Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries
66 Fifth Ave
Parsons School of Design

(under)REPRESENT(ed) is an exhibition that features Parsons alumni of color whose creative practices explore the lived experience of race and aim to dismantle systems of racism.

Rikki Byrd, MA Fashion Studies ’16

Rikki Byrd is a writer, educator, and scholar, with research interests in Black studies, fashion history and cultural studies. She received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri and her Master of Arts in Fashion Studies from Parsons School of Design. Her master’s thesis, Black the Color We Wear, explores how blackness is centered in popular culture and offers a new approach to reimagining dialogue concerning the black body. Since then, her research has led her to create innovative spaces to engage students, scholars, and industry professionals in conversations on race and representation. Rikki is the co-founder and co-editor of the Fashion and Race Syllabus with Parsons alum Kimberly Jenkins.

Fashion and Race

Rikki Byrd, MA Fashion Studies ’16 and Kim Jenkins, MA Fashion Studies ’13

The Fashion and Race Syllabus is an ongoing academic project exploring the intersection of fashion and race, expanding upon and decentralizing fashion history. The project also strives to cultivate and sustain a (virtual) research space for fashion scholars of color.

Would you describe your career path as typical? Why or why not?

My career path is somewhat typical. I pursued degrees in the fields that best served my interest and careers goals, and I work in those respective fields.

In what ways have your identities impacted your education and career paths?

Challenges such as being a black woman who was a low-income, first-generation college student have arose throughout my career. However, those challenges have become the very core of my work, which focuses on teaching about fashion and race, publishing on those topics, and organizing events around those topics. My identities have revealed to me the importance and the right I have to be in the spaces that I inhabit. I'm grateful that I have been able to make changes in the respective positions that I've held and mentor people with similar challenges.

What advice would you share with current Parsons students?

Continue to fight. There were times that I wanted to give up based on my racial background and socioeconomic status, but remaining diligent in fighting for the space that I knew I deserved in the institution was one of the best things I could have done for myself and others. It revealed to me that "no" is not the end. From that fight, I took those challenges and fashioned them into new opportunities not just for myself, but for others who were facing similar issues.

Posted in Artists.