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Black History Month 2020: Róisín Cummins in conversation with Eloise Atkins

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Two people posing with head on shoulder
Two people posing with head on shoulder
Two people posing with head on shoulder
Written by
Róisín Cummins
Published date
03 October 2020

LCF BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Technology: Womenswear alumna, Róisín Cummins, showcased her final collection on the #LCF19 show last July. Róisín has since continued to use her creative ideas as a voice for change and has joined us for LCF's Black History Month project in 2020. Róisín is in conversation with Eloise Atkins, a BA (Hons) Fashion Photography graduate and they discuss the pressures of finding your art form and the importance of learning in a more visual way.

"Being of mixed heritage within the fashion industry, whilst watching and experiencing everything that has been going not only with the BLM moment but the constant lack of representation, opportunity and voice for Black/BAME creatives -  has led me to try to outsource as many ways possible to help other black/BAME creatives with a chance to showcase their work whilst giving them the voice they deserve. Therefore, being able to work with LCF on this campaign during Black History Month seemed like a perfect chance to do exactly that." - Róisín Cummins.

So tell me who are you, what should we know about you, what are you about?

I’m Eloïse Atkins and I’m a 21 year old BA (Hons) Fashion Photography graduate from London College of Fashion, UAL. I am based in London and the East Midlands and in my line of photography work, I usually focus on portraitures and editorial pieces but I also like to explore different social and cultural topics with other genres of photography. I’m all about showcasing diversity within my images and have recently dabbled in self portraiture, where I have explored my own identity dealing with race, background, gender and sexuality.

What is your art form and how did it choose you?

My art form is photography and I guess it choose me by luck. I’ve always been creative and as a child I took dance lessons and played multiple instruments but photography chose me when I started to capture ‘behind the scenes’ of competitions and showcases that I was involved in. It was kind of by accident but I fell in love with it and wanted to learn more about the art form.

Would you say something or someone inspired you to pursue the creative path and why?

My mother for sure is my number one role model! She’s always pushed for me to try out new things and allowed me to be who I am. I’m very blessed to have strong support from her because it made me follow my dreams in pursuing the creative path. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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    Eloise Atkins - BA (Hons) Fashion Photography graduate
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    Eloise Atkins - BA (Hons) Fashion Photography graduate
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    Eloise Atkins - BA (Hons) Fashion Photography graduate
If you could be remembered for anything within the fashion/art industry what would that be for you?

I would like to be remembered for standing out and speaking out especially within the fashion/art industry. I want to be able to be a part of change for the next generations and make a difference even if it is just through photography but allowing people to be taught in a way that they can visually understand.

What’s your general view of racism in the fashion industry today?

It’s still very much there. The industry likes to cover up and put a band aid over their mistakes so that people will look the other way but underneath it all, there’s still an issue of racism that happens both behind in the scenes and in front of screens.

What are your thoughts on companies making public statements about fixing their own issues?

I think companies that are making public statements is a good first step in admitting to social justice issues. However, I do believe that some see it as a trend and are just doing it to get people off their backs. It’s all very well saying that they will make changes within their companies until they don’t actually follow up on their promises of being more aware and inclusive. They almost get away with it if they just include one person of colour in their entire campaign and say "look we include everyone!" There’s so much more to it.

Has the BLM movement changed the way you look at your work or how you feel about it and what you're showcasing to the world?

I don’t think the BLM movement has really changed the way I look at my own work because I've always primarily observed the topic of cultural identity and do my research on historical and theoretical studies, however the movement definitely opened my eyes to how important it is to showcase works like mine and many others to the world that can be used as an educational tool for others.

How do you view Black History Month and what does it mean to you?

I view Black History Month as a time to educate, represent and celebrate but also a time to examine and think about the why and reasoning behind this month in being a subject matter. Black history should be taught mandatory and I personally believe that it shouldn’t be only limited to one month a year where we actually learn about slavery and oppression. Also why is it limited to only a month where black creatives finally get some recognition or representation but then be completely put to the side for the rest of the year?

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    Eloise Atkins - BA (Hons) Fashion Photography graduate
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    Eloise Atkins - BA (Hons) Fashion Photography graduate
What do you struggle with most as a you POC artist? How could others help you with this?

Ive always found it difficult to assert myself in a white male dominated industry whilst being a young mixed race female and feel that I’m not usually taken seriously. I struggle in getting across what I want to share and being told to head in a different direction that doesn’t represent me. One time I was told to shoot white models dressed in traditional séga clothing because it would look different to what I have done in the past and it’ll stand out more. Not being able to represent or create a space where I value and respect cultural identity is a huge challenge.

Do you think there's enough representation for Black/BAME creatives in the fashion industry?

No. I really think that there could be so much more to do in representing black/bame creatives in the fashion industry. There is a lack of opportunities to express ourselves in a visual language that has a significant meaning rather than brands cultural appropriating themes/designs for their beneficial gain with zero recognition to where it has come from. It all begins in art and fashion where they can be more accommodating to underrepresented people by simply hiring Black/BAME creatives in higher positions to drive the force of change and dedicating a space where representation is not limited.

Do you think there are any  actionable things young people could do to help create a more diverse and inclusive fashion industry?

Yes there are so many ways young people could do to help create a more diverse and inclusive fashion industry. For example buying into black owned companies, sharing and promoting businesses that cater to people who feel underrepresented. Create opportunities for each other to come together and feel safe by being unapologetically themselves, and much more.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about going into design/the arts that are maybe a little intimidated because they are black or from another marginalised group?

Perseverance is key! Believe in yourself even if you get criticised or feel like you’re not meant to head in the creative route because you are black or from a marginalised group. Be prepared for any obstacles and keep being positive in yourself no matter what people say about you or your work. Know that you are worthy and meant to do what you love to do.

Where do you see yourself and your art five years down the line, what doors would you like to see open?

Five years down the line, I see myself travelling and meeting new people, also broadening my knowledge on more social and cultural topics. I will continue to work hard to expand my craft and someday exhibit my projects to the world to hopefully educate people in a way that communicates to them.

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