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Brother Vellies

Designed by Aurora James of Brother Vellies, the shoes were inspired by her insecurites as a woman of color and her “own struggles and issues with hair and how our hair is seen and perceived.” (Photo: Courtesy of Marvel Studios Black Panther/Getty)

These hairy high heels have a surprising connection to 'Black Panther' and natural hair

On Monday night, stars from the highly-anticipated Black Panther  film, including Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan, attended the film’s “Welcome to Wakanda” NYFW event.

Marvel & Disney tapped Aurora James of Brother Vellies to create an exclusive capsule collection inspired by the film. Although all the pieces are beautiful, the inspiration behind the shoes made them truly made them stand out.

“The shoes themselves actually went through a lot of iterations and ideas… [but] over the last 72 hours I reworked everything and focused on some of the narratives and insecurities that I’ve had…as a woman of color,” James tells Yahoo Lifestyle. The shoes depict the fashion designer’s “own struggles and issues with hair and how our hair is seen and perceived.” A struggle often had by women of color between choosing to showcase their beautiful natural hair or not.

The designer references one particular pair of shoes, a pair of textured snakeskin boots where one foot features a curly exterior made of a fibrous material called sisal. The other foot features layers of stick straight sisal fibers— a material James often uses in her work and one she sources directly from Haiti and regions in Africa.

Additionally, the fashion presentation included bespoke looks inspired by the films’ characters by Sophie Theallet, LaQuan Smith, Chromat, Cushnie et Ochs, Fear of God, Ikré Jones, and Tome. For Chromat, creative director, Becca McCharen had one of her designers, Tolu Ameru take the lead on the design. Ameru, who is Nigerian, drew upon her roots, her mother, and Chromat’s own ethos on female empowerment and inclusivity to inform the final product. It is the only plus size dress featured in the collection and is made of a special Ankara fabric. However, all of these custom looks spoke to themes of empowerment, individuality, and inclusivity and will be auctioned off to benefit Save the Children following the event.

NYFW this season continues to be a platform designers use to voice their thoughts and opinions on current social, cultural, and political issues. In an era when #MeToo is an all-too-real reality, female empowerment and inclusivity on race, gender, and sexuality continue to be pertinent themes fashion designers will decide to address — or not — in their shows.

Though, for the few that have so far, they are letting their designs “speak” for themselves. A departure from recent seasons where statement tees proliferated the runway, almost “screaming” as one Vanity Fair writer suggests. Designers are going back to basics. Using their clothes—from the colors, down to the silhouettes, cuts, and fabrics to inform their voice. Yes, you have to dig a little deeper to find the underlying hidden messages. But that’s the great part about fashion, it doesn’t have to be obvious. As for what we have discovered so far? Messages that speak to race, sexism, and sexual harassment—all issues that currently, and unfortunately, still plague our society

At Milly‘s show, we found a vibrantly colored series of workwear to evening wear: tailored separates, cocktail dresses, knits and blouses in shades like crimson red, canary yellow, cobalt blue, emerald, and fuchsia. The show featured a diverse set of models, including a male model wearing a silver fringy top, metallic trousers, and shiny silver heeled booties. It was without question, a beautiful collection. But there’s more to it. The collection, titled “Chromatic,” was a representation of all of us.

According to Michelle Smith, co-founder and creative director of Milly, we each represent a  unique color, a unique personality, but we are stronger together, like a “beautiful rainbow.” The collection was “a vibrant expression of love, inclusiveness and the desire for equality. Our individuality is our greatest strength, and beautiful things can happen when we all come together,” says Smith in a press statement. For this designer, her collection “spoke” to the greater need for equality in both race, sexuality, and gender.

However, Hillary Taymour of underground label Collina Strada took a different approach. Taymour staged an imaginary wedding straying from the usual fashion model archetypes, and instead cast a wide net of young and old men and women— even a baby, to be part of an imaginary wedding, but not between two people, for oneself. The theme was “higher self.” As stated in the show notes, “You cannot start to love another until you love yourself, so why not marry your higher self?” The collection did include a wedding dress, per se, but incorporated cargo pants which might be an ode to the connection between the power of pantsuits and feminism.

“Amidst the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement I felt it is necessary to stop with the anger and turn back to love. This collection focuses on how a human should feel safe to dress however she/he or they choose. From sexy to frumpy.”

Are statement tees on the way out? Maybe. But as shown, that doesn’t mean you can’t use fashion to convey more than just clothes.

Ahead, see all of the “hidden” messages found in key sartorial moments throughout fashion week.

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