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Central Saint Martins' Memuna Barrie Reminds Us that All Shapes and Sizes are Beautiful

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

I've never been one for the fashion industry. In fact, growing up I often argued with friends that it was a shallow world with no positive impact for individuals nor communities— and perhaps many aspects of the industry are. But let me tell you the story of how walking in a fashion show helped me get my self-esteem back!

It begins with a drunk ex-model from New York, in a nervous bathroom situation.

Before heading to the runway (for the first time might I add), I was nervously practicing my walk in the bathroom, when a very inebriated young woman said to me "listen, the only thing you need to know about how to walk is that you get out on that runway and walk like you believe you are the most attractive person on earth".

And so thats what I did. And in a room full of strangers it went over quite well. The camera man who got the only Instagram footage of my walk, can be heard grunting in approval along with those around. Moral of the story? The approval you seek from others has to first come from within.

I feel like this has been said over and over, but theres much to be said for trying it out yourself. Do it! Find a local fashion show happening in your city, accepting models of all shapes and sizes, sign up—and walk like you're God's gift to mankind! Come back and tell me what you learned about yourself in that moment.

Equally—join that dance crew, pose for that picture, submit that prototype to the start-up competition/fair. Whatever it is that you can do with the utmost vanity, do it. It does not matter if you do or do not receive the gold medal you were seeking. What you invaluably gain, is the realisation that when you take yourself seriously enough to do your best, you are unstoppable!

The show, 199Z: Diversity Revisited, hosted by the LSE SU Fashion Society at London's coveted Saatchi Gallery critiqued the word diversity and its saturation within the fashion industry as it excludes global voices from the value of the word, often attached to Eurocentric narratives. It was a specially curated presentation of work from 9 selected designers spanning the globe including Sijia Wu + Ziyu Zhang (China -US), Timna Weber (Austria-Slovenia), Yujin Pochkin (Ukraine), Jakeyoung Shim (Korea-Germany), Maddie Williams (UK), Peiyang Zou (China-US), Louise Poet (France) and Memunatu Barrie (UK-Sierra Leone). I walked for Barrie's Fall 19 collection.

A unification of both previously-unseen collections and award-winning work, the showcase was far from one of materiality. Rather an extraordinary narrative of models from all shapes, sizes, creed and colours dawning fabrics and designs from all contours of the earth, it highlighted the complexities and visions of diversity held by the youngest generation of fashion designers, born in 1992, inspired by the pivotal decade for diversity in the fashion industry.

Barrie's collection, a melange of soft and bold pinks on West African wax cotton fabric, paid homage, while furthering the strength of denim and colour blocking as seen on women who sang youth and freedom in Afro-diaspora 90s. Drunken model aside, the collection also made me feel part of a world where who I am inside is what matters most, as long as I knew it. Plus, draped in a block pink sleeveless duster, what woman wouldn't feel it?

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