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Black History Month 2020: Róisín Cummins in conversation with Sofia Sanchez

Mesh bra with Black Lives Matter written
Mesh bra with Black Lives Matter written
Sofia Sanchez BA (Hons) Fashion Contour 2020 - Black History Month 2020
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 Sofia Sanchez, BA (Hons) Fashion Contour student. They discuss finding your practice through experimentation and her perception of racism in the fashion industry.

"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 about yourself, Sofia. What should we know about you?

I’m Sofia, I’m 25 and I live in London. I’m starting final year as fashion contour student this coming Monday. I just had year off doing my placement year at Preen which was great however with the Coronavirus my placement unfortunately got cancelled. So I just decided that I would start making my own things and sell what I could. As there was nothing else to do plus being someone who hoards fabric I was surrounded by a lot of it. I was interested in doing something sustainable which meant using what I already had. I really did not think I would get back into making lingerie before starting up my degree again however it was a really creative time for me which was really great, I just felt really lucky to have the space to create and start my own practice.

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

So I actually started out studying English literature for one year at Uni straight after school, as my school was incredibly academic and fashion just wasn’t a thing there. However I ended up dropping out of that and began making jewellery whilst doing a few pattern cutting courses and realised everything I was creating looked like underwear. I really love things that are small, manageable whilst being highly detailed. I knew LCF was the only place for me when I found out about that I could get a degree in lingerie on the BA (Hons) Fashion Contour course.

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

I can honestly say there are many people who have inspired me, from my class mates who are so supportive. I was really worried when I first went into fashion that everyone would be really like the ‘Devil wears Prada’ - just really nasty. So I was pleasantly surprised that everyone I've crossed paths with has been so lovely. In terms of artists I love Grayson Perry and he has recently inspired a piece I created for Black History Month. Thinking more about social themes and the way he writes and draws on pots is a big inspiration to me.

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    Sofia Sanchez BA (Hons) Fashion Contour - Black History Month 2020
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    Sofia Sanchez BA (Hons) Fashion Contour - Black History Month 2020
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    Sofia Sanchez BA (Hons) Fashion Contour - Black History Month 2020
If you could be remembered for anything within the fashion/art industry what would that be for you?

I would love to change the way that we make and consume within fashion - how we can do fashion in a less harmful way? I know it is a huge task and everyone is trying to do the same at the moment but I do want to make fashion kinder, particularly within lingerie and bring more inclusivity and diversity. I grew up reading Vogue, feeling like there were such strict beauty ideals I never felt I looked like any of the women portrayed inside. For me that was horrible and I just really don’t want any more young girls to grow up with as strict beauty ideals.

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

It’s pretty rife I would say. I think within all industries at the moment everyone is taking time to really look in the mirror. I think it is great that brands are finally being called out and that we're talking about racism, but at the same time you don’t want it to become a tokenistic. As with social media, things are just so fast paced whilst you only get a few seconds to look at something so you can not really get into things fully. To really explore and discuss them in detail risks falling into the trap of tokenism and being anti racist becoming just a social media trend. There has to be something far more substantial. So yes, I think its great people are calling out brands like Jacquemus who may be using models of colour, but are they actually hiring any POC?

What are your thoughts on companies making public statements about fixing their own issues when it comes to racism?

I do think it is really great and certainly something that is needed. It’s very similar to the subject of climate change where nobody is doing enough, we need to accept that we have to start somewhere to have a sense of social pressure whilst talking about it. It is a great place to start as you don’t want anything to just become just another PR stunt it is simply about being authentic with your approach. Definitely expecting brands, business and banks to stop seeing it as just a trend instead waking up to the reality of it all.

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?

It has changed loads, I sort of feel like fashion is some what irrelevant in the world today in the sense that there is just so much changing. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic plus with everything happening with the black lives matter movement, fashion just seems like 'how do you stay relevant within the industry at the moment?'. No one cares about making beautiful things, we have no where to go, everyone is just stuck inside their house. Personally I feel you have to engage with what's going on in the world to stay relevant in the industry. I have been thinking about it a lot, going to protests, reading about it so it just felt like a very natural progression to create some work related to it. My work is what I show to the world so it has been great to be able to help keep the conversation going.

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    Sofia Sanchez BA (Hons) Fashion Contour - Black History Month 2020
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    Sofia Sanchez BA (Hons) Fashion Contour - Black History Month 2020
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    Sofia Sanchez BA (Hons) Fashion Contour - Black History Month 2020
How do you view Black History Month and what does it mean to you or is it a new concept?

To be completely honest I have always known about it however I have never really engaged with it before. However I do think it is the time to celebrate and acknowledge the amazing work of Black people throughout history and their contribution to our society today which is so often unacknowledged and under represented. I think it is a really wonderful, I’m so pleased that LCF is engaging with it and promoting it.

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

No, definitely not. We have seen that Business of fashion created a list of luxury fashion houses that were run by BAME people and there just wasn’t enough and there needs to be more.

How do you think the industry could help the Black creatives of today?

I think carrying on with what's starting to happen now, through more representation. Giving more opportunities whilst using using all social platforms to give Black/BAME creatives more airtime whilst truly celebrating them which would give them more of a voice.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about going into design/the arts that are maybe a little intimidated?

I would say I felt incredibly intimidated to start with however I would definitely recommend starting to do something small even if it is one evening class a week or a sewing session at your community centre. It is just baby steps and yes it is intimidating but you will get there. Trying to get onto a foundation or a degree if you can manage to do that it really has helped me to build connections. I have just met so many people through the university that I wouldn't otherwise which is very cool for that.

Where do you see yourself and your art 5 years down the line, what doors would you like to see open?

I'd like to be running a business that has created a culture of celebrating diversity and inclusivity, both inside the team and in the message we put out into the world. I want the business to be radically transparent, and to have a net positive impact on the planet, or at the very least not a harmful impact. I'd love to be able to make an impact on causes that are important to me - anti-racism, LGBTQ+ rights and climate change through the work I do.