini skirts in the spring and summer and for the boys and men it consists of slouchy skinny pants with underwear showing and baggy pants with oversized t-shirts.
The other day, when I read my January 2013 "Vogue" and "Harper's Bazaar", I noted that it said that instead of short skirts longer hemlines would be "in" and instead of skinny jeans and pants only, wider-legged ones would be acceptable too. Replacing black would be black-and-white, pastel colors, green and red and lace detailing would join ruffles as part of the feminine accents added to separates. That's great, but how would the people I see in this area react to these sudden shifts in fashion? I don't know the answer to that question but I can't wait to find out.
Exploring the Neighborhood:
In addition to being exposed to people who dress apart from the fashion industry's standards I also started exploring the retail stores in the area to see what's available. Surprisingly I found some good stuff after shopping at the local Goodwill thrift store, Fallas, and Forever 21. I can't say that I'm a total convert, and will ever give up my own unique style for a uniform, but if I hadn't moved here I wouldn't have found different forms of inspiration based on African-American signatures. My favorite is the Japanese kuro gyaru ("dark skinned gals") gal unit called "Black Diamonds". Created in 2012, the style goes back to the 1990s, and is inspired by African-American r'n'b artists. I think it looks like blaxploitation stars Pam Grier ("Foxy Brown")and Tamara Dobson ("Cleopatra Jones"), with a little '70s "Soul Train" thrown in. Whereveer it came from it's 100% hot and 200% cool.
So how did I find out about kuro gyaru since I live so far off the fashion grid? To make a long story short I was hipped to a website, www.tokyofashion.com, when I went to an exhibit called "Sweet Street" at the "WWA Gallery" in Culver City, California about a year ago. Funky and colorful it centered on art influenced by the U.S. in the '80s. After liking "tokyo fashion" on facebook I became a daily viewer. When I saw the "Black Diamonds" I became obsessed. I couldn't believe it, a style that actually celebrated dark skin and sexy African-American street wear!
Through my internet research I've discovered the "Black Diamonds" have created "an overseas branch named black diamonds international" to accomodate their growing numbers worldwide. Described as "girly glam style" , in Wikipedia, their look is a departure from the classical rules of beauty and instead of celebration of the artificial with "man-made wigs, fake eyelashes, fake nails" and outfits that consist of hot pants, graphically ornate tees, big belts, over-the-knee boots, animal print faux fur coats, leg warmers, bellbottoms and jumpsuits. Although most of the Japanese "Black Diamonds" wear the brand "D.I.A." and they just started a mail-order business, you can also put together your own kuro gyaru style from the Gap, H&M, Forever 21 and your local thrift store. To get the hair and makeup, you can visit a wig shop and go to a drug store for Revlon or Rimmel makeup.
In October, I'll be celebrating my two year anniversary in my "new place", and while I can't say it's been easy, it has been illuminating and educational. As for the future of African-American style I don't know where it'll go or what'll influence it, but I hope kuro gyaru demonstrates its positive attributes and it goes far.
Influential African-Americans and Blacks in Fashion Now:
1) Arise Magazine (African Fashion Magazine)
2) Model: Adwoa Aboah
3) Designer: Stella Jean (Haitian/Italian)
4) Actress: Lupita Nyongo (Featured as "It Girl" in the January 2014 issue of "Vogue" magazine)
5) Project Runway Winner: Philadelphia designer Dom Streater
6) Model: Joan Smalls (Featured on the cover of the January 2014 issue of "Elle" magazine)
Global and Ethnic Styles Are All The Rage
Do you think African-American style is a positive representation of the race?
Style Doesn't Have To Be Expensive
Tokyo Proves It's a Consistently Stylish Place
- TokyoFashion.com - Tokyo Fashion News
Fashion news from Tokyo, Japan