Sa Lapo Ki Nou Ladan (The Skin We’re In): Explorations into Skin Politics

Saturday 6th July 2024

Rick Hopkins Seminar Room 426,

London College of Fashion,

105 Carpenters Rd,


Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

London, E20 2AR

9.00 am – 7 pm

Registration from 9am

CIAD’s third biennial dress conference investigates the relationship between skin and culture and looks at how skin has been used as a descriptor and signifier of identity and existence across the African Diaspora and the wider world. Skin has been used as a canvas for creative and cultural expression as well as being viewed of as a “costume” or dressed appearance in some fields. The very existence of the diaspora population is, in part, the result of false beliefs about dark skin and the behaviours of people who possess it.

As the largest organ in the human body, and the home for hair follicles, the skin is a great indicator of the general health and well-being of a person and holds a great deal of significance to the social, cultural, economic, and political movements and existences of people of African heritage. However, what can be constituted as “darker skin” is relative to the beliefs maintained in one’s environment. Cultural beliefs and practices have perpetuated a false narrative about what it means to have skin of certain shades and even how those shades are received in the digital space.

This conference will focus on three areas of examination around the topic of skin politics:

First Panel: Shade Politics in Fashion. This panel discusses how the representation and realisation of skin has been realised through different fashion mediums. These presentations will look at contemporary fashion exhbitions both large and small and how they have navigated the shadeism lanscape.

Second Panel: Digital Racialisation. How technology and generative systems have been used to influence and impact  the relation to skin shade dynamics. These presentations focus on the digital landscape, AI technology and its relation to racialisation. 

Third Panel: Colourism and Featurism: What is the historical legacy behind these areas of phenotypic identity and why do they continue to be challenging within the 21st century. These presentations focus on the socialisation of skin shade, facial features, accepted and expected notions of beautification, and the social stratification that encompasses those fields.

The symbolism attributed to the politics of skin shade is pertinent to cohesive engagement with other members of the human species and as such has developed a relevance that has become impactful to cultural practices and social mobility. This conference aims to provide a platform to facilitate greater discussion of this subject.