Image Credits (left to right): Arielle Bobb-Willis, New Jersey 02, 2017. Arielle Bobb-Willis, New Orleans, 2018. Arrielle Bobb-Willis, New Jersey 01, 2017.

Fashion, Anxiety and Society: Justice

With Rikki Byrd, Rhea Combs, Tanisha C. Ford and Eric Darnell Pritchard

Fashion, Anxiety, and Society
is a conversation series curated by Kristen Owens. Organized in conjunction with Bard Graduate Center Gallery’s fall exhibition, French Fashion, Women, and the First World War, these monthly conversations explore contemporary questions of gender, labor, justice, and subversion as they relate to fashion. Other conversations in the series include:

Fashion, Anxiety and Society: Gender
With Margaret H. Darrow and Kate Strasdin, moderated by April Calahan and Cassidy Zachary, creators of Dressed: The History of Fashion podcast
Thursday, September 19, 2019

Fashion, Anxiety and Society: Labor
With Marissa Nuncio, Minh-Ha T. Pham and Elizabeth Wissinger; conversation curated and moderated by Sara Ziff
Thursday, October 24, 2019

Fashion, Anxiety and Society: Subversion
With Lucia Cuba, Fawn Krieger, and Otto von Busch
Thursday, December 12, 2019

Meet the Speakers

Rikki Byrd is a writer, educator, and scholar, with research interests in Black studies, visual culture, fashion history, and cultural studies. Her research has appeared at Art Basel Miami and has been published or is forthcoming in various academic journals and books. She has also written for Teen Vogue, Artsy, and Hyperallergic, among several other media outlets. She has lectured and participated in panel discussions with Google and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Parsons School of Design, Junior High! in Los Angeles, and the Saint Louis Art Museum. Most recently, Byrd was a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the African and African American Studies Department. She is currently a PhD student in African American studies at Northwestern University.

Rhea Combs is curator of film and photography at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She also serves as the head of the museum’s Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts (CAAMA). Prior to joining the museum, Combs taught visual culture, film, race, and gender courses at Chicago State University, Lewis & Clark College, and Emory University. Additionally, Combs has independently and successfully curated film exhibitions nationally and internationally for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, the National Black Programming Consortium, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, to name a few. She also worked as the assistant curator for the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta and as a pubic programs educator at the Chicago Historical Society (now Chicago Historical Museum). Combs received her BA from Howard University, MA from Cornell University, and PhD from Emory University. Her writings have been featured in anthologies, academic journals and exhibition catalogues on a range of topics including African American female filmmakers, Black popular culture, visual aesthetics, filmmaking and photography.

Tanisha C. Ford is an associate professor of Africana studies and history at the University of Delaware. She has written for the New York Times, Atlantic,, and The Root, and has been featured on NPR. Ford is the author of Dressed in Dreams, Kwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful, and Liberated Threads, which won the 2016 Organization of American Historians’ Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for best book on civil rights history. She lives in Harlem.

Eric Darnell Pritchard is associate professor of english at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. He writes and teaches about literacy and rhetoric and their intersections with fashion, beauty, popular culture, identity, and power. He is the author of Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy (Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), winner of three book awards, and editor of “Sartorial Politics, Intersectionality, and Queer Worldmaking,” a special issue of QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking (Michigan State University Press, 2017). His writings on fashion, beauty, and Black queer life and culture have been published in multiple venues including the International Journal of Fashion Studies, Harvard Educational Review, Visual Anthropology, Literacy in Composition Studies, Public Books,, ARTFORUM, and The Funambulist: Clothing Politics Issue 1 and Issue 2. Currently, he is completing the book Nothing is Impossible: The Life and Work of Patrick Kelly, a biography of the 1980s international fashion design superstar who made history as the first American fashion designer admitted into the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode.

Meet the Curator
Kristen J. Owens is an arts administrator, curator, researcher, and archivist with interests in visual culture, fashion, and African American studies. She works at the intersection of material preservation, information access, and arts education. As a curator, she has co-created exhibitions including Performing Fashion: New York City at NYU’s 80WSE Gallery (2017) and Dressed at Rutgers University-Newark’s Paul Robeson Galleries (2018). As a researcher, she has presented papers on African American photography and conduct literature, such as etiquette manuals, at conferences including Fashioning the Black Body in Bondage and Freedom (Brooklyn, 2017) and the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference (San Diego, 2017). Owens holds an MA in visual culture: costume studies and an MS in library and information science from New York University’s dual degree program with LIU Palmer. She holds a BA in fashion studies and has returned to her alma mater, Montclair State University, as a lecturer in that subject.

Leading support for Public Programs at Bard Graduate Center comes from Gregory Soros and other generous donors.