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The Power of Style: How Fashion and Beauty Are Used to Reclaim Cultures

The mainstream fashion industry often excludes those who do not conform to its norms, which can leave people on the outside feeling less than beautiful. In The Power of Style, Christian Allaire, fashion and style writer at Vogue, sheds light on the ways beauty and fashion can empower those historically underrepresented by the industry. It highlights the importance of both tradition and modernity, offering readers insight into the need for inclusion even in spaces that some – particularly those already represented – might consider frivolous.

Allaire, who is Ojibwe, begins with his family’s sewing traditions, using the example of ribbon work to illustrate some of the ways culture and style intersect. He encourages readers to consider how innovation interacts with convention in fashion, and he discusses a wide range of topics such as the cultural importance of hair, the burgeoning hijab fashion industry, and non-normative perspectives on mainstream staples, like high heels and makeup. The care in Allaire’s approach to these subjects is evidenced by his choice to interview community members and let them speak for themselves – for example, several Black women discuss natural hair.

A woman models a hijab

(Courtesy of Haute Hijab/Caleb & Gladys)

The Power of Style covers cultural appropriation versus appreciation, gender nonconformity, body positivity, and racism. Although the book is broad in scope, its deft construction still allows for a relatively nuanced take on each subject it tackles, contextualizing how style is informed and affected by wider cultural issues. Allaire also intentionally highlights community-based brands and creators, instead of relying on name brands or star power to get his point across.

The book is full of bright photographs and gorgeous illustrations that serve Allaire’s thesis: representation in the beauty and fashion industries is vital. The interviews featured throughout also reinforce the link between representation and self-esteem, especially for young people.

The Power of Style is ultimately a book about empowerment. It champions diversity and self-acceptance through style and encourages readers to discover new ways of expressing themselves.

A photo of braids from The Power of Style

(Courtesy of Durrant Santeg/Nalin Springer)