Jourdan Dunn has earned a lot of firsts. In 2008, she became the first black model to walk for Prada in over a decade. She was also the first solo black face to land the cover of British Vogue in 12 years. And if that wasn’t enough, the modern day supermodel was the first black British name to make Forbes’ highest earning models list.
Notice that the word ‘black’ features in each and every one of those achievements. So it’s no wonder that Jourdan is determined to solve the diversity problem that is sadly still prevalent in the fashion industry.
“I always want to see diversity and real girls on the runway. It’s important that women have an image that they can relate to,” she states. That’s why her latest business venture with retailer Missguided makes complete sense.
The model has teamed up with the affordable high street brand for a collection that caters for every girl and woman; whether you’re into sickly sweet pink or a more gothic vibe. Dropping on 11 March, the LON DUNN + MISSGUIDED range features velour tracksuits, skin-tight bodysuits and Rihanna-esque sleeves alongside a badass (and diverse) campaign starring the likes of Leomie Anderson, Rina Sawayama and Braina Laviena.
“I love my girl squad. I wanted girls who look great but also have an opinion and aren’t afraid to voice it. Whether that’s through social media, modelling, dance, photography, art or writing,” Jourdan tells Yahoo Style.
Speaking about the collection, it’s clear that unlike plenty of other famous faces, the model had a heavy hand in the design process: “This collection is so personal to me and accessible for all women and girls. It marries the practical element of really wearable clothes with a street vibe.
“It’s statement daywear. I wanted the pieces to be easy to wear and relevant to how a lot of us dress now. I like to wear my satin joggers with Gianvito Rossi high heel boots so everything [in this collection] can be dressed up and mixed up.”
This isn’t the 26-year-old’s first foray into fashion design. Last year, she collaborated with Marks & Spencer on a childrenswear line inspired by her son Riley. (Rather overdue considering she first entered the industry almost a decade ago.)
“I always knew that I would have my own brand. You just need to keep working and learn to be patient with yourself,” she says. “It’s all going to come good in the end.”
Confidence appears to come naturally to Jourdan. She has never been scared to speak out – even against former employers such as Victoria’s Secret. She also kickstarted a real conversation surrounding models of colour after tweeting “I swear some people need to learn to do black hair/skin” way back in 2011.
Yet she is not afraid to admit that nerves can overcome everyone at the best of times: “I remember reading Diane von Furstenberg’s autobiography and the one line that struck me was that her mother had told her that “fear is not an option.” Fear stops us from doing what we really want to do – whether it’s leaving a job or an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes, you have to go outside of your comfort zone and really face your fears.”
Going back to her now infamous tweet, Jourdan is all too aware of the power (and potential pitfalls) of social media. “Social media has taken over the world. It’s where people are discovered, politics are discussed, movements are organised… I love it but you have to respect it,” she comments. “I’ve learnt to be more reflective and considered [when it comes to speaking out].”
When casting director James Scully hit headlines last week for naming and shaming certain individuals and brands for their mistreatment of models and lack of diversity, Jourdan was one of the first high-profile names to lend her support. “It’s important to spread awareness about things you care passionately about,” she states. “In my opinion, we all have a social responsibility to be good to each other. Social media has created equality beyond the catwalk.”
Along with condemning designers for ignoring women of colour, the model has become a strong advocate for sickle cell anaemia; a condition that her now seven-year-old son was born with. She is an ambassador for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America and uses her two million Instagram followers to spread awareness of the little-known disease.
Nowadays, the term ‘role model’ is bandied about a lot but Jourdan Dunn is definitely worthy of the title. In a society filled to the brim with paid for posts and half-hearted captions, this woman is proof that social media can be used for good.
LON DUNN + MISSGUIDED by Jourdan Dunn is available from 11th March at www.missguided.com and in store.