What role does fashion play in self-expression? Just ask photographer Alex Black. Fascinated by the ability of young creatives to use fashion and personal style as a means of expressing themselves and their identities, she decided to document it.
Black brought a group of 16 subjects into her studio on the premise that they style themselves. They were presented with racks on racks of clothing and put together their own looks—using the pieces that spoke to them—in a way that felt true to their individual identity. As Black says, “Fashion is the subject’s voice in the image, a vehicle of self-expression and manifestation of their individuality.”
Below, meet the diverse crew of creative 20-somethings, and hear their thoughts on using fashion as a means of expressing themselves—and why that’s so important.
Photographer/Director: Alex Black
Director of Photography: Ryan Wolf
Stylist: Lex Robinson
Makeup: Ames Amore
Hair: Kazuto Shimomura
Producer: Andres Sebastian
Sydney Robins, 25, stylist and social media specialist
Describe your style in three words.Loud, ironic, vintage.
How do you express yourself through clothing?Fashion is my escape; clothing lets me fantasize and become whatever I want. I love being able to choose a different persona based on my vibe.
Why is personal expression so important to you?Expressing myself through clothing is how I connect with people, so it's weirdly fulfilling. When I'm out or traveling, I meet like-minded people everywhere because they're either drawn to me or vice versa. I'm dressing exactly how I feel, and the opportunities that come from that are always surprising.
Sydney is wearing a Namilia jacket, Tripp NYC top, a Glazed NYC beret, a Laruicci earring and lock necklace, a Mister Bieber necklace, and a Mulberry and Grand choker.
Idairifer Luis, 19, student, model, and stylist
Who are you?This question doesn't have one single answer, as I am a multifaceted and rather complex individual. It's also hard to have a set idea of who one is since our identities are not fixed—they're in constant evolution and development.
Why is personal expression so important to you?I'm from a place where individuality and self-expression are sort of frowned upon, while conformity is celebrated. Moving to New York has enabled me to not only dress but live authentically through clothing, which has become a non-verbal semantic through which I'm able to depict different facets of myself.
Which piece is your favorite?The bright orange Christian Dior jacket is my favorite piece, for sure! It was the muse for rest of the pieces; I essentially based my whole look around it.
Idairifer is wearing a Dior Homme vest, Acne Studios pants, Saint Laurent shoes, Miaou belts, a Laruicci earring, and their own necklace and nose ring.
Jordan, 19, filmmaker and vlogger
Who are you?I'm Jordan: a filmmaker, vlogger, and the gay friend every straight girl wants to go shopping with.
How do you express yourself through clothing?I just dress how I feel. I don't care about gender or rules when it comes to clothes. It's all about what feels good.
Is there anything else you want to tell us?I just made a film about gender-fluid fashion, through my eyes as a queer, black man. I want everyone to see that a person of color can be as masculine and feminine as they want. The two don't have to negate one another.
Jordan is wearing an ASOS sweater, Dior Homme bucket visor, a Laruicci earring (right), and their own earring (left).
Olya Anikina, 27, model, occasional translator, aspiring set and food stylist
Who are you?A human and a professional hustler.
Why is personal expression so important to you?As humans, we tend to stereotype people based on their clothing. We just assume that we have it all figured out. I try not to trap myself in a particular style and challenge myself to change. But, at the same time, the older I get, the more comfortable I become with myself. Previously, I tended to wear more boyish clothing and have a buzz cut. That was my own way to escape getting sexualized and seeming weak. Now, I am learning that strength is not masculinity, it's just there inside of me. I'm no longer afraid to be feminine, neither do I feel obligated. It's a new chapter for me, and my hair is the longest it's been in over eight years.
Is there anything else you want to tell us?Style and self-expression are beautiful things, it's an art form and has helped me to get through certain things in life. Some days, it was the only thing that could get me out of the house. I cherish it!
Olya is wearing a vintage blazer, DROMe pants, Salvatore Ferragamo boots, a Laruicci necklace, and their own earrings and pin.
Dusty, 26, model and artist
Who are you?I'm me!
Why is personal expression so important to you?I feel that everyone should show who they are in every way. Why hold back? I go all out to show people that this is who I am. I'm comfortable and confident.
Is there anything else you want to tell us?I love life! In matter of fact, I love my life. I just want to inspire others to do whatever the fuck they want. Own that shit.
Dusty is wearing a Belstaff jacket, a Fendi zip-up, Coach pants, and a Julie Vos bracelet.
Jackie, 26, performance artist
Who are you?My name is Jacquelyn Emmarie Alberts… a girl with a vision.
How do you express yourself through clothing?I’m a tomboy that also loves to celebrate my body and sexuality, so I try to wear pieces that express both male and female energies.
Is there anything else you want to tell us?Art doesn’t always need context, you can make it for no reason. Create your own reality
Jackie is wearing a Calvin Klein top, Namilia pants, Christian Louboutin shoes, a Balenciaga bag, a Zana Bayne choker, and their own mesh tank, sunglasses, and rhinestone choker.
Jessica Wu, 22, stylist and producer
Who are you?I am a wardrobe stylist and producer based in NYC.
Describe your style in three words.Comfortable, classic, minimal.
Why is personal expression so important to you?Personal expression is important to me because I mostly see my clothing and accessories as intrinsically valuable, at times with no regard to monetary value. Most of my own current wardrobe is composed of pieces from my mother and grandmothers on both sides, so they carry a special history.
Jessica is wearing an ASOS blouse and a Laurence + Chico vest (worn underneath).
Jalen Dominique, 23, artist and model
Who are you?I'm Jalen, a 23-year-old artist and model born and raised in Texas. I believe my purpose is to promote change, push limits, and to make the world as uncomfortable as possible.
Why did you choose these pieces?I love color and not matching.
Why is personal expression so important to you?Everyone has something to offer, and everyone has a different perspective. Life is all about gaining knowledge and connecting with others. I feel that it's mandatory to do so in a positive way, not only for your own relief but to possibly be an inspiration to others.
Jalen is wearing a Cult of Individuality jacket, a Sacai hoodie, Valentino pants, Dolce & Gabbana shoes, and their own jewelry.
Harper Slate, stylist
Who are you?A young NYC-based artist.
Why did you choose these pieces?I thought, What would Bowie do?
How do you express yourself through clothing?When I look at my clothing, I think, Who influenced my choice? What do they represent, and what kind of message does that give off? You can say a lot with what you're wearing! Own it.
Harper is wearing a Blumarine top, Chanel pants, Hilfiger Collection shoes, a Miaou belt, and their own socks.
Jimi Lucid, 23, musician
Who are you?I'm Jimi Lucid, a musician and artist from D.C.
Describe your style in three words.Punk, apocalyptic, and bliss.
Why is personal expression so important to you?To me, it's an art form and an extension of my personality. Personal expression is a necessity of the human soul, and I wouldn’t feel alive without my ability to express myself through fashion, music, and art.
Jimi is wearing a McQ Alexander McQueen sweater and boots, Marcelo Burlon pants, Represent jeans, a Zana Bayne choker, a Laruicci necklace and cross earring (right), and their own bandana and ring.
Lauren Ericks, 19, vintage clothing flipper
Who are you?I am 19 years old, I love my pet bunny Leo, going to gigs with my friends, dancing until my feet hurt (even so, I keep going), picking through thrift stores for hours, and traveling.
Describe your style in three words.Groovy, psychedelic, and colorful.
Is there anything else you want to tell us?Be yourself. Don't let the weird stares, sometimes creepy men, and people who conform to the norm in society bring you down. You want to go to the store in those six-inch platforms and flashy dress? Do it! Absolutely wear what makes you happy and what you feel good in. My number one goal is to inspire people to not be afraid to be themselves. And be nice, because that's so much cooler than sticking your nose up in the air when someone is trying to appreciate you. Be yourself, feel good about yourself, look fly, but also don't forget to just be nice.
Lauren is wearing a Nike jacket, a Tripp NYC top, a Glazed NYC beret, and their own choker.
Joslin Farley, 22, vintage store employee
Who are you?My name is Joslin! I'm 22 years old, and I'm from Seattle, Washington.
Why did you choose these pieces?I love holographic stuff! It's probably my go-to fabric of choice in any given situation. You can also never go wrong with fishnet, either.
Is there anything else you want to tell us?Often people come up to me and say, "Oh, wow, you look so cool, I wish I could do that," and I always say, "YOU CAN!" There is always room for more colorful, zany people in the world, so if you want to dress crazy, do it.
Joslin is wearing a Tripp NYC mesh top, a Laruicci earring, ISLYNYC bangles, and their own turtleneck.
Daniel Walters, 22, student and model
Who are you?I am an art history student, a lover, and someone that's always keen on growing and changing. So any further terms I might use to describe myself would be likely to change by the time this interview gets published.
Describe your style in three words.Tonal, streamlined, curated.
Why is personal expression so important to you?I think that personal expression and style are extensions of the ideas we have about ourselves and the world around us, so we should keep that in mind when we get dressed to go out into it.
Daniel is wearing a Faith Connexion jacket and pants, Gucci boots, and a Glazed NYC beret.
Skyler Hawkins, 20, model
Who are you?I am a model from Texas, living in NYC.
Describe your style in three words.Extra, feminine, curious.
Why is personal expression so important to you?Being from Texas, I never felt like I could truly express myself until I moved to NYC. Having that feeling now is so amazing, and I never want to go back.
Skyler is wearing a Fendi jumper, Namilia pants, Gucci shoes, and a Laruicci choker.
Manchao, 24, student
Who are you?A finance student who's in love with fashion.
Why is personal expression so important to you?To me, having a specific style is the most direct and efficient way to express my attitude to the world, even to people who have no idea who I am.
Why did you choose these pieces?I chose the denim jacket since the cut is incredibly unique; it's repurposed with a back zipper. As for the Gucci T-shirt, it carries the memory of my precious Vogue internship experience, and I also like the way the yellow fabric makes my skin look.
Manchao is wearing an R13 jacket, Gucci T-shirt, Christian Dior earring, and their own necklace.
Rhea Carter, 25, singer
Who are you?Rhea Carter, a rapper from Chicago.
Describe your style in three words.Keep it cute ;).
Why is personal expression so important to you?It's identity and can be conversation-starting.
Rhea is wearing a Versace dress and a Georgine bralette.