Photo | Kieran Walsh

First Impression | The Impression Talks Fashion & Racism

The Impression last week hosted ‘First Impression,’ the first of its series of discussions about culture, brands and marketing at Spring Place. Creative Director David Lipman of Lipman Studio served as the first guest speaking with Editor Constance White about fashion and racism  followed by model Nadja Giramata and author Kenza Fourati who discussed Giramata’s journey from surviving a genocide to facing racism in fashion.

Kenneth Richard, David Lipman, Constance White

“It started when Kenneth (Richard, EIC The Impression) and I talked about the The Impression magazine. I started to really think about what story I wanted to tell for The Issues Issues and it was the idea of hope that we could all live together in a positive way,” said Lipman about his story for the issue, ‘I Am Not Your Negro.’

I Am Not Your Negro,’ the title that gets its name from the late American novelist and activist James Baldwin, is the story of model Nadja Giramata, who had experienced genocide, immigration and racism in her youth and adult life. Kenza put words to Nadja’s story, which is accompanied by monochrome images of the model taken by Lipman.

In addition to discussing his story for The Impression’s fourth biannual magazine, Lipman and White spoke about a myriad of topics such as racism, ageism, prejudices and stigmas in the industry and marketing.

“I think fashion is irrelevant in communicating where we are today,” Lipman said to open the panel discussion. Though he is optimistic that we will see change—“I think we will see it happen”—he believes that the present is less liberal than when he started his career but things are moving in the right direction.

White asked if Lipman thinks that fashion is embracing politics and issues, and he said, “I think just as social beings of inclusion, being race, gender, size, it’s not moving fast enough for me but it is moving.”

Lipman cited fear as the reason why progress is moving at such a slow pace, shared a story of his son meeting Colin Kaepernick and referring to him as “his hero” and how Muhammad Ali went to jail for dodging the draft.

He also explained that ‘nobility’ is a word that he uses often and feels it is not used enough in the industry. When asked if ‘respect’ is used often in the industry, he said that nobility includes respect and being respectful of each other.

Giramata then took to the stage to tell her story. The Rwandan model fled her home country with her sister and lost her brother and parents in the process. She moved to France with an aunt, studied in Manchester, England and lived in Italy before moving to New York City.

Giramata shared her bouts with racism and prejudices to the audience, including people in Italy talking about her looks in jest and how she is perceived in the states as only a Black woman despite her being a multicultural person. The model does not let this affect her, and said she uses any opportunity to use her platform to help others that lived lives similar to hers.

“One day I would be able to speak not only for myself but for my sister and for the ones who stayed at the orphanage, for the ones who have no one to speak for them, for the ones who have no one left anymore. That’s my way to be thankful, to share their story as well,” she said.

The fashion industry is no longer afraid to take part in the fight for equality. Whether it’s producing t-shirts with strong messages or launching initiatives to help the marginalized, the industry is collectively trying to make positive changes for the greater good.

The steps forward vary in length, some small and some large, but they all manage to inspire people to be fearless and vigilant. Fortune favors the brave like David Lipman, Nadja Giramata, and everyone that contributed to The Impression’s Issues Issue.

Nadja Giramata & Kenza Fourati

Photos | Kieran Walsh