I remember crying backstage a year ago with Nicole Doswell, founder of Models of Color Matter, a non-profit organization dedicated to the equity and representation of Black and Brown models in the fashion industry, and the producer of the all-Black cast at BFyne. Although the brand launched in 2018, it was the first time designer Buki Ade presented her collection at Swim Week at Paraiso Miami Beach and the very first time in the history of the event to have an all-Black runway. As women of color, the celebration of Black bodies (all ethnicities and sizes) is still not a commonality, and seeing a collection made by us, walked by us, and for us was a feeling that brought us to tears. It’s the same feeling we all felt again during the four-day spring/summer 2023 runway shows, and a feeling Ade hopes will normalize as more brands start to understand the beauty of Black women.
Ade, Nigerian-born and American-raised, started BFyne, a contemporary swimwear and resort-ready brand, in 2018 out of frustration for the current assortment of swim options. “From the start, my focus was on Black bodies and body positivity,” the founder tells Byrdie. From one-piece suits, matching sets, high-waisted pants, and string accents, Ade showcased over 20 vibrant designs. Eden, the theme for the colorful swimwear collection, gave us a look into Ade’s paradise where Black bodies are celebrated and respected. “We added lots of greens, earth tones, and pops of color (our signature),” the designer shares. “Color is in our DNA and I wanted to show what my Eden would look like—an abundance of joy-filled colors and the natural beauty in Black people.”
Swimsuits were paired with chunky gold jewelry sourced from local artisans in Africa. “I wanted to be very specific with my accessories,” the artist shares. “I explored different parts of Africa to land on the pieces with the goal to always create more jobs back home—to make sure my people are also benefiting what I am doing.” The ruffle details, bell pants, and the union of bohemian and jungle patterns excited a fully packed show from the moment it started, well past the end.
“The excellence and beauty in Black women is unparalleled,” the designer replies when asked about the decision for an all-Black cast. Like myself and many other people of color, Ade finds it frustrating and confusing for other brands to feature one specific token Black girl when there is so much talent to select from. “We are all different shades, not just one shade. We have different heritages and different backgrounds, so why isn’t this being shown?” she says.
It is her hope that Black women would be cast more widely and represented better going forward. In fact, it’s the reason she has worked with Models of Color Matter for two seasons in a row. A collaboration between the two power houses who share the same vision: A world where Black bodies will no longer be an afterthought, but celebrated to the fullest.
The BFyne designer also wants plus-size Black women to get their flowers. “Plus size is slowly starting to be accepted on the runway but for plus-size Black women, they have a harder time finding work because they have to get hired as a plus-size model and a Black model,” she shares with Byrdie. “Creating collections that represent all Black women is what I’m committed to do. It’s something I actively do by hiring Black creatives and models. I’m all about supporting Black people.”