Self-expression and empowerment through fashion defined the conversations with renowned influencers during “LA-to-UK Style,” the flagship virtual convention from enthusiast network theTUNDRA. The one-day online event connected influencers and experts from across the pond with speakers sharing ideas and advice from both the United Kingdom and Los Angeles, two global capitals of culture and style.
The event, which included live audience participation and Q&As, reflected on what it means to be an influencer in 2020. Attendees saw speakers challenge the unconscious bias that undermines the influencer industry with authenticity, expertise and an honest desire to share. The conversations felt incredibly intimate, as if the viewer was in the room with the speaker.
Hosted by influencer and musician Anie Delgado, the nine impactful conversations explored the impact of geopolitics on fashion around the world, with each speaker sharing personal stories of challenge and growth to encourage viewers to take their own risks in the industry. Each spoke on a different style-related topic, from the influence of motherhood on clothing choices to why diversity is such an essential element of online content creation.
Kenika Gumbs, an influencer based in Manchester, kicked off the sessions with a frank discussion of the challenges she has faced in the UK fashion world, particularly as a woman of color. She shared stories of dealing with the pay gap and a striking lack of inclusion, noting a shift this year as the Black Lives Matter movement has taken hold.
“I do hope, moving forward, these things change because it’s really upsetting and sometimes that can really bring down other people who want to work within the fashion industry,” Gumbs said, encouraging brands to use a more diverse array of models in their campaigns.
“There needs to be more of an open market,” Gumbs added. “Honestly, you see other types of girls doing a good job, but it’s like, ‘That girl with the curly hair, the big afro — give that girl an opportunity.’”
Kinya Claiborne, a style influencer and founder and editor-in-chief of LA-based STYLE & SOCIETY Magazine, echoed Gumb’s comments later that afternoon, addressing the importance of diversity in content. Claiborne said her company embraces and promotes diversity in photo choices and editorial decisions. “We talk about the topic of diversity and I see diversity as really robust — it’s not just black and white, it’s truly inclusive,” she said.
Like Gumbs, Claiborne encouraged consumers to seek out brands that are actually doing the work and not just making performative gestures towards inclusion.
“The Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. has really challenged brands in beauty and fashion to really think and look outside of the box,” Claiborne said. “And it has challenged them to ensure that the influencers they’re using are diverse. Their ad campaigns that they’re spending billions of dollars on — [they need to] make sure that the people are reflective of their customer base.”
Consumer responsibility was a key theme throughout the event, with many speakers urging viewers to support and promote local businesses, as well as BIPOC-owned businesses. LA influencer Camly Nguyen, whose father owned an auto repair shop, spoke passionately about how to support local small businesses. She recommended buying gift cards, writing positive Yelp reviews and sharing the love on social media. “I’ve always just really loved small business because anyone who has a dream, who has an idea, can turn it into reality and start something that’s completely their own,” Nguyen said. “During this time, especially with the pandemic, there’s such an importance in supporting our local communities and supporting small businesses.”
For many of the speakers, both in the UK and in LA, finding success in fashion has been about hard work, dedication and grassroots growth. These women found their success by believing in themselves and paving their own paths, turning childhood dreams into genuine careers with persistence and passion. Kandace Cornell, the Francophone influencer behind The Chic American, discussed her journey from fashion editor to creating her own brand. “I encourage everyone to find their own unique blend of what makes you,” Cornell said.
Ashley Kuczenski shared a vibrant presentation on how Old Hollywood has influenced fashion throughout the decades, revealing helpful and practical styling tips for each era. When asked where she sees fashion going during her Q&A with viewers, Kuczenski was quick to emphasize that style should come from within.
“I think that fashion right now is all about individualism and also about body positivity,” she said. “I see a lot of women on Instagram, especially, as well as on the street just owning their own look and wanting to be a unique individual. That’s really where I see the future going. Not necessarily huge trends but creating their own trends.”
London-based model and influencer Danubia Sousa agreed, revealing that motherhood has helped her to embrace her changing body and allowed her to restyle her wardrobe in a way that reflects who she is now. “Fashion is about expressing yourself but, at the same time, you have to feel comfortable,” she said, urging viewers to try new things and to listen to their bodies. “You have to feel confident. If you don’t show how you feel with your clothes you’re not going to send a positive message.”
Sousa also connected her own fashion evolution with her journey as a mother, noting that she hopes her daughter Mia will grow up to “wear whatever she wants.” Speaking with Delgado during her Q&A, Sousa confirmed that there is no one way to present yourself as a woman — nor should there be — which is an ideal she wants to pass along to Mia.
“I was the one who was different in my family,” Sousa said, adding that her style is very dissimilar than that of her twin sister. “I loved to wear fashion things, different things. I wanted to be like fashion and [have] crazy style and everyone was like ‘Uhh.’ But it worked in my favor.”
In the end, the theme of the day all went back to something Gumbs said as the event opened: there is a chance for everyone to break into fashion with enough passion and authenticity. Style is more than what you wear; it’s who you are.
“There is room for everyone,” Gumbs affirmed. “There is always that opportunity in the fashion industry, especially in the UK. It’s about making that fashion speak as you want to be heard. Just be yourself because there’s no one else in this world who can be you.”