I was born in England of Jamaican parents and originally trained as a fashion and textiles designer. I gained my Masters degree in the History of Design at the V&A/RCA, London. The combined elements of my personal and professional life have shaped my interest in studying dress and black identities as dialogues on the ‘self’. This has been debated through published articles such as ‘Out of Many, One People’?: The Relativity of Dress, Race and Ethnicity to Jamaica, 1880-1907 (1998), ‘“My Man, Let Me Pull Your Coat to Something: Malcolm X’ (2001), and ‘Strawberries and Cream: Dress, Migration and the Quintessence of Englishness’ (2002).
Curating is another aspect of my research practice. As curator of the Archives and Museum of Black Heritage project I organised a series of exhibitions which placed material culture as the catalyst of enquiry into black British history, cultural heritage and issues of place. These included: Nails, Weaves and Naturals: Hairstyles and Nail Art of the African Diaspora, A Day of Record (2001), Tools of the Trade: Memories of Black British Hairdressing, (2001), and Picture This: Representations of Black People in Product Promotion (2002).
In my present professional post I co-curated the exhibition Black British Style (2004), and edited the book Black Style that accompanied the show. These latter projects have been instrumental in the expansion of my research interests to include narrative studies and authenticity. I am also the principal investigator of the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project, Dress and the African Diaspora Network (2006-7), an international endeavour to develop critical thinking on this subject.
International Fashion Showcase Award: Botswana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone (2012), British Fashion council.
A Riot of Our Own, Photography of Syd Shelton, 2012, Gaerlija Makina, Pula, Croatia.
Handmade Tales: Women and Domestic Crafts, 2010/11, Women’s Library, London.