You know how it goes by now. We grow up thinking our hair is either too curly or too flat. Our hips are “too big” or our legs “too thin.” Most of us still grew up aspiring to an idealized version of beauty; and we also grew up thinking we needed to do everything in our power to “perfect” ourselves.
Now, that’s true for most of us, but it’s not true in the same way for all of us. Picture a small black girl in the 80s, the only one at her school of thousands; that small girl’s hair is curly, but she doesn’t see many curly-hair peers, let alone salons that can ensure her hair stays comfortable in the next pool party she’s invited to. As she grows up in the 90s, she notices her hips are “larger” than most everyone else’s; in fact, shopping for clothes as a teen has become tricky, not-here-not-there. And, as teens do, she enjoys her teen magazine time with her friends; except truly none of the teens or women represented there, for years on end, have been or are, black.
The consequence for this girl, and for her friends, is simple: we all grow up with a distorted perception of beauty. Not because we cannot find beauty in each other, we do; but because “diversity” has not yet (has it already?) entered the fashion world. Most designers (and the subsequent high-street versions) are not yet thinking of a diversity of prints, sizes, colors, fits.
Let’s follow this young lady to college in the 00’s. She finds herself, perhaps for the first time, surrounded by many many others who look like her. Her mind opens up, and she begins embracing the more amicable tenet: “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” She’s able to see many others who grew up just like her, now bonding to find how their roots, customs and “differences” can be injected into the so-called mainstream, especially in fashion.
We know the rest, things have changed, but at a dismally slow space. As a society we have adopted more versions of what it means to be beautiful, but “mainstream” continues to re-hash the more narrow conceptions. We risk tokenism when talking about “diversity.”
And yet, it’s not all gloomy.
This girl grew up to find her empowerment, in fashion, in traveling, in giving herself the tools to be the creator. No longer the passive consumer, this girl, this woman, became me, Martha J. Nieto, founder of the Lulo Project. A woman on a mission to implement a vision, one in which the next generation of girls - and the women who raise them - find items and prints and brands that instantly click with them because there’s no distortion. There’s just them, as they are, wearing something pretty on their bodies, no matter their size. A piece of clothing that brings them home.
Lulo is here to show our diversity in roots, in colors, to inspire us to see the “wild” as the normal in each of us, to un-distort our perceptions of beauty. Lulo is here to amplify the spectrum for ALL of us. Especially today, especially this month, especially this year, when celebrating Black History is not just about seeing the unseen, but about praising and magnifying what so many of us are creating, with the support of our friends and our allies, who are as invested as many of us in making diversity a normalized part of our society.
The Lulo Project Family