Columbia College Chicago Presents New Social Justice Fashion Exhibition

fashion collectionItems from the new collection
Columbia College Chicago Announces New Social Justice Fashion Exhibition on Display Until May 10th, 2021.

Chicago, IL – Columbia College Chicago is pleased to announce the exhibition of a new social-justice oriented fashion collection curated by students in “The Fabric of Cultures,” a course taught by Fashion Studies Assistant Professor Lauren Downing Peters. The exhibition is currently on display in the windows of 618 S. Michigan, and will remain on view until May 10th, 2021. 

Peters’ class, which is designed to showcase a collection under-represented in the world of Fashion, has focused on pieces created exclusively by Black designers included in the Fashion Study Collection, and features the work of over a dozen path-breaking artists including Hylan Booker, Willi Smith, Patrick Kelly, Stephen Burrows, Cross Colours, Karl Kani, Hood by Air, Virgil Abloh, and Telfar Clemens.

As Peters has said, “the decision [to embark on this endeavor] was informed by the calls for social justice over the last year, as well as Vanessa Friedman’s recent NY Times op-ed, ‘The Incredible Whiteness of the Museum Fashion Collection,’…th[is] exhibition is as much an opportunity to spotlight the contributions of Black and African American designers as [it is] a form of institutional critique—the institution we’re critiquing being the Fashion Study Collection.”

Columbia College Chicago Fashion students were empowered to do this work through Columbia’s curriculum that actively integrates DEI into its studies helping to illuminate and correct the representational disparities in the fashion industry by teaching the next generation of fashion leaders. As Department Chair and Fashion Studies Professor Colbey Reid noted, “This is one of the ways we are claiming the South Loop as an arts corridor, even at a moment when the arts are struggling…I think that Lauren's class's featuring of Black fashion designers at this moment especially, and in the South Loop particularly, in the form of a commercial display window, is an act of countering the politics of rage and marginalization levied against Black Americans with one of celebration and inclusion.”

On the website they designed for the initiative, Peters’ students note, “Out of the 6,000 dress objects in Columbia's Fashion Study Collection, which is dedicated to the study and research of fashion history, only 20 can be attributed to Black and African American designers. This imbalance is inexcusable, but not uncommon…This has created silences in most collections and perpetuates a cycle of what is collected and what is understood as having value.” This exhibition, by contrast, invites the Columbia Community, the South Loop, and Chicago pedestrians to complicate and correct the established narrative in favor of a comprehensive and just model, overthrowing a biased history of fashion.

Viewers are invited to engage with this celebration of Black style, artistry, and innovation at any time while the exhibit is up, for no cost. Questions regarding the exhibition can be directed to Lauren Downing Peters at


Rhiannon Koehler
Communications Manager