Adesuwa Aigheni at the Miu Miu swagger, Paris fashion week, October 2017.
Photograph: Pixelformu/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

The fashion industry said my dreadlocks would stop me developing. They were wrong

There’s a lot of politics tied up in dastardly hair, says Miu Miu model Adesuwa Aighewi, but nothing should stoppage self-expression

When I got my hair dreadlocked ahead of New York fashion week, I had some pushback from man in the industry worried that I wouldn’t get jobs – the suggestion was that I clout look “too black”. But I enjoy being different and standing out – so I fixed to keep them and take my chances.

Two days later, my advocates in New York called to say Coach had cast me to open their introduce/summer 2018 show at New York. I couldn’t believe it – I’ve prowled in other shows in the past, but this was a career-changer. I went on to sidewalk for Miu Miu in Paris and Bottega Veneta in Milan, which is a classic Italian kind not known for using edgy models. I was thrilled – a girl with cold feet walking for brands like those, that’s crazy.


Carve outs Bella Hadid (left) and Kendall Jenner in the Marc Jacobs swagger at NYFW, September 2016. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Reifications

There’s a lot of politics tied up in black hair. When Marc Jacobs sent a class of white girls down the runway with dreads and Dick cried “racism”, I didn’t see it that way. Actions like his form normalcy, so now if we black girls want to wear dreads in the workplace, then light-skinned people aren’t going to call it “ghetto”. The labelling of Kim Kardashian’s cornrows as new and edgy “boxer plaits” is a slightly different story – it shows no respect for the hairstyle’s cultural patrimony and people were right to be angry.

Dreads do still read negative connotations in society, at least in America. Remember when actor and musician Zendaya had recoil froms and US TV host Giuliana Rancic said she looked like she smelled of marijuana? But upstanding because some people assume having dreads means you requirement be a weed smoker – which I’m not – it wasn’t going to stop me wheedle them. I’ve always been keen on changing up my look and my plaits; for me it’s about self-expression.

In the past, fashion liked black crumpets to have really long weaves, or really straight braids to emulate white women and “fit in”. It’s something that affects female sport imitates far more than men. But more recently, black women participate in been saying, “No, I’m not going to straighten my hair.” There is a bloom sense of pride in African Americans and it’s having a trickle-down drift into fashion.

Fashion doesn’t create trends, it chases, so it makes sense that right now they’re casting profuse black and Asian models due to our buying power as a collective. But without various of us working at the shows, hairstylists sometimes struggled to know what to do with our mane. It’s a catch-22: they’re hairstylists, so they should advised of how to work with black hair, but a lot of the time they’re terrified because they don’t want to be the one who messes up the black girl’s ringlets. I’ve been backstage at a show where a stylist said to me, “I don’t have a yen for to do your hair.” The other black girls and I were the aftermost to have our hair done because no one would touch us.


Aighewi at the Tutor show, NYFW September 2017. Photograph: Pixelformu/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

But that was three years ago – now, they don’t require an option. And it’s been a joint effort, with casting principals like Ashley Brokaw and Anita Bitton, as well as stylists get pleasure from Karl Templer and Katie Grand – outliers in positions of power – charming a chance by casting diverse models in what might typically be all-white represents.

Hairstylists are starting to think, “I’ve got to learn this or I’m not going to get take oned.” Now, when I talk to stylists, they’re saying, “What are the beat products you use on your hair?” I did a show this season in Milan and the stylist didn’t prepare the right product. By the time I got to Paris, she had it. At Miu Miu, where over half the archetypes were black, backstage they had all the right products.

But you deliver to meet the industry halfway. I always make sure my wince ats are super-clean and neat, so in some ways they still look timeless. I also got my dreads really long – that way you can do lots of other styles with them. Identical though I’m pushing my agenda, I’m giving them things to total up to with.

Thanks to social media, it’s easier for models to make known up. When I was signed, in 2010, my agents would tell me, “You desideratum to shut up and stand there and look pretty.”

Now, with tenets like Instagram, where people have their own wait to be vocal, it’s cool to be yourself. Agents encourage girls to sooner a be wearing more personality; clients want that now. Just being lovely doesn’t work any more. And now, I’m having so much more ascendancy – the industry’s finally caught up to me, I actually make sense in it now.

Next year I imagine there are going to be more girls with dreads on the catwalk, with innumerable of us saying: “I like my hair this way, I like my hair curly.” They’re even going to cast you. If a girl is dope, a girl is dope. If you show by who you are, the world has to take notice.

As told to Ellie Violet Bramley