All Posts By Livia Caligor

Q&A with Alex Jackson, Branding Genius & Advocate for Racial Equality in the Influencer World


Media Girls LA Founder Alex Jackson. Photo Credits:

On-camera media personality, SHEEN Correspondent, and founder of Media Girls LA, Alex Jackson is a pioneer of strategic marketing and a champion of equal representation in the influencer world. Fusing her talent for and experiences in event curation, influencer branding and marketing, and publicity, she founded her own agency, Media Girls LA, in 2018 to help connect influencers with established brands across the country. As her monthly flow of brand deals became increasingly prolific, she learned that her white counterparts were paid significantly higher. The stark pay gap between Black and white content creators with the same following was jarring, and she committed to focusing her work on promoting and advising influencers of color. When the pandemic hit, both brands and content creators experienced insurmountable barriers, which created few opportunities for promotions and sponsorships. Rather than giving up, however, Jackson broadened her approach to strategic brand deals to include a more diverse array of influencers and tactics. With a rapidly expanding network, ultimately, in 2020, she closed the highest number of brand deals since the launch of her company, securing $100 thousand in brand deals for Black content creators. Working with influencers such as Mehgan James, Romeo Miller, Master P, and Miracle Watts, Jackson hopes to continue expanding her network and advocating for equal pay and representation for Black influencers. In this interview, Jackson shares more about the genesis of and mission behind her company, her aspirations moving forward, and the lasting impact of her work on racial equality in the media. 

Please tell us about your career path, leading up to the launch of your company, Media Girls LA. What inspired you to found this company?

Most people don’t know the planning of MGL initially started with 4 ladies working within the media industry.  The initial idea of the organization spawned from a thought on the Soul Train Awards’ red carpet, where we decided to host our first event as a women’s media brunch. What can I say, the strong survive. But seriously, although the event was a success, it was clear the collaboration was not going to work, so after the first event I continued MGL in 2018 as a solo endeavor.

Beauty Meetup with Macy’s. Photo Credits:

How did the pandemic affect your work and change the trajectory of your career?

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was very rocky being that all my speaking engagements were canceled, along with my MGL scheduled events. In addition, I was in the midst of launching my t-shirt business, and my media junkets out of town were all placed on pause, as well as all the branding collaborations engagements I had solidified for the upcoming months. Literally, everything I do to make money was at a complete halt, but what’s crazy, I still wasn’t worried. I knew God was going to see me through it; I didn’t know how, but I knew it would be okay. That’s when I went in complete hustle mode. I started to make and sell  E-books, webinar replays, and virtual events and come up with different strategic plans to broaden my reach when it came to influencers and brands.

What is your central goal as a content creator, and how do you work to make space for more influencers of color in the media?

Once finding out that Caucasians influencers were making more money in the industry, my mission has been solely to make sure they get the money they deserve. My primary goal started with me recruiting influencers that look like me and that I knew had  great content to help them run up a bag! I’m very picky as to who I take on my roster now compared to the past. I teach them how they should stand their ground on their pay request and help them with understanding how much they should be charging for their services as well.

Compton’s School District Girl Empowerment Symposium. Photo Credits:

What was the biggest challenge you encountered in obtaining sponsorships and brand partnerships? 

I would say for brand partnerships, it has been finding the contacts, and sponsorships would probably be about the same. Either way, I don’t give up easily and quitting is not an option. As I have learned to do more, I’ve become creative in my approach to discovering different ways to find contacts.

In addition to racial equity and representation, what are some of the central issues you see in influencer culture? In your experience, how has the influencer business impacted body image and mental health among millennials? 

It’s definitely a wage gap between races without a doubt, and everyone knows it. It’s really unfair especially being that in a lot of instances those black influencers have more engagement and followers. I have had to give a few pep talks to my content creators when some of them have felt like giving up on YouTube because they feel like they play favorites. It discourages them and leads them to think their content isn’t good enough. A lot of influencers I’m friends with feel like they need to have surgery to keep up their looks, or women who want to be influencers feel like they need surgery to be noticed as an influencer, but none of that is true at all.

Alex Jackson, Champion of Equality for Black Influencers. Photo Credits:

What are some ways media consumers can contribute to a more equitable and healthy space in the media industry? 

Just like any other industry, we have to let it be known that this behavior exists. For many people,  all this is still new, although it has been around for over a decade. The more consumers understand the dynamics behind what we do and the work involved, they will be able to contribute on a great scale toward equitable measures. In the mean, influencers and content creators need to shed light on this issue to make consumers aware. 

What do you think will be the lasting impact of your work, even in the post-covid era? What’s next for you? 

I think the lasting impact of my work will be the footprints that I have left for those who are interested in getting into the industry. The foundational vision of MGL derived from being a beacon to help others starting out in the business, and it has continued to be our foundation to this day. 

I plan on doing in-person events post-COVD to teach influencers how to make a bag from social media. I’m also releasing two E-books, “How To Make A Bag From The Gram,” and one about how to obtain sponsorships for events, as well as building my tee shirt business “Statement  Tees” @statementtees_    . Media Girls LA is already on track to supersede our number of brand deals from last year and to increase our network. 

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Photo Credit: EnspireMag,  Media Girls LA

Top 21 Red Carpet Looks at the 2021 Grammy Awards


Music’s most highly-anticipated night of the year, the Grammy’s, was a little different this year. Delayed from an earlier date, the 2021 Grammy Awards persisted through numerous challenges, from a new production team and host to its socially distant venues throughout Los Angeles. Despite these hurdles, the Grammy’s red carpet did not disappoint. A virtual runway of outré staples and memorable customs, the 63rd annual Grammy Awards’ presented some of the most legendary fashion moments of the year. Let’s take a look at our 21 top looks of the night. 

21. Taylor Swift: Oscar de la Renta, Christian Louboutin, Cathy Waterman jewelry

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20. Bad Bunny: Burberry ensemble

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19. Megan Thee Stallion: Dolce & Gabbana, Chopard jewelry

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18. H.E.R. : Dundas 

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17. Billie Eilish: Gucci 

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16. Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars: Gucci and Ricky Regal 

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15. Jhené Aiko: Monsoori, Sydney Evan jewelry 

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14. Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada: Dior Men and Art Comes First 

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13. Chika: Nike 

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12. Brandi Carlile: Wolk Morais suit, Fallon chain, Chloe boots 

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11. Trevor Noah: Gucci

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10. Harry Connick Jr.: John Varvatos 

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9. FINNEAS: Gucci 

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8. Ingrid Andress: Giorgio Armani Privé, Chopard jewelry 

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7. Dua Lipa: Atelier Versace, BVLGARI jewelry

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6. Lizzo: Balmain, BVLGARI Serpenti jewelry, Stuart Weitzman shoes 

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5. BTS: Louis Vuitton 

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4. DaBaby: Gucci

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3. Harry Styles: Gucci 

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2. Beyoncé: Schiaparelli Haute Couture

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1. Cynthia Erivo: Louis Vuitton 

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Photo Credits: Vogue, LA Times, Vanity Fair 


Q&A with Malia Mills: On Inclusivity, Innovation, and Empowerment in Women’s Swimwear


Designer and Founder of Eponymous Label, Malia Mills. Photo credits:

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, a mecca for swim and beachwear, Malia Mills graduated from Cornell University where she was initially enrolled in Design & Environmental Awareness. After spending a semester at La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris, she discovered that her passion was fashion, and more specifically, swimwear design. She finished her undergraduate degree with a major in the Department of Textiles & Apparel, known today as the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD). In 1991, after working in San Francisco as an assistant designer for Jessica McClintock, Mills moved to New York City, where she soon founded her eponymous swimwear label. A waitress at the Odeon — a trendy downtown hotspot — by day, and a designer by night, Mills turned her apartment into a studio and production center, where she cut and sewed swimwear samples with the fit of lingerie. Malia Mills swimwear, which celebrates body inclusivity and empowerment with its attention to fit, comfort and high-fashion aesthetic, pioneered an untapped market and galvanized industry attention, and has since expanded to cover-ups, draped dresses and rompers, blouses and trousers, in addition to swimwear. Within just a few years, Malia Mill swimwear was available through wholesale distribution at over 125 specialty stores across the globe, from Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus to Aman Resorts. From Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar to The New York Times and Women’s Wear Daily, Malia Mills has been featured in numerous publications and is now sold exclusively at three Malia Mills in New and four in California. Renowned for its edgy, luxurious styles, local, women-focused production and “Love Thy Differences” as the brand motto, Malia Mills has opened an inspiring dialogue on inclusivity and fit innovation in swimwear. 

I was so thrilled to chat with Malia, an alumna of my program at Cornell, about her cutting-edge label and lasting impact on the swimwear industry. 

How did you first get into swimwear? 

When I was at Cornell, I did a project on swim during spring break. I grew up in Hawaii so swimwear had always been a huge part of my life. A bikini was a huge right of passage. It’s something I wore when I wanted to feel like a grown up. Upon graduating, my friend and roommate from college was working at Sports Illustrated — she remembered the project I did in school and said I should design some swimsuits for the magazine. That was really the impetus for my first collection. 


Malia Mills “Charlize Top.” Available at:

Where did the idea for bra-sized swimwear come to fruition?

I was in San Francisco at the time when my friend called — I left my job that day, and on my way home, I went to every store that sold swimwear. 8000 light bulbs went off. The same top and bottom on one hanger seemed so bizarre to me. It seemed odd that lingerie was so fit-specific, but in the swim department everything was one size. When I told people I was making swimwear, the first thing everyone would say is “Ugh, I hate swimwear, I’m too fat, I need to lose weight,” but really swimwear is about getting out there with your friends, celebrating a day off, having fun. Swimwear is transformative, it’s sunshine, it’s water, it’s freedom — but that’s not what I was hearing when I heard people talking about swimwear. That was really the inspiration for me to make swimwear that made women feel liberated out there without many clothes.


Please tell us a little bit about the process behind starting your own company. How did you build your initial collection into a whole business?

I was working out of my apartment, making patterns and sewing samples, and was working as a waitress at night. I found factories in New Jersey, where I still produce today. It was a source of inspiration for me to really go out into the marketplace, talk to factories, build connections with the families behind the production. We work with domestic family-run factories: these family run factories are truly incredible places, as well as a tremendous source of pride.

Malia Mills Body Revolution. Photo Credits:

We are so lucky to have this amazing team and to go on this extraordinary journey together.

it’s been very special to grow up with them. Parents pass their factories down to their kids, or sometimes the parents are still running the factories after their kids grow up. It’s really incredible to grow up with this amazing family dynamic — there’s such a commitment to expertise and artistry and so much love goes into their work. There are negative connotations associated with the word factory in the media today, but factories come in all shapes and sizes, and these family run factories are truly incredible places. What we’re making is what we call 99 hands. There are so many people involved, from the screenprinter, to the grater, to the cutter, to the UPS guys. You really rely on an orchestra of people to meet deadlines and get garments to consumers. We are so lucky to have this amazing team we went on a journey together

Have you seen change over the course of your career when it comes to women in the workplace? 

I do, change is always happening. Sometimes it’s three steps forward and eighteen steps back, but it’s change nonetheless. And sometimes the steps backwards encourage us to double down on what we’re driving towards. It’s the fuel that makes us work even harder to initiate change. 

Malia Mills “Summer of Love” bottom. Available at

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process as a designer? 

My design process is very chaotic. When you’re running a small business, you’re wearing many hats, constantly jumping between your left brain and your right brain, between critical and creative thinking. My professor, taught me that design is fundamentally about all the senses we have. I feel very lucky to have been introduced to her. I try to use all five of my senses all day so that I can get in tune with how I feel. Design is much more than how the object will look — it’s so multidimensional, and when you hone your senses, you have this ability to find these free moments where all these different ideas you’ve had over time come together. 

How do you hone your senses? 

When I want to design a new swimsuit top, I don’t necessarily sketch or drape it every time. My process is a combination of so many little things and experiences. Design is a process: you’ll go down some roads and come to a dead end very quickly. For me, design involves reading a lot and writing a lot and trying to listen and see things. For example, I met one designer who always turns her garments backwards, and that informs a new understanding of its comfort, design idea, concept, how it could be better. Using all your senses means you turn things inside out, upside down. Design is not just a linear process. It’s messy and complicated, and you need to be unafraid to be wrong in order to get it right. 

What are your defining values when it comes to craftsmanship and production? Could you tell us about your

Course of Trade trains newcomers at Malia Mills. Photo credits:

Course of Trade nonprofit initiatives? 

We’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout our journey, so we feel that it’s important to give back as much as we can. It’s not just money — it’s also time and expertise and all these different factors, so over the years we’ve been focused on various mostly women-focused initiatives, from Girls Inc. to supporting local chapters of school events. It’s been very joyous to participate in small but powerful ways. About five years ago, our Production Director Libby, who is also a Cornellian, came to us and said she wanted to start a factory — we had just moved to BK and had an incredible new space. She founded Course of Trade, which is dedicated to teaching women in New York how to sew. We produced and sold bags, which paid for the scholarships of the next students down the line. It’s been an amazing experience to empower our students economically, and we are grateful to have a teammate like Libby who tells us what she wanted to do and how we could make it happen. 

What other prominent gaps in the swimwear industry do you hope to tackle?

Guiding brand mantra: “Love thy Differences.” Photo credits:

I believe it is important to use your senses to get a feel for everything out there and address them as you experience them — to listen to and understand other people’s experiences. The swimwear industry has tremendous opportunities to think about how we define sustainability — it goes far beyond the types of textiles you use. The industry is an incredible tapestry of people with an incredibly diverse skill set and there needs to be the utmost respect for every person along the way. The industry is often presented as the designer or the brand and then the business as a separate entity, which is a disrespectful way of looking at it. With all the transparency available nowadays, it is important to see that you can’t create a garment without the contributions of everyone. You can’t have a designer without a salesperson in a retail location who creates a warm and inviting place for the garments, or all the hands creating each piece. It’s time for people to see the humanity in fashion — it’s a force that is really coming to light these days. By virtue of that, we have a lot of great creative minds coming to the surface with opportunities to express themselves. This will continue to yield more movements in how a swimsuit should feel, how it should look, why we should invest in it. The notion of sustainability is actually a catch-all because it’s a little bit shoehorned into a circular idea, but it’s deeper and broader: understanding the complexity and depth of that alone will yield not just new businesses but also some very interesting roads to travel down in the future. 

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Photo Credit: All New American, Oprah, Malia Mills, WWD

Beneath Rhinestones & Rainbow Buttons: Patrick Kelly, A Pioneer of Intersectional Fashion in the 1980s


1980s Fashion Designer Patrick Kelly in his “Paris” baseball hat. Photo credits:

Oversized bows, rainbow button embroidery, rhinestone Eiffel Tower motifs: American designer Patrick Kelly was an iconoclastic visionary in the 1980s fashion scene. Born in Mississippi in 1954, Kelly’s exuberant aesthetic especially shaped Parisian and New York nightlife culture, offering young men and women a novel form of self-expression. Inspired by his own cultural heritage and an exploration of his sexuality, Kelly’s work served as powerful racial statements in his time, albeit conveyed with humor. Though short-lived, Kelly’s decade-long career was prolific; a catalyst for audacious new forms of dress, his legacy is manifested in the wide range of intersectional celebration in the fashion industry today. 

Raised by his mom and grandma, who introduced him to the world of fashion magazines, Kelly cultivated an interest in fashion at an early age. By his early 20’s, Kelly had become an independent couturier. His designs paid homage to Parisian culture through humorous references to French fashion and art history. For instance, his silhouettes emulated iconic styles of Parisian namesake labels, such as CoCo Chanel’s slinky black dresses and the gender-bending silhouettes of YSL’s suits. At the same time, many of these ensembles were accessorized with overt references to his dream hometown such as berets and avant-garde headdresses and decorated with ironic embellishments, such as rhinestones in the shape of The Eiffel Tower, red lipstick patterns, or a framed Mona Lisa motif placed sporadically across the fabric. This playful approach to celebrating Parisian culture was unprecedented at its time; Kelly articulated to the press at a runway show in the late 80s that his central goal as a designer was for “his clothes to make you smile.” 

Patrick Kelly “Love” gowns, which represented his love for art, fashion, and expression, 1988. Photo credits:

Kelly moved to Paris in 1979, where his avant-garde aesthetic attracted instant media coverage. The publicity from his widely-admired 1985 spread in Elle France precipitated the establishment of his own commercial business, and, by the end of the 1980s, he was a namesake label in the New York and Parisian nightlife scene. As Dilys Blu, curator of The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 2014 exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love wrote, his work was greatly influenced by the “the heady, inventive, and often-subversive urban milieu” of New York and Paris’ subcultures namely, queer and African American communities. His ensembles featured overt references to queer pride, such as rainbow buttons embroidered in the motif of a large heart, a “I Love Patrick Kelly” pattern swooping across the front of a gown, and rainbow tulle and pinwheels as accessories.

Kelly’s designs grew increasingly adventurous and complex over the course of his career trajectory. Though his work was predominantly recognized for its aesthetic novelty, it also served as a tangible manifestation of his cultural identity. For instance, his most seminal pieces were inspired by African American folklore and his Southern roots. The influence of his heritage and cultural identity were evident in the poofy skirts, voluminous silhouettes, usage of denim, and overalls featured in the collection.  

Patrick Kelly SS89 Collection, photographed by Oliviero Toscani. Photo credits:

Patrick Kelly SS89 Collection, photographed by Oliviero Toscani. Photo credits:

Kelly’s runway shows brought his racial and cultural pride to life, as they celebrated racial diversity and body inclusivity. Some of his models’ walks were also inspired by drag culture; they danced down the stage and performed gender-bending acts such as removing a traditionally-female wig while wearing extravagant makeup during their walk. This could be due in part to Kelly’s involvement in and creative inspiration from the gay nightlife scene in Paris and New York. Additionally, many of the collection’s most striking details  such as the Golliwog logo, Aunt Jemima bandana dresses, and black baby-doll brooches — served as satirical yet playful racial statements. For instance, the Golliwog logo, which became a part of Patrick Kelly’s brand logo, was prevalent throughout many of his designs. In his 1988 runway show, the motif is scattered across one white, body-con gown from 1988. On the black version of the gown, its placement seemed more intentional, as it sat on the bust and backside of the model. Another design, a pair of denim overalls with colorful buttons, was embroidered with a large Golliwogo motif; it was styled with a white t-shirt printed with red hearts and the silhouette of a woman in a crinoline skirt and a baseball hat embroidered with the word “PARIS.” Modeled by an African American male, this multifaceted and dynamic piece opened a dialogue about the intersection of race, sexuality, and cultural identity present in his work. 

A young prodigy, Kelly passed away from AIDS on January 1, 1990, but his influence on New York and Parisian culture are long-lasting. He was not only the first African American designer who rose to fame in France but also the first American designer who was invited to join the Chambre Syndicale, an exclusive body of professionals within the French ready-to-wear community. His legacy in the fashion industry is also manifested in the designs of several contemporary designers, such as the whimsical New York-based streetwear label, Gerlan Jeans. Founded by fashion designer and graphic artist Gerlan Marcel, Gerlan Jeans pays homage to Kelly’s unapologetically loud and vibrant aesthetic; featuring reinterpretations of Kelly’s iconic oversized bows, colorful buttons, and quirky embellishments, the label strives to dress those who are fearless in the way they dress. What is perhaps most powerful about Kelly’s impact on the industry was his commitment to diversity and cultural pride. In addition to offering new, avant-garde forms of self expression, his work opened a dialogue about the intersection of identity, sexuality, and fashion, as it challenged racial and cultural boundaries within the fashion industry.

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Photo Credits: Brooklyn Museum, Dazed Magazine, Wall Street Journal, McNay

The D’Ambrosio Twins: A Q&A With Disney’s Iconic Twin Stars Bianca & Chiara


D’Amrosio Twins. Photo credits: LastingLegacy PR

Disney’s iconic twin stars, The D’Ambrosio Twins, have been acting alongside one another for as long as they can remember. As actresses, singers, and and best friends, Bianca and Chiara D’Ambrosio have extensive experience in television, film, and music, and are most well-known for their roles as Frankie and Reagan on 19-time Emmy Award-winning series “The Bay” and for starring in its spinoff series “yA.” Additionally, they have been recognized for their performances in “See Dad Run,” “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, & Dawn,” “Diary of a Future President,” and, most recently, Disney Plus’ new film, “To the Beat!: Back 2 School,” the sequel to the hit teen comedy, “To the Beat!” 

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with the twins about their prolific career paths and numerous professional milestones at such a young age. In this candid conversation, the twins reflect upon their journey to stardom as both independent actresses and partners in crime and share their most memorable experiences and lessons with their fans. 

You’ve both been acting since the age of 3, when you were cast in the role of Summer Newman on CBS’ The Young and Restless. Please tell us about your experiences on a mainstream television channel at such a young age. Do you have any distinct or formative memories? 

BIANCA: I was three years old when I started working on “the Young and the Restless.” I can’t remember much, but I do have memories of bonding with my on-screen parents playing Disney cards and eating candy!

CHIARA: Because I was so young on “the Young and the Restless,” I can’t remember a lot. I do remember fond memories of Michelle Stafford coming to our dressing room to see us before going to set. She would hold my hand and walk me to set sometimes.  

On both The Young and Restless in 2008 and Parks and Recreation in 2009, you shared the role of Summer Newman and Lennon Parham’s daughter, respectively. What was it like to take turns playing the role? 

BIANCA: It was fun! Chiara and I got to work together and experience everything at the same time. 

CHIARA: Switching places with my sister while on set was super fun because we always got to hang out with each other and practice our lines with each other.  

What was the best part of being cast together as twins from an early age? Did it ever cause confusion on set, or did it ever create any tension between you as independent actresses? 

BIANCA: It never caused tension between us. We have always loved being cast together because we get to do what we love together. A lot of people got us confused on set, so we would just have fun with it. 

CHIARA: Being cast together as twins has always been a blast. We get to work together in scenes and make life-long memories together. I don’t think that us being known as twins caused tension for us to book projects independently. I was lucky to work on Disney Plus’ show “Diary of a Future President” last year while Bianca worked on a film. We are happy for each other! 

When did you start making music? Please tell us about your breakthrough song “Let Your Light Shine.”

Bianca & Chiara D’Ambrosio. Photo credits: LastingLegacy PR

BIANCA: We started making original music when we were seven. I love to play instruments and wanted to try singing for a change. I ended up loving it and combined my love for playing instruments with singing to create “Let Your Light Shine.” I knew that I wanted our first song to touch on the topic of bullying since we experienced that back in school, so after talking with our parents, we created the song!

CHIARA: We started making music by releasing our debut song “Let Your Light Shine.” We had been bullied at school when we were younger, so we wanted to create music to encourage others to tell someone when they are experiencing bullying. Our song reached a lot of people, and that’s when we realized how our music can inspire others.

Please tell us about the process of creating your first album, “Got You Covered.” What was the source of inspiration behind your album?

BIANCA: “Got You Covered” was a cover album we did to music hits from the 80s, 90s, and even 70s. My parents raised me listening to older music, and I developed a love for songs created in those eras. My sister and I wanted to do something fun with our music and decided to use our parents influence’ on us to create “Got You Covered.”

What is the best part of being twin actresses? 

BIANCA: For me, working with my sister is an amazing experience. She is my best friend and I love that we get to work and do what we love together. Having those memories together on set is something I will remember forever.

CHIARA: I think the best part of being twin actresses is that I have someone who can experience the highs and lows of the entertainment industry with me, and I always have someone to talk to.

How do you differ as actresses and singers? 

CHIARA: We differ as actresses because Bianca enjoys drama and single-camera comedy roles, while I love comedic roles. We differ as singers because Bianca’s voice is higher than mine. Bianca loves the piano and guitar, while I love the drums.

Photo credits: LastingLegacy PR

What is your single favorite memory from your career thus far, independently or as twins? 

BIANCA: There are so many incredible memories that it’s hard to choose just one. I would have to say one of my fondest memories was back in early March of this year when we got to see ourselves on the big screen! We got to watch ourselves surrounded by our family, friends, and the rest of the cast and crew. It was a memory I will never forget. 

CHIARA   I have many favorite memories from my career as an independent actress and as a twin actress. My favorite memory so far in my career was when we wrapped filming yA and I shared a moment of celebration with my sister that has stuck with me since last year. We were so proud of each other and it was a magical experience.

You’ve both had quite a diverse array of experiences as actresses. What is your favorite character you’ve played?

BIANCA: That’s a tough one! I’m so grateful for every experience I’ve had, and It’s so hard to choose one. I would have to say it’s a tie between my character on “yA,” Frankie Sanders, and Donna from the upcoming film, “Slapface.” Donna and Frankie are two completely different characters who I loved equally. Frankie is the spunky twin who hides her feelings and puts her sister before herself. Donna is a mean girl who only cares for her sister and her best friend, Moriah. It’s a tie between those two!

CHIARA: Any opportunity I get to play someone else is surreal. My favorite character I’ve played so far is Regan Sanders from yA. Playing Regan was a wild ride. She is so similar yet so different from me as a person, so it was amazing to step into her shoes.

What’s the one biggest piece of advice you’d give to a fan looking to pursue acting and music? 

BIANCA: To never give up. I know it sounds cliché, but it is so true! Giving up just puts you one step further away from achieving your dream. 

CHIARA: My advice to a fan looking to pursue a career in the entertainment industry is to never give up hope. Sign up for classes or audition for school plays so that you get an experience of working on set. If this is something you really want to do, then go for it and don’t let anyone stop you

What’s next for you both?

Photo credits: Everett Wise

BIANCA: Right before quarantine, I had the chance to work with Justin Long, Judy Greer, and Melanie Lynskey on a comedy movie called “Lady of The Manor” which will be premiering next year. Chiara’s and my new show called “yA”, which is a spinoff of “The Bay,” will also premiere next year. 

CHIARA: We finished filming yA last fall and are looking forward to the release. We are also going to be in a few episodes of “The Bay” coming up, so stay tuned if you want to see a little bit of our characters Frankie and Regan Sanders.

BIANCA AND CHIARA: Thank you so much for the interview. Happy Holidays!  

xoxo, B & C 

Read more celebrity interviews at Cliché
Images provided by LastingLegacy PR

A Conversation with Ava Cantrell: Her Journey to Stardom


This week, I was so thrilled to interview Ava Cantrell, a 19-year-old actress, dancer, director, and philanthropist. Born and raised in San Diego, Cantrell began her acting career in 2008 and was recognized for her breakthrough performance of Penelope from the Nickelodeon sitcom The Haunted Hathaways in 2013. In the past decade, Cantrell has received numerous accolades for her proliferating portfolio of performances, including feature films One Under the Sun and Lights Out, CBS show young Sheldon,  and numerous TV commercials, music videos, and short films. Additionally, Cantrell is a nationally-recognized competitive dancer and has directed her own short film, published a comic book, and spearheaded a variety of philanthropic endeavors. 

I was so excited to speak with Cantrell about her journey to stardom, her experiences as a performer, and her upcoming endeavors. 

Q: How did you first break into the television and film industry? 

A: I was a dancer when I was little. At the recitals, I would always catch everyone’s eye and I stood out when performed. I was not the best dancer, but I loved to get on stage. My dad was a child actor and recognized the love of the art in me. My parents submitted to the top three agents, and they were interested! My career began at age 7, and I am still with my awesome agents Nicole and Milton. 

Q: Nickelodeon’s Haunted Hathaways was your big break— please tell us about how this opportunity came to fruition and what your first experience on a major television channel was like. 

A: I had been working on lots of commercials, music videos, and short films but hadn’t hit TV yet. I had auditioned, but nothing clicked. When the role of Penelope Pritchard came along, I genuinely thought it was just my role. I went in to audition WAY over the top. I dressed exactly as a young, rich, bratty little girl would dress. The role was meant to be mine. 

It was my first time on a big set, and I needed a bit of extra direction to adapt to the fast pace of Nickelodeon. Fortunately, I had great coaching and picked it up fast. It was pretty amazing to book a guest star role, and even more exciting that turned into a recurring role. You never know in the business what’s going to happen. When you go on set for the first time it is super easy to get overwhelmed, but even as a young girl I knew that I needed to be professional and it was my job. During lunch and after I clocked out, I would just walk around Paramount in complete wonder and excitement! That lot has so much history and I feel lucky to be a part of it now. 

Q: What was the single most challenging part of your career thus part? And what about the most rewarding?

Ava Cantrell

Photo credits: Stage18 Productions

A: The most challenging part of my career is staying motivated and not getting burnt out. I have a career spanning over a decade. I have had some close calls to major roles and then not get them and that is hard. What has helped me is to have a super fulfilling life outside the industry life. I always did well in school. I graduated high school as valedictorian with a 4.4 GPA, I am in community college now, I surf often, and have a great boyfriend. The most rewarding is booking jobs. I feel incredibly grateful for each one, no matter how big or small, they have helped pave the way for my career. 

Q: Is there a specific type of character you usually play? How do you connect with your characters as an actress?

A: The interesting thing about me is there is no specific role I play. I have worked on almost all genres and played all types of roles. I was the killer in Warner brothers “Lights Out,” a girl with terminal cancer in “One Under the Sun,” a bratty super doll fan in Nickelodeon “Haunted Hathaway’s,” and most recently, a drama student in “Young Sheldon” I want to work on roles that are outside of my comfort zone. I am willing to go way out on a limb for a role, and the more challenging the better. My coach and manager Sharon do character development for each of my auditions and if I am hired, I think that work helps. I love working with Sharon and bouncing around ideas and why and how. It is one of my favorite parts of acting. 

Q: What is your favorite character you’ve played thus far? 

A: I get asked that a lot but because I have played so many great roles, I can’t call it. I would like to think my favorite character is still in a role out there in the universe. 

Q:  Please share a little bit more about your experience as a dancer, director, entrepreneur, and comic book writer. How do these disparate art forms shape and inform your role as an actress? 

A: All those things as well as my surfing and photography all tie together. Dance led me to act, acting led me to direct and to create a comic book. I wrote the comic book “Amulet of Lilith” with my Dad. I would love to play Lilith in a movie or on TV one day. She survived the holocaust, and her story is an interesting fast-paced one. It is amazing how many people do not know what the Holocaust is anymore, and I hope that my comic brings awareness. Being an entrepreneur runs in my family so that was a given, but I was more motivated to get my brand ZOOMe up and running because while acting is my passion but not my plan to support myself in the future. If we all stay open and don’t force things, it is amazing in which the universe can guide you. I am part of a family that taught me that the road less traveled is a beautiful one. 

Ava Cantrell

Photo credits: Stage18 Productions

Q: Please tell us a little more about your philanthropic endeavors and your passion for animal rights and anti-bullying activism. 

A: I have been involved in charity since I was a little girl. I think it is especially important to give back. I spend my time now doing charity work and giving back over the many things people my age do. I was bullied as a young girl by people I had known my whole life. It was one of the hardest things I went through, but it made me stronger. I must tell my story even if it helps just one person. I am deeply passionate about animal rights, rescue, spay, and neuter. I lend myself to so many charities especially now over the pandemic. I have recently hosted virtual danced parties for Angel City Sports and Urban Surf Kids as well as “Acting with Ava” on Facebook live to raise money for Starlight Foundation. I love helping out! 

Q:  What is the one biggest piece of advice Ava Cantrell would give to young, aspiring actresses? What is one lesson you’ve learned that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career path?

Photo credits: Stage18 Productions

A: Do the work and know that slow and steady wins the race. I don’t want to be famous; I want to work for a long time in the business. Don’t go into acting for fame. Right now, you will get more famous on Tik Tok anyways, so act because it is in your blood, you are passionate about it and would do it for zero dollars. What I wish I knew is that the industry keeps changing every year in who it hires, what looks are booking, if it wants a serious actor or an influencer. If you do you, and stop looking around and comparing, you will go far in this industry. I know I have a long career because I am staying true to who I am and taking my time with the journey. 

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I have projects!!! Yeah! I had three on the calendar for March that all got canceled. I am going to star in an indie short called “Mission 22” with a powerful message for veterans. I am working with Brandon TV and we have a few projects in the works. Timing is everything and the timing is still a bit off. But I am here, and I am ready for the next wave of work. It will be super exciting to get back on set. 

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Images provided by Stage18 Productions

From Le Smoking to Pantsuit Nation: The Legacy of the Power Suit


Gabriela Hearst Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear Pantsuit at NYFW. Photo credits:

In September, 2018, Grabriela Hearst’s lux pantsuit was greeted with an uproar of applause during her Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear NYFW presentation. Sleek, architectural, and minimal, yet elevated, the silk ensemble pays homage to the notion of the “feminine mode” in everyday reality. It pairs a single-breasted blazer with tailored trousers, straddling the line between everyday workwear and high-end luxury. In fact, just one out of many that took the runway by storm these past two years, the pantsuit has become one of the most powerful trends of the decade.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement and a cultural shift towards greater female representation in the political realm, a resurgence in feminist tropes have become ubiquitous in the fashion industry. The “power suit,”in particular, heralded by Harper’s BAZAAR as a staple trend of the year, has become a pervasive motif for women’s empowerment in both the workplace and popular culture. It has trickled across various consumer demographics and price points, a staple on both the red carpet and in the millennial closet. 

While the pantsuit might seem like an established garment category today, it was practically perceived as a crime just one century ago. Mere pants did not emerge as a trend for women until the early 1900s, when French designer Paul Poiret designed womenswear pants that were inspired by a harem costume. Few women in Europe and the US wore them, however, as they were viewed as outrageous and inappropriate. In Puerto Rico in 1919, social labor organizer Luisa Capetillo was even sent to jail for being the first woman to wear pants in public. As Marjorie Jolles, a women’s studies professor at Roosevelt University, articulated, “It was just top-to-bottom sex. And that, I think, can be traced to the fact that for at least some of our recent Western history, a divided crotch—so pants as opposed separately encased in fabric—was thought to be the height of immodesty.”

Following the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920, women began to harness new agency in not just the political realm but also the social sphere. As able-bodied men left for World War I, women took their places in the workforce, which offered new opportunities in terms of dress. In 1918, for instance, Levi Strauss introduced the “Freedom-Alls,” a women’s trouser-style cotton tunic over balloon pants. Similarly, in the luxury sector, French couturier Coco Chanel launched her 1923 “signature suit,” a two-piece set inspired by menswear and designed for post-war women to enter the workforce. A symbol for women’s growing agency in the workplace, the bottoms consisted of a knee-length skirt instead of pants but laid the groundwork for the modern pantsuit.

As the film scene skyrocketed in the 1940s, many Hollywood stars — most notably, Audrey Hepburn — began to adopt fitted tuxedo-esque jackets with wide-leg trousers. Menswear-inspired apparel did not become ubiquitous in the womenswear market until World War II, however, when the percentage of women in the workplace rose from 27% to 37%. Levi’s womenswear finally gained consumer appeal, and women’s workwear began to emerge as a segment of the industry.

Le Smoking, 1967. Photo credits:

In the 1960s, a decade of great political upheaval and particularly huge strides in women’s rights, French designer Yves Saint Laurent pioneered the modern day pantsuit in 1966. Known as Le Smoking, this first tuxedo-suit for women consisted of a dinner jacket, trousers, a white shirt, a black bowtie, and a cummerbund. It received mixed responses, as YSL was the first couturier to present pants as a form of women’s evening wear. Many women who ventured wearing this bold look were denied entrance at restaurants and conferences. When New York socialite Nan Kempner was refused entry at restaurant Le Côte Basque in New York, she removed her pants, donning her blazer as a mini dress. Heralded as the epitome of the YSL woman, she received widespread praise, helping to popularize Le Smoking and challenging regulations against antiquated gendered dress codes. 

Throughout the 1970s, Le Smoking became an increasingly ubiquitous evening-wear staple, especially when actress Bianca Jagger adopted the look on her wedding day in 1971. Four years later, the look was shot by photographer Helmut Newton, personifying the power and modernity of the YSL image in a captivating editorial for Vogue Magazine. As Saint Laurent himself articulated, “For a woman, Le Smoking is an indispensable garment with which she finds herself continually in fashion, because it is about style, not fashion. Fashions come and go, but style is forever.”

While in the 1930s, actress Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrick dismissed the pantsuit as “mannish” and inappropriate, its widespread appeal in Hollywood trickled down into contemporary culture in the 1970s. It became a workwear staple in upper-middle class America. Many Italian and French ateliers, in particular, became renowned for their sophisticated, form-fitting, and professional attire. It was really in the 80s that the pantsuit became a lucrative garment category in the fashion industry; between 1980 and 1987, annual sales of women’s pantsuits rose by 60 million units. The 80s also catalyzed a wave of women pursuing higher education, and the pantsuit became a symbolic uniform for the movement. Designers such as Giorgio Armani popularized pantsuits with oversized lapels, sharp cuts, and broad shoulder pads, which blurred traditional gender roles and emulated power and authority. 

Hillary Clinton at North Carolina State University for the last campaign stop before election day on November 7, 2016. Photo credits:

In 1993, Senators Babara Mikulski wore pants in the Senate in defiance of the rule forbidding women from wearing pants. Later that year, Sergeant-at-Arms Martha Pope amended the rule, allowing women to wear pants on the floor as long it was paired with a jacket; thus, the tradition of pantsuits in the political realm was born. In the 2016 Presidential election cycle, Hillary Clinton’s well-known pantsuit became a battle cry among her supporters, many of whom wore pantsuits to the polls in her support. After referring to her campaign team as “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits” at the Democratic National Convention, “Pantsuit Nation,” a Facebook group that was eventually composed of 2.9 million Clinton supporters, was formed. 

In the wake of the election, the pantsuit became a feminist rally cry, infiltrating both the runway and the mass market. It has come a long way since the groundbreaking invention of Le Smoking, when an androgynous uniform symbolizing power and authority was perceived as outrageous for women to wear. Reigning as one of the top trends these past three years, the pantsuit has become a powerful motif for women’s empowerment in both the workplace and on the runway.

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Photo credits: Tagwalk, InsiderW Magazine, Bustle

RBG’s 8 Most Historic Supreme Court Decisions & Dissents


On September 18th, 2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away from pancreatic cancer at 87 years old. An early litigator for women’s rights and ardent champion of progressive causes, Ginsburg founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU and brought cases to the Supreme Court that consequently affirmed protections against gender discrimination. Her pronouncements of gender inequality and commitment to liberal jurisprudence continued throughout her trailblazing career. Appointed in 1993, Ginsburg spent 27 years on the bench as the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Reverently nicknamed “The Notorious RBG,” Ginsburg played a pivotal role in a number of Supreme Court rulings over the course of her tenure; as the high court grew increasingly conservative in her later years, she became especially recognized for her dissents, a driving force that shaped the lives of women, minorities, the LGBTQIA community, immigrants, and countless other Americans. As we mourn the loss of Justice Ginsburg and honor her legacy, here is a look at some of her most notable dissents and decisions.


Upon graduating from Cornell University in 1954, RBG went on to study law at Columbia University, where she later became the first female professor to be hired with tenure. During this time, she also served as a counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. Photo credits:

United States v. Virginia, 1996

In United States v. Virginia (1996), a landmark ruling for equal access to education, Justice Ginsburg’s majority decision struck down the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy. Earlier in the year, the United States had sued the Institute the last publicly-funded all-male university in the country for its gender-based discrimination. When the case reached the Supreme Court, Virginia contested that women were not equipped to attend VMI and that a separate women’s-only military program at Mary Baldwin University would suffice. A 7-1 ruling determined that Virginia’s gender-based discrimination violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, with Ginsburg writing that “generalizations about ‘the way women are,’ estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description.”


Olmstead v. LC, 1999

In 1999, Olmstead v. LC ruled 6-3 that people with mental disabilities had the right to live in community-based housing under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Supreme Court voted in favor of Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson two women who were held in isolation at the psychiatric unit of a state-run hospital arguing that Georgia had violated the ADA’s integration mandate. Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, asserting that the “unjustified isolation” of Curt and Wilson “reflects two evident judgments. First, institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life…. Second, confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.”

Bush v. Gore, 2000

In Bush v. Gore, one of the most controversial and notable dissents of her tenure, Ginsburg dissented the court’s abrupt 5-4 decision to halt a manual recount of Florida’s ballots. Following the highly contentious race in Florida during the 2000 election cycle, George W. Bush’s campaign requested to suspend a vote recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. Ginsburg criticized the court’s violation of judicial restraintnamely, respecting the mandates of state Supreme Courts and apparent bias towards Bush. As she famously wrote, “The Court assumes that time will not permit ‘orderly judicial review of any disputed matters that might arise.’ But no one has doubted the good faith and diligence with which Florida election officials, attorneys for all sides of this controversy, and the courts of law have performed their duties. Notably, the Florida Supreme Court has produced two substantial opinions within 29 hours of oral argument. In sum, the Court’s conclusion that a constitutionally adequate recount is impractical is a prophecy the Court’s own judgment will not allow to be tested. Such an untested prophecy should not decide the Presidency of the United States. I dissent.”

Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003

President Jimmy Carter nominated RBG to serve as a judge for the US Court of Appeals’ District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. Photo credits:

In this landmark ruling regarding affirmative action, the Supreme Court contended that race should be considered as a factor in college admissions. The case arose when Barbara Grutter, who applied to Michigan Law School and was allegedly denied admissions due to the admission office’s preference for other racial groups.  The university admitted to favoring certain minority races when making admissions decisions because it serves a “compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body.” The court voted 5-4 that racial diversity is a valid reason for permitting affirmative action. Ginsburg wrote a long-term forecast, writing, “From today’s vantage point, one may hope, but not firmly forecast, that over the next generation’s span, progress toward nondiscrimination and genuinely equal opportunity will make it safe to sunset affirmative action.”

Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 2007

In 2007, Ginsburg dissented the court’s 5-4 ruling that denied Lilly Ledbetter’s right to sue Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company for unequal pay due to the amount of time that had passed since the violation. After 19 years of employment, Ledbetter had sued the company after discovering that she was paid less than her male counterparts. She argued that it was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the company countered that discrimination-based charges had to be filed within 180 days following the violation. When the Supreme Court voted in favor of Goodyear, Ginsburg argued Ledbetter had not known about her unequal pay earlier. She galvanized public attention towards the gender pay gap by publicly reading about the case on the bench and pressing Congress to amend the clause. As she wrote, “Our precedent suggests, and lower courts have overwhelmingly held, that the unlawful practice is the current payment of salaries infected by gender-based (or race-based) discrimination – a practice that occurs whenever a paycheck delivers less to a woman than to a similarly situated man.”

Gonzales v. Carhart, 2007

In Gonzales v. Carhart, one of the most significant rulings on reproductive justice since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold Congress’ Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Though opponents of the ban asserted that the procedure was the safest way to end a late-term pregnancy, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that “Respondents have not demonstrated that the Act, as a facial matter, is void for vagueness, or that it imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion based on its overbreadth or lack of a health exception.” Ginsburg, who was the only woman on the court, responded that “the Act, and the Court’s defense of it, cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court — and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women’s lives.” Though uncommon at the time, she stood up to read her dissent, adding that “The court deprives women of the right to make an autonomous choice, even at the expense of their safety. This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution — ideas that have long since been discredited.”

Shelby County v. Holder, 2013

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed RBG to the US Supreme Court. Photo credits:

In 2013, the Supreme Court nullified a central provision of the Voting Rights Act with a 5-4 vote, freeing nine predominantly Southern states to revise voting requirements without preclearance. Shelby County, Alabama had challenged Section 4B of the historic legislation, which prohibited discriminatory practices in voting at the state level. Claimed that the antiquated restrictions violated state rights, the court agreed and struck down the provision as unconstitutional. In a scathing dissent, Ginsburg wrote that “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes… is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”


Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

In 2012, Ginsburg dissented the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that for-profit companies should not be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraception. Hobby Lobby Stores, a family-owned arts and crafts chain that had organized its business around Biblical principles, claimed that being required to pay for employees’ access to contraception violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. When the court rejected the contraceptive mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Ginsburg wrote that Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.” Additionally, she noted the cost barrier of birth control for many women, writing that “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

RBG in her infamous “dissent collar,” which has become a pervasive feminist motif and source of style inspiration in pop culture today. Photo credits:

As we look back upon a mere handful of Ginsburg’s pivotal contributions to modern-day feminism and human rights, her legacy lives on in countless ways, from equal access to education and protection against workplace discrimination to access to contraception and reproductive justice. Though her career was riddled with adversity, Ginsburg persevered, fighting time after time for social progress with tenacity, grit, and bravery. A pioneer of gender equality, a ceaseless driving force for change, and, most recently, a pop culture icon, her lifelong battle for equality among all Americans paved the way for the paths countless citizens live today.

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Photo credits: NBC , NYT, CNN

Desertion of the Feminine: How Rudi Gernreich Reshaped 1960s Womenswear


Peggy Moffitt in Gernreich’s Monokini, WWD, 1964. Photo credits:

When readers flipped through their issues of ​Women’s Wear Daily​ on June 3, 1964, they were shocked to find images of model Peggy Moffitt in a topless swimsuit. Austrian-American anti-establishment designer Rudi Gernreich had designed this waist-high bikini bottom with suspenders running between Moffitt’s breasts. Avant-garde and controversial, this “monokini” galvanized public opinion. It received an enormous amount of press coverage, which contributed to the acceptance of his more “modest” designs such as tank dresses, mini skirts, and the bikini. ​Only three thousand suits were sold, as few dared to wear it. Nonetheless, Gernreich’s design catalyzed the 1960s cultural shift toward new forms of sexual expression.

Born in 1922, Austrian designer Rudi Gernreich immigrated to the United States in 1938 to escape anti-Semitic violence. A talented artist, dancer, and performer, he spent his first few years in Los Angeles as a costume designer and dancer for Lester Horton Modern Dance Troupe, whose performances revolved around racial justice and anti-fascist activism.

Duotard by Gernreich for Lewitsky Dance Co. in 1976. Photo credits:

Gernreich’s early designs in the US were already imbued with political undertones, as Gernreich subverted heteronormative expectations of dress through gender non-conforming silhouettes.

Throughout the 1940s, he designed for various swimwear manufacturers and collaborated with LA and New York-based designers on knitwear micro-collections; they featured interchangeable sets, such as a matching tube top and mini skirt. Allowing wearers to mix and match their garments, Gernreich’s sets brought a sense of lighthearted fun, as well as versatility, to women’s wardrobes. 

In 1950, he befriended American activist Harry Hay, who was a member of the California communist party and an activist union organizer. Together, they co-founded the Mattachine Society, one of the first organizations dedicated to lobbying for queer rights. His passion for non-heteronormative and iconoclast expression became an increasingly frequent theme in his work.

Moffitt in Gernreich’s Signature Stockings. Photo credits:

In 1960, after gaining national notoriety for his avant-garde knitwear, he founded his eponymous LLC., Rudi Gernreich Inc. Gernreich believed fashion could promote sexual equality, and the central goal of his brand was to free women from the bonds of traditional, patriarchal fashion. He sought to challenge binding fashions that concealed women’s natural curves. For instance, he fused sportswear and designer by creating tube dresses out of tech jersey and printing nylon in bold colors and patterns for tights. By utilizing synthetic sportswear materials for Ready-to-Wear designs, he offered women the opportunity to wear form-fitting and often provocative apparel outside of the athletic sphere. As his business grew, his staple designs included transparent tops, mini skirts, nylon tube dresses, invisible undergarments, the thong, and most notoriously, the monokini. Though initially perceived as a joke at women’s expense, the monokini offered women an unprecedented form of sexual empowerment. 

In her 1965 report on the monokini, Gloria Steinem named him “the

Gernreich with model Peggy Moffitt. Source:

American designer responsible for the desertion of the feminine.” Especially in the post-war era, Gernreich’s designs were entirely unprecedented in their audacity, sexual appeal, and purpose. Though many of his designs did not become pervasive on the market until the Sexual Revolution in the 1970s, his head-turning work initiated the womenswear industry’s transition from concealing to revealing. His designs were politically charged statements just as much as they were novel in aestheticas he subverted heteronormative double standards of dress and facilitated societal acceptance of sexually-empowering womenswear. 

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Photo credits: WWD, LA Times, and Silver Screen Modes. 

5 Female Entrepreneurs of the Decade


In the midst of this global lockdown, it’s hard not to feel a bit down creativity dissipating, entrepreneurial endeavors stifled, the whole world stuck in a hiatus. Reflecting upon these past few years, however, can be comforting, when realizing the enormous amount of creative productivity generated since the last recession. In fact, this past decade has been monumental in its innovations and creativity, with new startups reshaping our society. What is perhaps most exciting is that women in particular have become a rising entrepreneurial force. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2019 Report on Women in the Workplace, 250 million women across the globe are entrepreneurs. 

Though this influx of female entrepreneurs is substantial, women are still not provided equal or adequate support. The GEM’s 2019 report showed that, despite the rise in numbers, 66% of female entrepreneurs still do not feel that they receive adequate funding. More educational resources, marketing opportunities, and capital need to be provided to female entrepreneursespecially those of color, who are disproportionately affected by the gender gap. It is more necessary than ever for consumers to utilize their purchasing power and voices to enact change, whether that be through supporting or creating platforms for female entrepreneurs. 

Despite these hurdles, numerous inspiring women have generated groundbreaking new ideas in the past few years. They’ve utilized technology, created engaging content, and catered to demographic needs to build communities around their products and services. They are influential voices to be reckoned with. From Tiffany Pham, the founder of Mogul, a platform that provides resources for women in business, to Melanie Elturk, who founded Haute Hijab, the leading hijab brand in the nation, these women are vehicles for change.

Whether you’re an aspiring startup founder, an avid feminist, or a consumer looking to support female startups, keep reading for a list of five female entrepreneurs who will bring inspiration into your day. 

CEO and Founder of Classpass Payal Kadakia. Photo credits:

1. Payal Kadakia

The mind behind the fitness unicorn of the decade, Payal Kadakia invented Classpass with a single mission: an easy, accessible way to attend almost any fitness class in your area. Instead of paying for a gym membership or attending pricey classes, the app allows members to explore various boutiques for a monthly membership fee. Boxing, trampoline fitness, hot yoga, even wellness classes—you name it, Classpass has it all. In addition to leading this $600 million startup, Kadakia is also the Founder and Creative Director of The Sa Dance Company, a platform that strives to ubiquitize Indian dance in the mainstream media. Follow her Instagram for a glimpse into her life as a mom, an entrepreneur, a dancer, and an activist.

2. Tiffany Pham

CEO and Founder of Mogul Tiffany Pham. Photo Credits:

Tiffany Pham is the founder of Mogul, a platform that strives to bridge the gender gap in leadership. One of the most influential startups of the decade, Mogul has disrupted the $200 billion recruitment industry with its international partners, recruitment services, and emphasis on diversity and female leadership. Pham has authored several books, such as You Are a Mogul, a self-help book that narrates her experience in moving to America as a French-born Vietnamese, teaching herself how to code, and ultimately founding her groundbreaking startup. Pham has served as judges, co-producers, and co-hosts for various television shows and has received numerous accolades, such as Forbes’, Elle’s, and Business Insider’s “Thirty Under Thirty” awards.

CEO and Founder of Glossier Emily Weiss. Photo credits:

3. Emily Weiss

Emily Weiss is the founder and CEO of the blog Into the Gloss and the makeup brand Glossier. Early in her career, she founded Into the Gloss to provide beauty and skincare insight from women. When the blog took off, she quit her job in styling at Vogue to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors full-time. The mission behind Glossier was simple: to democratize the beauty industry through natural, radiant beauty and skincare essentials. In just six years, Glossier has garnered a cult following among millennial women through its captivating retail location and creative content, its emphasis on natural beauty, and the community it has built with its consumers. 

4. Rachelle Hruska

Media entrepreneur Rachelle Hruska is the founder of media platform Guest of

Guest and fashion label Lingua Franca. Upon moving to New York City early in her career, she noticed that NYC party-goers were often “the guest of a guest” at a Hampton’s party, and she began reporting high society culture on her blog. In a personal interview with Hruska, she shared that she spontaneously embroidered “Booyah” onto a cashmere sweater one day as she dealt with postpartum anxiety. The design quickly went viral, galvanizing demand all over Instagram. In 2016, she launched the label of cashmere sweaters embroidered with witty and often political quotes, which became pervasive in the media and on the red carpet in the wake of Trump’s election. 

5. Melanie Elturk

CEO and Founder of Haute Hijab Melanie Elturk. Photo credits:

Melanie Elturk is the co-founder and CEO of Haute Hijab, the leading designer hijab brand in the nation. When Elturk graduated from law school as a first-generation American, she had no intention of being an entrepreneur— she founded Haute Hijab with her husband simply as a side hustle. However, Haute Hijab immediately filled a huge gap in the garment industry—high quality, comfortable, and beautiful hijabs that empower hijabis, regardless of occasion. Haute Hijab has been featured in numerous publications, from Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar Arabia to Popsugar and Elle, as it fights to destigmatize the hijab and establish it as a garment category in the fashion industry.

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Photo Credits: Missbish, Of Mercer, Forbes, The Select 7, and Fashionista

Q&A: A Conversation with The Folklore’s Founder and CEO Amira Rasool


Writer, stylist, and entrepreneur Amira Rasool. Photo credits:

Amira Rasool is a freelance writer, stylist, and entrepreneur, who currently serves as the Founder and CEO of The Folklore, a multi-brand e-commerce platform that brings African luxury brands to the global marketplace.  She has written for various distinguished publications, from Women’s Wear Daily and Time to Vogue and Marie Claire. An avid historical scholar and social justice activist, much of her writing is centered around Black culture in fashion, art, and contemporary culture. Upon graduating from the University of Capetown, where she received a Master of Philosophy in African American studies, she founded The Folklore, fusing her passions for fashion and African American studies. The Folklore is an extension of her writing, as the brand functions as a storytelling platform that creates space for the voices of African designers. In less than two years, The Folklore has been featured in numerous prestigious magazines, such as Vogue and The Cut, and fashion blogs, such as Who What Wear.  

I was so excited to speak with Rasool about the inspiration behind her brand, the origins of The Folklore, and the highs and lows of her prolific career path. You can follow Rasool’s adventures around the world on her Youtube channel, #AmiraStayTripping, for a glance into her life, and learn more about her mission behind The Folklore through her podcast channel! 

1. At what point did you realize your passion lay in the intersection of African American studies and fashion writing? How did this niche interest come to fruition?  

It happened organically I had spent so much of my time in undergrad and also throughout high school preparing to have a career in fashion, specifically magazinesthat included interning every semester at a different glossy magazine and working as a stylist throughout college. I learned New York City because of how much I was running errands as an intern. I put in so much work, it was something I was so passionate about, I had a really good sense of style, and I was really good at thinking outside of the box. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. For example, I had an online e-commerce platform in college where I thrifted things for $5 that were worth far more, took pics in my dorm basement, and sold them for $45. When I graduated, I realized very quickly that the primary passion I had was Black history. I did not see myself making a difference through fashion, which seemed very vain, but I had put so much time and work into the fashion space. So I wanted to look at what I could do to use my knowledge and work in fashion to uplift my people. Today I love what I do because of the impact it has on my people.

Founder and CEO of The Folklore Amira Rasool. Photo credits:

2. How did your time in Cape Town influence your work?

My time in Cape Town allowed me to not just learn about different experiences on the continent or in South Africa specifically, but to actually be able to engage with communities there. The same thing happened when I was traveling in Nigeria during that time. It  gave me a sense of belonging because we were displaced and didn’t have that connection with the continent, so having the ability to return and be accepted by South Africa was a really uplifting experience. I realized just from conversations I had there that what I was doing was important. It solidified that what I was doing would help create a bridge between fashion and the African diaspora. I hadn’t known that much about colonial studies and thought, so having debates with people in class was a very rewarding situation. 

3. What inspired you to create The Folklore? 

I came up with the idea when I was working at V Magazine. My original idea was the opposite: to import European and American luxury brands to Africa and sell in Cape Town. I remember I was on a date with a guy from Cape Town who told me that was pretty harmful and that that wasn’t necessarily helpful to the country, and he actually suggested doing the opposite. I remember trying to justify it by saying people on the continent deserved luxury. I brushed his idea off, but then a few months later the idea stuck with me. I kept thinking about why he thought it would be harmful to Cape Town. That was one of the things that prompted me to look at this space that isn’t being filled. 

4. Please tell us a little bit more about the process of creating The Folklore.

I A M I S I G O S/S ’20 Collection on The Folklore. Photo credits:

At the beginning, I created a long, long business plan at the beginning that started with 150 questions that I needed to answer. It was a year and a half of planning. I intended to launch this a month after I left my job, so I spent that year and a half working towards my goals, setting more goals, and planning everything to a tee, though so much came up every day that I still needed to address, which is just a part of being in a business. The process includes identifying potential brands, communicating with designers, learning about how their business is set up, and what they need to reach an international audience. 

5. What were the hardest and most rewarding parts of setting up The Folklore?

The hardest part is the lack of proper funding that my white counterparts receive, even at the family and friends level, and even more so, on an institutional level. It’s also hard trying to change consumers’ mindset about what they associated with luxury and where they choose to spend their money. The most rewarding part has been seeing the opportunity the Folklore has provided for so many brands… not just being their retail partner but also setting them up with celebrities who wear their brand and creating a ripple effect as their first retail partner outside the country. 

6. How do you find your partner brands? 

When I was in Capetown, I would travel to local designers and email them or pop up in their shop and tell them what I was doing. It wasn’t incredibly hard to convince people since most of them didn’t have the opportunity to sell outside the country. 

7. How would you describe your personal aesthetic and style inspiration?

Rasool in Loza Maleombho top and Pichulik Earrings from The Folklore. Photo credits:

It’s minimalist, but also contemporary- it embraces the quirkiness that comes from different styles all over the world. My personal style is Afro-Asian fusionI spend a lot of time traveling Asia and Africa, and I think my travels have also inspired my aesthetic a lot. I like to combine silhouettes from Asia and Africa. A lot of designers in Africa have similar aesthetics as those in Tai Pei or China. I have a lot of cool Black pants that I picked up when traveling around Asia and I pair them with something from South Africa, and it looks like they were purchased in the same place. The urban aesthetic that those places havethe youthfulness, the newnessis deeply inspiring. 

Sustainable accessories by The Folklore’s partner brand Shekudo. Photo credits:

8. What role do environmentalism and sustainability play in your work?

Environmentalism and sustainability did not play too much of a role at the beginning, but they became a natural part of The Folklore. African designers have sustainable practices by necessity, such as not having access to big factories, so as their retail partner, my role was to feed off of their values. 

9. What do you see as the role of The Folklore in BLM?

The Folklore’s support of Black people is separate from BLM. BLM was a movement to show that Black people are human and that we have a lot of things working against us in the system. We can’t treat this as a fad. We need to look at how to continue to support Black people absent of Black Lives Matter. We ask ourselves, how do we elevate the Black people beyond a hashtag? The Folklore stands with the principles and missions of Black Lives Matter at its core and increases Black visibility on a deeper level by creating a space for Black designers. 

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Photo credits: Twitter, The Black Owned Businesses, The Folklore, and Instagram. 

From the Streets to the Runway: How Hip-Hop Refashioned Pop Culture


Born in New York City, hip-hop began as a 1970s subculture celebrating music and dance among Black youths. A force of camaraderie, creativity, and self-expression, hip-hop pioneered innovative new styles that proliferated across the country. Over the course of the past five decades, hip-hop music grew from a fringe subculture to a prominent voice in pop culture. Its lasting impact on the industry is especially evident in streetwear, the most pervasive trickle-up macrotrend to date. Hip-hop has become an influential role in contemporary fashion, inspiring novel trends, generating commercial viability for partner brands, and giving rise to the streetwear market as we know it today. 

For his Spring/ Summer ‘17 runway show, Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia sent his models down the runway in oversized windbreakers with BALENCIAGA splashed across their chests. Color-block, volume, logo-mania, androgyny the collection embodied the streetwear-centric zeitgeist of the decade while also paying homage to the ethos of the 1980s. Formerly Vetements’ Creative Director, Gvasalia’s debut at Balenciaga sparked the brand’s transformation into a streetwear giant. As The New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman noted, “The extreme, almost antifashion streetwear aesthetic of Vetements might seem the opposite of the historically elitist Balenciaga.”

Balenciaga Windbreaker at S/S’18 RTW Runway. Photo Credits:

Balenciaga’s drastic transformation was far from an anomaly in the fashion industry; in fact, it seems that streetwear is one of the most pervasive macro-trends on the runway, only trickling farther up into the luxury sector each season. It has given rise to numerous subcultures, such as hypebeasts and sneakerheads, and in turn, an unprecedented number of new second-hand resale vendors dedicated solely to streetwear. 

However, what is often unrecognized and appropriated are the historical and cultural roots of streetwear: this $300 billion industry is indebted to hip-hop, a sub-cultural movement pioneered by Black youth in the 1970s. In Sacha Jenkins’ Fresh Dressed, a 2015 documentary on hip-hop fashion, she stated that “Fashion has always been an important part of the hip-hop identity because fashion has always been an important part of Black identity in America… Because when you don’t have much ownership over where you can land in society, your financial situation, your educational situation, the one thing you can control is the way you look.” 

Hip-hop fashion first emerged  in New York City in the 1970s as a visual counterpart to rap music. Caribbean and African-American teens in disenfranchised parts of the city created a sense of unity by hosting block parties, where they danced to funk and soul, utilizing turntables to extend the dance break. They began to add instruments and elements of different songs to the breakbeat, generating new music and forming the foundations of hip-hop music. In addition to breakdancing, they began MCing during these dance breaks to encourage each other to dance, which quickly grew into DJing and what is known as rapping today. In 1978, rappers coined the term “hip-hop” to refer to the movements exhibited by the dancers during raps. 

As hip-hop developed into a prominent fringe culture among Black youths, they transposed the music into a larger cultural phenomenon, which was especially manifested in their attire. From the get-go, dress was a crucial component to their performances, as each rapper would compete to dress better than the last. 1970s NYC photographers such as Henry Chalfant and Ricky Flores captured staples of these nascent days of streetwear as they proliferated across the city and eventually the East Coast: baggy jeans, oversized t-shirts, baseball caps, and chunky sneakers.

Ricky Flores, Tanco, South Bronx, 1984. Photo Credits:

As breakdancing became increasingly physical in the 1980s, rappers and dancers established four main moves: toprock, downrock, power moves, and freezes. Known as b-boys and b-girls, the dancers would wear Adidas track suits and Puma or Adidas superstar sneakers to accommodate their acrobatic movements. Athletic labels most notably Nike, PUMA, Reebok, Adidas, and FILA became a motif of hip-hop fashion. The increasingly prevalent b-boy community propagated streetwear as a lifestyle, galvanizing sportswear into a fashion trend for the first time. By the end of the decade, hip-hop fashion had become a force of unity, self-expression, and solidarity among Black teens.

The 1980s catalyzed an unprecedented wave of hip-hop music production, which, in turn, increased the commercial viability of hip-hop fashion. In 1982, Wild Style, a film about a South Bronx graffiti artist who paints the backdrop for a rap concert, also helped increase the visibility of hip-hop culture across the nation. In response, sportswear brands, who had long been central to hip-hop culture, quickly began to capitalize upon the marketing potential of hip-hop artists.

Adidas Custom Line for Run-D.M.C. Photo Credits:

For instance, in 1986, hip-hop group Run-D.M.C. performed their hit single “My Adidas” at Madison Square Garden and encouraged the audience to hold their Adidas in the air. After a sea of Adidas superstars shot into the air, the sneaker brand invested in a 1 million dollar endorsement deal for the group, which included a custom sneaker line. After Adidas’ endorsement deal, a slew of other mainstream sportswear brands invested in collaborations with hip-hop groups as well. As Glenn Collins remarked in The New York Times in 1988, “Hip-hop’s influence on advertising is unmistakable. A print ad in Reebok’s new $35 million campaign shows 20-, 30- and 40-year-old whites dancing on a graffiti-bedaubed, hip-hoppy city street. A New Way of Writing It and other Reebok ads, adopting the orthography of rap hits like M. C. Lyte’s ”I Cram 2 Understand U (Sam),” proclaim: ”Reeboks Let U.B.U.” By the end of the decade, hip-hop music had become a powerful outreach tool in the sportswear industry. 

The early 90s gave rise to the inception of independent streetwear labels. Renowned graffiti artists such as KAWS began selling their paintings on t-shirts rather than canvases, while Rappers such as Puff Daddy founded their own apparel lines rather than collaborating with mass retailers. Brands such as the North Face and Timberland struggled to keep up, incorporating a hip-hop-inspired aesthetic into their new collections. 

Puff Daddy and Kate Moss by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue US October 1999. Photo credits:

At the same time, as hip-hop boomed in the music industry, artists began to turn towards luxury consumption, in part as a status symbol and in part to disrupt fashion’s racial status quo. Some of the first designer labels rappers incorporated into their wardrobe were Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, as they had been traditionally marketed towards an upper-class, white demographic. Though luxury fashion and hip-hop remained separate since the genre’s inception, rappers’ increasingly flashy logos dismantled racial stereotypes associated with high fashion and catalyzed the first wave of logo-mania in fashion. Their evolving aesthetic received criticism for departing from the authentic origins of hip-hop, but the burgeoning power of rap stars in fashion was undeniable. In Annie Leibovitz’ seminal spread in Vogue, Puffy Takes Paris, in October 1999, the rapper is lavishly styled among some of the most prominent and exclusive figures in fashionKarl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta, Kate Moss, John Galliano, just to name a few. Leibovitz’ pivotal photo shoot indicated the fashion bible’s endorsement of this new genre and lifestyle. 

Throughout the 2000s, fashion brands became a common name-drop in rap music. For instance, Lil Pump’s Gucci Gang (2018), which coincided with the brand’s aesthetic transition into streetwear, catalyzed a wave of aspirational Gucci-mania among teenagers and millennial’s. In 2019, Fendi, Balenciaga, and Gucci were featured a total of 664 times in rap songs. 

A$AP Rocky as Face of Dior’s Fall 2016 Campaign. Photo Credits:

And in turn, rappers and hip-hop artists became name-drops for fashion brands as well. For one, they became coveted models for fashion brands’ campaigns and runways. For instance, Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, and Marc Jacobs featured Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, and Princess Nokia, respectively, prior to new collection drops. Alexander Wang, whose line is recognized for its youthful spirit, street culture inspiration, and ultra-cool, downtown aesthetic, featured Pusha T, Kanye, Travis Scott, and A$AP Rocky in his “Do Something” Campaign. And, most notably, after modeling for Dior Homme, Guess, and Japanese sportswear brand Needles, among many others, A$AP Rocky became the star of Calvin Kelin’s #MyCalvins campaigns. 

Collaborations with rappers — such as Travis Scott’s line with Helmunt Lang, Pharrell’s collaboration with Chanel, or Versace’s sunglass line inspired by The Notorious B.I.G.— became almost commonplace as well. The attendance of hip-hop artists at prestigious industry events also communicated their status in the fashion industry. At the highly-exclusive 2018 Met Gala, A$AP Ferg, Migos, Nicki Minaj and Childish Gambino garnered global publicity for their costumes and invitations. In anticipation of the event, Vogue had released a promotional video of Anna Wintour in a Chanel gown at the Met with Coolio’s “Gangsta Paradise” playing in the background. Wintour’s shocking music selection signaled that hip-hop was high on her radar. And at Alexander Wang’s A/W 2018 runway, Wintour, who is usually seated next to top editors and even royalty in the past, was placed next to Cardi B, signaling the prominence of hip-hop artists in fashion.  

The role of hip-hop in fashion extends far beyond celebrity marketing or name drops in songs. This past decade, in particular, hip-hop has been a salient force of creative influence in the industry. Numerous exclusive labels have rebranded themselves in these past few years to adapt to our streetwear-centric market. For instance, in 2016, Gucci’s peacocking-bearing skateboard model embodied the brand’s new image: slightly androgynous in style, unabashedly loud, sporty yet hip, and effortlessly cool. In 2017, months prior to the launch of Supreme and Louis Vuitton’s masterful collaboration, Marc Jacobs showcased a polished red tracksuit, adorned with a chunky gold chain and 70s-style hat, amidst his Ready-to-Wear collection.

Hip-hop Inspired Track Suit at Marc Jacobs’ Fall 2017 RTW Runway. Photo credits:

And today, situated at the corner of Lafayette and Bleeker in NoHo, New York, the sneaker-centric retailer Kith is every millennial’s streetwear heaven. It generates some of the highest foot-traffic in Soho, attracting crowds of customers lined up outside the store waiting to catch a glimpse of a new collaboration or sneaker drop. Off White, Supreme, and Chinatown Market are some of the most coveted labels on second-hand resale shops and streetwear boutiques. Though still highly inaccessible, designer streetwear is a testament to the lasting influence of hip-hop fashion.

Streetwear, arguably one of the most pervasive trickle-up trends in industry history, is directly shaped and inspired by hip-hop culture from the 1970s. Luxury heritage houses and leaders in the industry alike have endorsed and adopted the aesthetic of hip-hop culture. In doing so, however, they have appropriated and contributed to the erasure of the movement’s racial and historical implications, failing to acknowledge the symbolism behind this sub-cultural movement. Though streetwear is commonplace across the market today, it is necessary to recognize the cultural significance of hip-hop’s inception, as well as the creative agency of its pioneers. From a fringe subculture that united a marginalized community to one of the most ubiquitous forms of expression today, hip-hop has refashioned mainstream dress and forged an unprecedented bridge between fashion and music. And most importantly, it subverts fashion’s status quo by challenging racial hierarchies and dismantling the binary between the streets and the runway.

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Photo credits: Vogue Magazine,, FIT, Citizens of Fashion, WWD, and Vogue Runway.