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Bethann Hardison On The Evolution Of The Black Model At NYFW

Fashion icon Bethann Hardison recalled a major barrier to success for African-American model in the 70s – and it all came down to hair.

“That was the fashion model’s problem,” Hardison said Friday during a panel discussion at the “Styled, Gifted & Glammed” Style and Gifting Suite, hosted by ORS Olive Oil during New York Fashion Week.

“The black fashion model had to protect her own hair,” Hardison continued. “She didn’t want to be white – she wanted to find a way to keep working. So she put extensions in her hair, so that way, the technician could get through the hair. So he’d know what to do, and she’d keep the job. Because if the model was difficult, it wasn’t she that was going to stay, it was the technician.”

But Hardison said the use of extensions and wigs quickly spread to mainstream culture.

“The texture of the black hair – no matter the texture actually – it can’t take the heat, it can’t take the abuse that no hair can. But that was the issue. Then it became part of a trend, it became part of fashion.”

Hardison was joined on the panel with Harriette Cole, founder of Dreamleapers, Shawn Tollerson, CEO of Namaste Laboratories (the makers of ORS Olive Oil), Claire Sulmers, the founder of Fashion Bomb Daily, and Allison McGevna, vice-president of Women’s Lifestyle at iOne Digital. Following the panel, neo-soul singers Kindred The Family Soul performed, and attendees left with swag bags filled with ORS’ reformulated hair care line.

Hardison said that the fashion industry is a shell of its former self, and had some parting words for young people who were trying to get in the game.

“The fashion industry is tanking. It’s just no longer what it was. Milennials especially, they’re so excited about being part of the word ‘fashion,’ but its different. Start to understand who you are and what you can do and how you can get in to it.”

Hit the flip for more pics from the event:


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