EFOC 2024: 30 Years Of Essence Festival Fashions – Essence


As Essence Festival celebrates 30 years of existence, it’s important to recognize the impactful fashion moments that have emerged from the black community. A panel discussion entitled “30 Years of Essence Festival Fashions” brought together influential figures past and present to delve into the evolution of festival fashion over the decades. The panel included Mikki Taylor, Essence Editor-At-Large; Tameka Foster, celebrity stylist and author; Bryon Javar, celebrity stylist; and Amiraa Vainqueur, celebrity stylist and designer. During the discussion, the panelists shared their perspectives on fashion trends, cultural influences, natural hairstyles and how Essence Fest provides a platform for black creatives and entrepreneurs to showcase their talents.


The fashion trends and cultural influences at Essence Festival

Essence Festival is a global platform for street style, where participants put a lot of work into their looks for each day of the festival. The panel highlighted how the black community is leading the trends, even if we don’t always get the recognition.

“When I think of it, I think of color,” says Mikki Taylor. “When I think about the trends we started here, from the Kimono joggers to the fly boots that came out in the summer. Who knew we’d be working boots and tank tops in the summer except here at the Essence Fest? ”

“I personally call it the ‘aunt convention,’ and I think fashion for me starts at the airport,” says Bryon Javar. “Because I’ve come to the Essence Festival, you know who’s coming to Essence because that bag will match that shoe and that shoe will match that wallet. I love seeing the fashion coordination and personalities.”

“There’s so much attention behind {the bandage},” says Amiraa Vainqueur. “It’s like we look forward to expressing ourselves among our people. To be able to walk up to someone without being intimidated or praising them. There’s a certain element of confidence that Essence Fest brings that allows everyone to be bold.”

The evolution and importance of natural hairstyles

The panel discussion addressed the growing appreciation for natural hair at the festival. The panelists shared their personal experiences with natural hair and braids and also highlighted the importance of the CROWN Act. Tameka Foster shared that this is her first year with natural hair, while Amiraa touched on her natural hair journey over the past six years.

“Over the years, I’ve seen a change in hair trends,” says Vainqueur. “In the ’90s, there were micro-braids, afros and a focus on embracing natural curls. Then, in the 2000s, we saw bold colors and big chops gain popularity. Now, in the 2020s, the appreciation of natural hair is returning, with emphasis on braids and individualistic styles. I’ve been natural for about six years and I love to express myself through braided hairstyles. When I traveled to New Orleans, I wanted a hairstyle that captured the essence of the city, so I got boho braids and a special crown for Essence Fest to make me feel like the queen I am.”


The Impact of Essence Festival on Black Creatives and Entrepreneurs

The panel highlighted how the Essence Festival is an important platform for black designers, stylists and other creatives to showcase their talents. The conversation also touched on the festival’s role in exposing Black-owned businesses and how it has opened doors for many in the industry.

“It’s our first time {on the Essence Fest stage},” says Vainqueur. “Bryon and I are stylists, and this is a platform for us to talk about what we do and express ourselves. We’re here with Tameka Foster, a legend; it’s an honor. Without the people behind the scenes watching us and giving given us a chance, we wouldn’t be able to get opportunities like this. So it’s important for Essence to be able to put advertising material that we can on a platform that other platforms wouldn’t have.”

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