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See How 5 Black Women Photographers Told The Story Of New York's Fashion Week

The shows came back.

New York's Fashion Week brought us all the best looks and trends for the season.

Five photographers from the Black Women Photographers collective made portraits during this year's New York Fashion Week which took place from September 8 - 12.

These photographs tell the story behind each person's fashion choices, from self expression to self preservation to transformation.


Parish outside of Spring Studios
/ Janeé Smith
Parish outside of Spring Studios

Janeé Smith

"Fashion is just art that you wear," model Parish James told photographer Janeé Smith.

"Fashion isn't about the biggest brand name, the most expensive pieces, or looking better than anyone else. Fashion is being able to express your own creative outlook on the world with just the threads you slip on for the day," Parish said.

"Fashion can be a way to tell a story to your audience about you, no matter how big that audience is. Basically, fashion is like your elevator pitch to the world. So word of advice: make yours original."


<strong>Left</strong>: from left to right, Sahra Warsame, Fadumo Salim and Asma Warsame. <strong>Right</strong>: runway models Lola & Pierrah
/ Yaemi Matias; Valerie Pugh
<strong>Left</strong>: from left to right, Sahra Warsame, Fadumo Salim and Asma Warsame. <strong>Right</strong>: runway models Lola & Pierrah

Left: Yaemi Matias

"Fashion – to us – is the easiest form of self expression," Sahra Warsame told photographer Yaemi Matias. "It's the ability to represent ourselves and our identity."

"Wearing the hijab, fashion as a form of self identity is a concept that was introduced to us from a young age," Warsame said.

"As sisters we have always had a similar sense of style so we got inspiration from each other. Over the years we have each evolved our own sense of style to better suit us individually but we still draw inspiration from each other time to time."

Right: Valerie Pugh

Models Lola and Pierrah told photographer Valerie Pugh about how they used to walk runways together in Miami.

Now, whenever they are both in New York City, they link up.

"It's all about empowerment, really," Lola Chelo told Pugh when asked how it feels to be walking with Pierrah again.

"Whenever I'm next to her I want to match her energy, from the hair to the looks."


Rap Sarmiento photographed outside of Spring Studios.
/ Sade Fasanya
Rap Sarmiento photographed outside of Spring Studios.

Sade Fasanya

"My grandfather was a tailor, my great grandfather was a tailor and my great great grandfather was a tailor." model Rap Sarmiento told photographer Sade Fasanya.

"And they passed on a pair of tailor scissors over 5 generations that I inherited so it's pretty special."

Fasanya asked Sarmiento about the importance about fashion in his life.

"My grandmother taught me how to sew, so it's been around me," he told her.

"It's been special to have those scissors because it's 150 years of talent and energy that has been passed on that ended up with me."

"This is something that's kind of in my blood."


Hanna Wondmagegn

Gabriela Lopez told photographer Hanna Wondmagegn that she uses fashion as a means of confidently presenting who she is to the world.

"Fashion and style for me are two halves of the same coin. They're vitally important to our ability to express ourselves, to express our beliefs, to share how we want to present ourselves to the world and to ourselves," she said.

"I alone have the power to shape myself, to shape my wardrobe and to shape how I express myself to myself in the mirror or to those who see me when I go out to the street. "

"Fashion is power and when I wear what I want, I feel powerful."

Growing up, Hannah Miao's mother made dresses for special events and that inspired Miao to create her own clothing.

"I crochet and embroider and sew and that's really helped me be very intentional about my fashion choices and think about really special pieces that speak to me," Miao told photographer Hanna Wondmagegn.

Wearing a piece she crocheted and a skirt she bought at a clothing swap, Miao's pieces reflect stories passed down through previous owners and the stories behind her creations.

Huynh (left) told Wondmagegn that fashion has been and continues to be a means of developing self-confidence and self-expression.

"I've always struggled with my body image personally and that's always left me feeling insecure and not confident and camera shy, but leaning into the world of fashion and embarking on this journey to find my personal sense of style has been just a really transformative process," Huynh said.

"There's just something about curating your wardrobe, finding articles of clothing to wear everyday, trying to feel comfortable in what you wear."

"All of that is just like a process that makes you feel seen not only by the world but also by yourself."


Black Women Photographers is a global community and directory of Black womxn photographers founded by multimedia journalist Polly Irungu. Learn more here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.