EFOC 2024: 30 Years Of Essence Festival Fashions – Essence


As the 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 titled “30 Years of Essence Festival Fashions” brought together influential figures from past and present to dive 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 show off their talents.

EFOC 2024: 30 Years Of Essence Festival Fashions

The Fashion Trends and Cultural Influences at Essence Festival

Essence Festival is a global platform for street style, with attendees putting a great deal of effort into their looks for each day of the festival. The panel highlighted how the Black community leads the trends, even though we don’t always get the recognition.

“When I think about it, I think color,” says Mikki Taylor. “When I think about the trends we started here, from the Kimono joggers to fly boots that came out in the summer. Who knew we would work boots and linen in the summer except here for the Essence Fest? ”

“I personally call it the “Auntie Convention,” and I think that fashion for me starts in the airport,” says Bryon Javar. “Since I’ve been coming to Essence Festival, you know who is coming to Essence because that bag gonna match that shoe and that shoe gonna match that purse. I love seeing the coordination and personalities of fashion.”

“There’s so much attention behind {the dressing},” says Amiraa Vainqueur,. “It’s like we’re looking forward to expressing ourselves amongst our people. Being able to walk up to somebody without being intimidated or complimenting them. There is a certain element of confidence that Essence Fest brings that allows everybody to be bold.”

The Evolution and Importance of Natural Hairstyles

The panel discussion covered the growing appreciation for natural hair at the festival. 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 attending with natural hair, while Amiraa touched on her natural hair journey throughout the last six years.

“Over the years, I’ve seen a shift 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 gaining popularity. Now, in the 2020s, there’s a resurgence of appreciation for natural hair, with an emphasis on braids and individualistic styles. I’ve been natural for about six years, and I love expressing myself through braided hairstyles. When I traveled to New Orleans, I wanted a hairstyle that captured the city’s essence, so I got boho braids and a special crown for Essence Fest to make me feel like the queen I am.”

EFOC 2024: 30 Years Of Essence Festival Fashions

The Impact of Essence Festival on Black Creatives and Entrepreneurs

The panel emphasized how Essence Festival is a major 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 providing a platform for us to speak 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 seeing us and giving us a chance, we wouldn’t be able to have opportunities like this. So, it’s important for Essence to be able to put creatives like us on a platform that other platforms wouldn’t have.”

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