Are fashion sketchbooks racist?

Ahmed, Tanveer (2022). Are fashion sketchbooks racist? Fashion, Style & Popular Culture, 9(3) pp. 367–381.



Drawing on scholar Marc Augé’s concept of non-place, this article contributes to growing studies that focus on the ways in which fashion produces racism. Recent years have shown a rise in the scrutiny by social media of racist fashion garments and campaigns that problematically stereotype, appropriate and Other marginalized cultures. However, less attention has been given to how racism is constructed through design practices in education and curricula, such as through the different activities and techniques that constitute the fashion ideation process. Indeed, few studies to date have examined how commonplace design tools such as sketchbooks, measuring tapes or mannequins reinscribe forms of Othering. This article sets out to critically examine representations of Othering in fashion design sketchbooks and discuss the role this ubiquitous fashion tool might play in encouraging racist fashion representations. The sketchbooks of undergraduate fashion design students were chosen for this study due to the importance of fashion education as a catalyst for future fashion cultures. From an initial sample of seventy sketchbooks, twelve sketchbooks showed representations of cultural difference through an over-reliance on excessive imagery, with limited text. These strategies showed a pattern of reproducing ahistorical static ideas which reinforce cultural hierarchies. Marc Augé’s concept of non-place is used in this study to refer to how time and space are mobilized using various design techniques and employed within sketchbooks. Such techniques show paradoxical representations of cultural differences, which lack context-specific histories and identities. The study identifies two key strategies used within fashion sketchbooks: firstly, the de-contextualization of cultural difference, and then the re-contextualization of cultural difference. Combined, these strategies show how using collaging techniques in sketchbooks in the fashion design process erases meaning by compressing time and space.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions