• Rachel Kinnard: Fashioning inclusive platforms

  • Rachel Kinnard

    MA Fashion Studies program graduate Rachel Kinnard dissects the power of representation and the dynamics of oppressive majority cultures through her research and teaching. She began her practice as a master’s student at Parsons, where she researched the relationship between plastic surgery and dress. These early investigations provided a solid foundation for her current role guiding students and practitioners in exploring race as an axis on which majority culture suppresses diverse fashion histories and enforces restrictive definitions of beauty and value. 

    Kinnard recently partnered with Kimberly M. Jenkins, a colleague from her graduate program, on Jenkins’ research platform, The Fashion and Race Database, for which she now serves as project manager. The platform includes tools designed to make fashion history more comprehensive and hold the fashion system to a higher standard in terms of representation. “When I was young,” Kinnard says, “the only fashion media was Vogue. I knew things were missing from the narrative, but it was hard to criticize without more resources.” The database offers just that: resources for scholars and educators of fashion history. 

    As a lecturer of fashion studies at California State University Los Angeles, Kinnard broadens access to the spectrum of fashion histories and encourages debate in the classroom. She says, “Critical thought is healthy and necessary for an industry like fashion that has, for so long, contrived an incomplete narrative.” She incorporates The Fashion and Race Database into her syllabus, encouraging her students to look beyond canonical sources. 

    Inspired by like-minded thinkers she met at Parsons, Kinnard is optimistic about her field and its effect on an industry seeking greater representation for the people that built it. She sees education as an entry point for changemakers looking to tell fashion’s whole story and empower a new generation.


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