Celebrated writer and personal stylist, Aja Barber, shares her perspective with the FMA as a sustainability and intersectionality consultant.
Let’s talk about the beginning of your career. How did you get started in fashion and what first ignited your passion?
My love of fashion always came from a place of not having the right clothing and wanting to fit in. But from this initial desire for certain material items grew a genuine interest in what is a very cool industry. My first foray into the industry was interning for a small streetwear label in London as a college student. That experience formed me into the person I am today.
Who inspired you when you started out in the industry and how did you open the door to get in?
Getting the door open was easier than holding it open. I worked in the television industry for the vast majority of my working years because it was too challenging to try and get paid from the fashion industry and survive as a marginalized person with no family connections. I gave up on fashion several times.
What has been your best learning experience to date working within the industry?
Once you figure out what you don’t want to do, remember that. Stick to your guns and know your value. Know when people are taking advantage.
If you could go back in time, and give some advice to your younger professional self, what would it be?
It’s not your time but it will be one day. Don’t worry about their success. You’ll get yours too.
Who inspires you within the industry today and why? Do you have any funny anecdotes you would like to share with us?
I’m inspired by all of my peers who are working towards the same goal as I am.
What would you say were your “milestone moments” so far?
Doing Study Hall at Central Saint Martins was a real gamechanger. I have a lot of respect for the place as they’ve turned out so many greats. It was amazing to be there as a speaker.
What has driven your success?
Wanting my parents to see me do well and not worry. Hoping that one day I can give back as others have given to me.
Why is intersectionality important for the future of the fashion industry e.g. ethics, sustainability, intersectional feminism?
All of these issues are connected. You can weave a fine thread between them. You cannot care about intersectional feminism and be okay with the industry being propped up by exploitative practices which harm marginalized women.
Speaking of challenges and change, what would you say were the main hurdles that you had to overcome working within an industry which is predominantly homogenous and how would you like to see the industry evolve?
I would love for the industry to stop pretending like fat bodies shouldn’t exist.
Do you have any hints or tips you can share for young people within the Black and minority community wishing to work in the industry?
It shouldn’t be this hard for us. We have to keep the conversation going so one day, it isn’t.
What are you hoping the Fashion Minority Report will achieve?
More necessary dialogue about the need for representation in all sectors of the industry. I don’t want kids who look like me to continue to feel steered away from the industry I love so much.
Check out Aja’s website here!