New York Men's Fashion Week Show Casts Only Black Men With Dreadlocks

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From white models in "boxer braids" (they're cornrows and always will be) to baby hair being referred to as "slicked down tendrils," there are so many ways the fashion industry has endorsed black hairstyles, without actual black people.

Those behind a recent Assembly New York show at New York Fashion Week broke away from the trend. The brand made a bold statement by hiring actual black men with black hairstyles to strut their newest collection down the runway.

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Assembly New York founder Greg Armas decided to feature only black men with dreadlocks because he appreciated the effort that goes into the hairstyle.

"Dreadlocks take time," Armas told Mashable. "There's no way to fake a dreadlock. Time and balance were the idea this season so we wanted to be authentic. For some of these guys it took 20 years to grow out their looks."

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Models were selected through diverse callouts, from hitting up the traditional modelling agencies to asking men who they met at Home Depot.

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Lead hairstylist Lisa-Raquel, when tasked with touching up the men's dreadlocks, was told to do as little as possible. Working with pomade, she tucked flyaways in, massaged twists in, and then sent the models on their way.

"They wanted me to tidy up the look a little bit, but they really wanted the natural look of each guy to come through," she told Refinery29.

Assembly NY went to lengths to show that they can distinguish from cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. Armas says the diverse approach was meant to bring people of colour to the fashion industry's forefront, people who aren't typically there: less than a quarter of models were people of colour in Fall 2016 shows, the Fashion Spot reports.

"Unity is extremely important and we need to rethink how we integrate our culture together and unify," he said to Mashable.

New York Men's Fashion Week also saw a Black Lives Matter protest based on the industry's silence on black men recently killed by police.

Stylist Hannah Stoudemire organized the protest. On an Instagram post, she announced that she was boycotting the event because notable designers and fashion professionals were selectively grieving for victims of the Orlando mass shooting and attacks in France on their social media platforms, but not for black men killed by police brutality, like Alton Sterling or Philando Castile.

Assembly NY's show joins the ranks of other industry efforts to improve racial representation. Designer Zac Posen was inspired by Uganda princess Elizabeth of Toro and to pay tribute, his latest show in February featured mostly black female models.

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