Everything you need for Black History Month
This October, In honour of Black History Month, we explore black magic in the hair, beauty, fashion and art industries.
Black History Month is upon us. Created by American historian Carter G. Woodson and brought to the UK by Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, this annual observance is the reason our social media feeds are filled with historic quotes and black and white images every October. It’s why schools and universities dedicate month-long educational events to the Civil Rights Movement and Windrush generation; and why the homepages of our on-demand television services are filled with the work of black creators, such as the critically acclaimed documentary, 13th, and the must-see Pose which centers around LGBTQ life in 1980s New York.
However, not only is Black History Month about retrospectively appreciating and honouring those that came before us, the challenges they endured, and all that they achieved. It is also about the here and now – the people who are innovating and creating spaces in industries where there were previously few.
Over the past year, following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, we have witnessed a burst of inspiration and motivation from black creatives, business people and leaders, as well as funding and support from sources inside and outside the community. Despite the challenges of our generation, including the ravages of the pandemic, pioneers within the industries continue to build foundations for future progression.
This month, Spell Magazine looks at the trailblazers within the hair, beauty, fashion and art sectors, those who have made names for themselves, and the ones to watch. It’s everything you need to celebrate Black History Month.
Talk to any afro hair stylist whose experience pre-dates the year 2000, and they will no doubt have a story or two to tell you about uncooperative wigs, weaves and extensions, as well as the tools and accessories that they wished existed back then. Fast-forward to 2021, and those stylists (and their clients and other hair piece wearers) have made enough noise to change the status quo, with many filling the gap in the market with innovations of their own. This created a strong branch in a typically Eurocentric industry that quickly sprouted lucrative opportunities to develop the problem-solving products and services that we see and use today.
Founded by Aasiyah Abdulsalam, The Renatural’s flagship product is The Wig Fix, a hypoallergenic headband that keeps your wig in place whatever the situation - even on a rollercoaster! Abdulsalam birthed the innovative concept following a holiday in Las Vegas, where a non-silicone wig band became extremely unsuitable in the heat. Now, the product range has expanded to include a range of shades to suit all skin tones.
Freddie Harrel began her career as an influencer in 2013, and has since then gone onto create retail pop-up Big Hair No Care, which developed into its current iteration, RadSwan. A lifestyle brand designed for those who desire a ‘fairer and cleaner’ hair game, RadSwan offers a range of hair and accessories that complement a wig wearer’s wardrobe.
Anita Grant began her natural hair journey and namesake company after using a lotion that resulted in a hospital visit. Now, with a range of natural body, face and hair products (including an award-winning leave-in conditioner) Grant continues to work closely with a cosmetic chemist to create small-batch formulas to address all curly hair types and more.
There’s no denying centuries of tried and tested beauty regimes. Traditional remedies for the body, complexion, nails and more, have been passed from generation to generation, and have kept black women looking their finest for many years. However, with the advent of new technologies in the beauty market, the combination of traditional and modern approaches brings a whole new plane to the industry - one where many black business owners have found their niche.
If your goal is to feel like a goddess after your skin and body care routine, LIHA Beauty is your go-to. Liha Okunniwa and Abi Oyepitan developed the brand by drawing on Nigerian aromatherapy traditions and pairing these with Western techniques. The result is a range of luxurious products, each of which has a variety of purposes.
This South Woodford-based salon isn’t just about providing you with a killer set of claws. Awe London focuses on complementing your nail treatments with a full wellness experience. So if you want to sick back and chill while your paws are being pampered to perfection, you should book an appointment ASAP!
University friends Tara Chandra and Susan Allen co-founded Flo as an answer to the demand for organic period products. Made with bamboo, organic cotton and compostable plant cellulose, this wide range of sanitary care options will benefit your body as well as the planet. They even offer a line of vegan, carbon-neutral condoms. Go with the Flo!
From Virgil Abloh’s hysteria-inducing high-end streetwear to Olivier Rousteing, the creative director who took Balmain in a social media-first direction, black creatives have been behind many of the most iconic fashion moments in recent history. But we are also looking forward to following the new talent emerging post-pandemic - of which there is plenty - and welcoming a new era of fashion, free from digital-only catwalks and COVID-created supplier issues.
“My nude isn’t the nude I see in shops,” said Ade Hassan, explaining the concept behind her insanely popular underwear label, Nubian Skin. The ever growing collection offered by the brand includes hosiery, shapewear, lingerie and more, in shades to suit women of colour. Hassan changed the world of fashion’s perception of the word ‘nude’ so greatly that she was awarded an MBE for her services to fashion.
Michaela Coel and A$ap Rocky are huge fans of this emerging, London-based, Trinidadian designer. His creations were dubbed a celebration of ‘West Indian elegance’ by the New York Times, and for his AW21 collection, titled ‘Mass’, the designer draws inspiration from sixties couture and the work of photographer Malick Sidibé.
When jewellery looks expensive, it often is. Fortunately, that’s not the case for customers of Saint Kojo, who are treated to earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets dipped in 14ct gold and embellished with real pearls and gemstones, all with an affordable price tag. Founder, Abigail Kwakye, launched the jewellery line with the aim of helping women feel elegant every day. We can’t wait to see her future curations.
The modern art scene would ultimately be poorer without contributions from people of colour. Whether producing fine or commercial art, flitting between collaborations or hosting solo shows, providing a commentary on race or approaching completely separate issues, there is a lot to be said about the exciting work being produced in today’s art sphere.
Having achieved success in her first solo exhibition, titled Colourism, in Brixton Studios in July this year, Caroline Chinakwe continues to shed light on the stigma around skin tone with her Afro-lux lifestyle brand, CHINAKWE. The artist’s bold message and use of vivid, eye-catching colour has garnered the attention of art lovers worldwide.
Neo-expressionist artist Basquiat’s work has been used posthumously in a huge variety of collaborations, from Dr Martens to Urban Outfitters. However, his name has recently caused a stir as the topic of conversation surrounding a little seen artwork in the background of Tiffany & Co.’s latest campaign, titled ‘About Love’, featuring Beyoncé and Jay Z.
Cameron Spratley and Sherwin Ovid
If you have seen Nia DaCosta’s chilling 2021 remake of iconic horror Candyman, then you’ll have spotted the work of Cameron Spratley and Sherwin Ovid. The two artists created several pieces which are featured throughout the film, centering around the declining mental health of the main character. Make sure to also take a look at their other work, which focalises the black experience in the US.