Voyage, Hope and Style: celebrating Windrush fashion
Students at Haringey Learning Partnership are busy preparing for their Windrush Day celebrations, writes Gerry Robinson
Windrush Day is fast approaching, and students and staff at Haringey Learning Partnership (HLP) are preparing for an afternoon of celebration on Wednesday, June 22nd. This year’s theme – ‘Windrush Fashion’ – was chosen by a staff member who was inspired by her stylish relatives, who arrived in the UK from Barbados in the 1950s. Like many other members of the Windrush generation, they arrived hopeful with the promise of starting a new life, stylishly dressed in trilby hats and ties of dazzling designs.
As Rianna Norbert-David, assistant curator at the Museum of London, writes: "As a Caribbean immigrant in London during the late 1940s–70s, your body was constantly under the ‘white man’s gaze’ — scrutinised, judged and, sometimes, attacked. To counteract this and survive, the Caribbeans dressed smart and always tried to look their best. This would help gain respectability, potentially avoid racist attacks or even determine one’s success in a job interview."
Black Caribbean fashion in London continues to evolve and develop, but according to Rianna "it has never lost its deep roots in the immigration culture of moving from one place to another, fitting in while standing out but without forfeiting one’s identity."
In preparation for our event, HLP invited fashion designer Tihara Smith to meet with students. Tihara shared her Windrush-inspired graduate collection, which was selected for display at Graduate Fashion Week in 2018. Some of the outfits specifically reference the story of her grandfather, Lazare Sylvestre, who arrived in the UK from St. Lucia in 1958.
The unique designs reference the traditional crafts of St Lucia, and are influenced by West Indian front rooms, which are known for elaborate decoration and ornamental objects. Tihara also references the work of British photographer Neil Kenlock, who famously photographed the British Black Panther Party.
It was fascinating to hear about the design process and how Tihara was inspired to create her collection. Our students particularly liked a raffia vest, hand embroidered with a Black Power fist, the red lion symbol of England and the words ‘Black and British’.
Now, our students are creating designs of their own to share at our upcoming event, Voyage Hope and Style (which will also include music, workshops and films celebrating the Windrush generation’s impact on Britain). We have no doubt that they will be inspired by the work of Tihara Smith!
Voyage, Hope and Style is being held at Commerce House in Wood Green from 2pm onwards. Admission is free.