This blog was written by Girls Write Now mentee Soledad Aguilar-Colón who was inspired by fashion designer Julia Baylis at our Fashion and Memoir Workshop.
Pastel colors and bodies of every type; black, brown, curvy, stretch marks and freckles were displayed across the Girls Write Now TV screen as college graduate and fashion designer Julia Baylis scrolled down her collage of photos. Now, I am not exactly what one would call a fashionista, and beauty tips and fashion magazines many times go right over my head—my black velcro sneakers and casual “messy bun” tee from Target are perfect examples of how far I am from the fashion world. However, as a young queer woman of color growing up in the age of social media and constant consumerism, I have rarely seen such a diverse, multifaceted, and liberating portrayal of various communities than I had just seen at the Girls Write Now Fashion and Memoir Workshop.
Youth creators from all over the world are changing the face of Instagram and advertising as we know it, and Julia Baylis seems to be right among them. As I spoke with Julia, her fervor for revolutionizing fashion as a means of expressing a variety of human emotions and experiences comes through clearly as she repeats, “Do what you want to do. Don’t follow everyone else because people want to see what you have to offer.” Her personal journey into the fashion industry is a demonstration of her independence as she strayed at a young age from her family’s traditional careers of being realtors and moved all the way to New York City from Canada to pursue fashion at Parsons College. After graduation, she immediately launched herself into a project with model and college friend Salem Mitchell. Together they created the Me and You fashion line—a fresh outlook on empowering women’s voices and bodies with the common slogan, “Don’t Touch. ”
Scrolling through Julia’s Instagram handle and seeing such diverse representation, I had a rush of hope for future young people like me that until now would not have otherwise seen themselves reflected in music videos and commercials. Following her own rules, Julia has now created multiple music videos with singer, Berhana, and has recently worked with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a project that she felt represented her own values as a young woman breaking fashion boundaries and creating spaces for others to be heard that have otherwise been excluded from billboards and advertising.
As I left the Girls Write Now workshop, I wondered how I could break gender, racial, and heteronormative stereotypes with my own sense of fashion. Where before fashion had seemed far from what I identified with, now I realize that I can also make powerful statements to others by taking control over who I am presenting to the rest of the world and how I want to be perceived.