'GARMS' Is the New Documentary Exploring the Influence of Black British Fashion

With appearances from Corteiz’s Clint, LABRUM’s Foday Dumbuya and Bianca Saunders, the documentary chronicles the legacy of Black British style.

Fashion 
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Black British fashion is ruling the world right now – and a new documentary, titled GARMS, explores its generational impact.

Providing an educative look at the designers and stylists who have dressed Black Britons for generations through stories of migration, raving, and resistance, GARMS explores how Black British fashion has evolved down the years while also speaking to some of the scene’s biggest game-changers of today.

The 44-minute film, led by stylist, writer, and creative Ayishat Akanbi, GARMS kicks off with the arrival of the passenger ship HMT Empire Windrush, celebrating 75 years since its entry on UK soil. The progression of local style has continuously influenced mainstream fashion movements, from punks to skinheads and streetwear to runway.

The four-chapter film is split between “UK: ARRIVALS,” “RESISTANCE,” “(sub)CULTURE,” and “HOME,” starring authoritative figures including Corteiz‘s Clint419, Foday Dumbuya, Martine Rose, Bianca Saunders, and more. Akanbi sits down with musicians, broadcasters, and designers to dissect the history of Black British fashion, its impact on modern-day wardrobes, and what role it will play in the future.

After the film’s premiere in London, Hypebeast caught up with LABRUM’s Foday Dumbuya and menswear designer Bianca Saunders to speak on their experiences in the creative scene and the key influences that underpin their designs.

BET UK original GARMS: Black Culture’s influence on British Fashion is available to watch now on My5.

While looking back at Black culture’s influence on British fashion, GARMS also illustrates the strength and breadth of Black British designers in the UK today. Do you feel proud to be a part of a collective pushing fashion forward in this country and around the world?

Foday Dumbuya: “Being part of such a movement can be a source of pride as it contributes to making the fashion industry more inclusive, vibrant, and reflective of the diverse societies we live in. Our generation of designers brings unique perspectives and creativity to the fashion industry, enriching it with our cultural heritage and innovative ideas.”

Bianca Saunders: “Oh, so proud! It’s amazing to see how different designers are telling stories that are pushed toward a global scale. In the past, there was a strong idea that black designers couldn’t produce successful brands. It is amazing to see all the current designers and the next generation inspired by it.”

What are some of the key influences that underpin your designs?

Foday Dumbuya: “The core of my influences lies an intricate fusion of fashion, culture, and art. By employing textile illustration, I weave a melange of untold narratives from diverse global landscapes, with a keen focus on championing the richness of black history and the enchanting folklore of West Africa.

My aesthetic ethos is rooted in the embrace of time-honored techniques that have been passed down through generations, serving as the backbone of my creative expression. By harmoniously integrating traditional silhouettes like the agbada shirt with the refinement of classic British tailoring, I craft styles that not only bear the signature of Labrum but also exude a wholly distinctive.”

Bianca Saunders:“An elegant and refined aesthetic where gender is less of a signifier than material, cut, and color. I tend to look at a lot of family references mixed in observation with the movement of clothing.”

So much story-telling goes into your work. Did you always feel like you could do that with clothing and fashion in a way unlike any other medium?

Foday Dumbuya: “Storytelling through clothing and fashion is a distinctive and compelling aspect of creative expression that I have come to appreciate deeply. I have discovered the unique power that fashion holds as a storytelling medium. How clothing can evoke emotions, convey messages, and reflect cultural influences is truly remarkable and sets it apart from other forms of expression.

Through the interplay of colors, textures, fabrics, and design elements, I have found a voice that allows me to communicate stories, evoke memories, and spark conversations in ways that transcend words. The process of conceptualizing and creating pieces that carry meaning and depth has been both a challenge and a source of inspiration for me. By infusing my designs with narrative elements, I aim to create connections with my audience, inviting them to engage with the stories woven into each garment.”

Bianca Saunders: “The first time I knew it was possible was from seeing it at an exhibition in Somerset House; this was an exhibition about the Rudeboy. I thought if it could be told in an institution, there would be a place for it in Paris.”

How important is it to you to honor your heritage through your clothing?

Foday Dumbuya: “Honoring my heritage through my clothing is a fundamental aspect of my creative process and identity as a designer. It holds significant importance to me as it allows me to celebrate the rich cultural traditions, craftsmanship, and stories that have shaped my upbringing and worldview. By infusing my designs with elements inspired by my heritage, I pay homage to my roots and seek to preserve and share the beauty and diversity of my cultural heritage with a broader audience.

Through my work, I aim to convey the essence of my heritage in a contemporary and innovative manner, bridging the past with the present to create pieces that reflect a sense of connection and continuity. Drawing inspiration from traditional motifs, patterns, textiles, and techniques, I honor the craftsmanship and artistry of my ancestors while adding a modern twist that resonates with a contemporary audience.”

Bianca Saunders: “It is more important to tell my story and also show how I see my own heritage. Being a 3rd generation British Jamaican can be seen or told differently through my eyes and creativity.”

How does it feel to be role models for the next generation of Black British designers?

Foday Dumbuya: “It is both humbling and empowering to be seen as a role model for the next generation of Black British designers. To know that my experiences and achievements can inspire and guide young talents in their creative journey brings me great joy and fulfilment. Being able to nurture and support aspiring designers, especially those from underrepresented communities, is a responsibility I deeply value.”

Bianca Saunders: “It does feel great because when I was younger, there weren’t that many examples, so of course, some people could see it for me. But it’s great to create for the next generation to lead a path so they know it’s possible, too.”

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