Shala Monroque and Jenke Ahmed Tailly: A Dialogue on Couture

January 27, 2021
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Shala Monroque is a creative consultant, content developer and curator of talent and ideas in the fashion industry, art community and beyond. Her early work in New York City includes art advising at The Gagosian Gallery and Editor-at-Large at Pop Magazine. Shala became Creative Director at Garage Magazine 2011 through 2014 working closely with renowned artists such as Damien Hirst, Richard Prince, Anna Craycroft. With an eye for fashion and a keen sense of trends, Shala served as a consultant with Prada for three years working alongside the creative team on spotting trends and developing concepts like Miu Miu’s Miu Miu Musings. Shala served as La Mer’s first World Ocean’s Day Brand Ambassador in 2013. She also has contributed to the US editions of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, served as Co-Chair New York Public Library Gala Event for three years until she moved back to her native home. She has graced the covers of Town & Country and New York Magazine, while being a regular on the Best Dressed Lists of Vogue and Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed List. Most recently, she walked in the Chloe Fashion Week 2020 Show alongside other creative women such as Haley Gates, Rila Fukushima, Ariane Labed, and Lous and the Yakuza, which was inspired by Rita Ackerman and Marianne Faithful. Shala resides in the mountains on her farm in her native St. Lucia and spends her time breathing life into her creative outlets, cultivating artisans and brands while living with purpose.  

Jenke Ahmed Tailly is a creative director, consultant and stylist having worked with British, US and Italian VogueGQ, Garage and The Gentlewoman magazines. He has also worked on campaigns for H&M and Benetton and styled shows for Yeezy and Sophie Theallet. In 2016 Tailly was the creative director for L’Officiel’s “Gang of Africa” issue which ran with the theme “black beauty matters” and featured singer Ciara and model Iman. Having grown up in the Ivory Coast, the son of a Senegalese mother and Cote d’Ivoire father studied marketing. He modelled for two years before working as a marketing director and moving into creative direction and styling work. In 2011, Tailly styled Beyonce on the cover of L’Officiel Paris’ 90th anniversary edition. As the first black woman to cover the magazine, the stylist drew on inspiration from her heritage, paying homage with a tribal-inspired gold fringe dress. Winning much critical acclaim for his work, Tailly’s relationship with Beyoncé blossomed with the stylist taking on her creative direction for the next three years. The collaboration eventually led to a meeting with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, who he has also styled. In September 2016, Tailly returned to L’Officiel, on an invitation to collaborate on its 95th anniversary “Gang of Africa” issue with the tagline, “Black Beauty Matters”. He is an ambassador for diversity within the fashion industry, and often features African models in his editorial work. In 2019, Jenke Ahmed Tailly has been appointed Ambassador of the FHCM International Committee for Emerging Brands. 

In what ways can Haute Couture be a reflection of the times?

We are currently in an era of unity.  In a time of universal hardship the only way to survive is to unite.  In 2020 we saw a uniformed outcry across the globe against systemic racism.  Right now the pulse of the moment is to is to find ways of doing better than we have ever done before.  The future of humans and the planet depends on it.  From this angle Haute Couture as a body of excellence has an opportunity to strive even harder in this pursuit.  Haute Couture now has the opportunity to  be at the forefront of the liberation process.  One way would be to look at the  production process in tandem with the conversations around Reparations.  How can Haute Couture help revive dying traditions in the former colonies through investments, enterprise and mutual exhange, with respect?  How can it become part of a broader lifestyle and culture?  This is one way that can be explored where everyone benefits, from extra pride in purchasing and wearing a garment leading the way in unification to creating livelihoods across the globe that we can all be proud of.

How can fashion as a form of individual and free expression play a role in our changing societies?

Greater respect in the field of art should be given to fashion designers.  Designers and artisans of Haute Couture truly embody high art just as much as the visual or performing arts.  If art helps define our world, fashion is the physical and moving expression of art, especially in today’s world where we are most frequently communicating universally through images, fashion is it’s highest expression and most universal.  If highstreet fashion is slang, Haute Couture is spoken word at it’s most eloquent using a language anyone around the world can comprehend.

How does the current crisis impact people’s relationship with clothing and fashion?

The crisis has reminded us the value of quality over quantity.  During lockdown, it encouraged us to revisit our closets and find garments that stand the test of time, those pieces that never left the house on a trip to the vintage store or online reseller.  It has put us square in the face with millions of people walking for days from cities to villages in India for example.  We got to see the real behind-the-scenes of how the clothes we wear are made. It has forced us to dream of a better brighter world and how we can be the architects of that.  At the end of the day, if at the twightlight of 2020 we chose to wear cosy sweatsuits we also realized in the darkest hours, we still crave beauty and that we’d much rather do our Zoom calls in bright ensembles to help lift all of our spirits.

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