“If we can open up a little more to each other and share our stories, our real stories, that’s what breaks down barriers, but in order to do that you have to believe your story has value.”

Michelle Obama

I have wanted to write this post for so long.  But I never felt that I had the right words, or even the right to write this article.

What inspires me and energizes me to write is my passion for sharing my thoughts.   My stories.

Because if I feel this way, perhaps someone else out there does too.  And perhaps that other person out there won’t feel ashamed or bad or wonder if they are the only person out there thinking the same.

And if this post is not for you, then you won’t read it.  Most likely because of the title and that just means that you weren’t ready, or it’s not a priority.

This is about representation.  And I think Michelle Obama has represented a lot more people than she realizes, and not just because she became the first African-American First Lady.

But because of what she stands for, for so many people, regardless of age, race, gender, size jean you wear or background.

Representation is sharing your story. 

It is connection. 

It is community.

Representation is saying those thoughts and stories out loud for all to hear while maintaining your sense of self.

Wrapped around representation is fear, judgement, shame, courage, pride, identity, to name just a few.

Fear that you will be laughed at, not taken seriously, be told that you are over-thinking or being over-emotional.

Judgement of what others will think of you; of how that will impact your life, your career, your family.

Shame that your thoughts and your stories will be looked down upon and that others will pity you.

Courage is speaking your mind when you think others may disagree with you or attack you.

Pride is that feeling that shivers down your spine, when you speak your mind, regardless of the outcome.

Owning your thoughts and your stories that form your identity, but being open to accepting help and support when it’s needed.

When I was a kid, I loved The Cosby Show.  I felt like I was Vanessa, but I really wanted to be Denise.  Vanessa was a bit naive, a bit whiny, who also kinda played the victim a little.

Denise was the self-assured, confident Huxtable, who had a wicked dress sense and hairstyles.  And also had the best lines.

As a teenager I loved The Fresh Prince.  Carlton was and still is my favorite.  Because he was just himself no matter what.  Even when Will catches him busting a move to Tom Jones, he looks Will in the eye, hands him the candle aka microphone, and staunchly walks off stage.

I also loved (and still do) Pride and Prejudice.  The BBC Adaptation with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy are my favorite characters and not just because of their love story, but because they both had their set ideals and judgements and had reason to back them up, but they were also willing to change their minds.

At design school I found an Erykah Badu cd as I was flipping through cds at a local record store and bought the album based on her headwrap and chunky jewelry.  Turns out this was my inspiration for my 3rd year collection, with models walking to Macy Gray.  (I also wrote a blog about seeing Macy recently which you can read here). 

Jill Scott, Angie Stone, Alice Smith, Morcheeba, The Roots, Kelis, Ben Harper, Lenny Kravitz, J5, Billie, Mahalia, Ella & Lena, Guru, Des’ree and so many others also had a huge impact on my life, my style, my view of the world. 

They represented what I wanted to be a part of in the world. 

They all had their own unique voice.

I didn’t aspire to be a singer or in a band.  There was nothing I hated more than being up onstage and the center of attention.

They each owned their sense of self.

And that’s what I am doing.  KATE&FRANCES is my sense of self.

kate and frances designs on people of colour
some of my favourite images from kate&frances collections.

I want to show strong, courageous, unique people in my images. 

I want to show and to share my story with the world, because I think it is so important to each person, to know that your story does have value, and that there will be someone, or many someone’s out in this world that want to hear it.  That need to hear it.

Representation is not just a colour, a culture, a gender, an age, a background, a size.

Representation captures your story, your identity.

Representation by KATE&FRANCES is connecting and creating community.

And please note, that there is a lot more to representation than just what I have mentioned.  And it’s one helluva topic to cover in a blog post.

I feel there needs to be more representation of people of colour in positions of authority (not just the President of the United States, but in management in corporate companies, in creative fields); of females : black, indigenous, mixed; of entrepreneurs of all industries and from all countries around the world; of more acceptance and value of these.

And we will get there, by sharing our stories, our real stories.

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