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The British Jazz Age 1920-1939

Young people from London have collaborated on this multi faceted project to celebrate Black Icons of the British Jazz Age,  inspiring people from all backgrounds with a creative exploration of Black British heritage.

This unique project enabled young people to conduct hands-on archive research with original source material, as well as speaking to some of the UK’s most respected experts, including Stephen Bourne and Gary Crosby OBE, to inform their investigations. The young people then designed and printed textiles, inspired by East African Kangas, to celebrate their chosen Black Icons. These cloths were then styled and modelled by the young people themselves, providing the images that illustrate the inspiring life stories brought to life in the magazine.


The group stepped away from Google and into the archives of London: Black Cultural Archives, National Jazz Archive, British Library, British Film Insitute and Positive Steps Archive.  They sifted through magazines, flyers, ephemera and photographs, drawing and making notes. They heard lectures, watched films and listened to original recordings. Combining their new found research skills with their creativity, they used original source material to tell thirteen exciting life stories.


The project is launched with a day of induction and research at the V&A. Launch day is followed by 10 weeks of industry led fashion workshops on Saturday mornings. 70 teenagers receive expert tuition to learn about the complete design process – from initial research and garment design to technical drawing, pattern cutting and constructing a finished toile.

At the end of the 10 week course the young designers present their finished toiles and portfolios to a panel of industry experts, who select the Fashion Futures Finalists.

The final stage of the project sees the Finalists spend an intensive week at Summer School expanding on the designs they have created and developing the skills they learnt in stage 1.  By the end of the week their designs are complete and ready for the London Fashion Week catwalk in September.


From art direction and styling to hair , make up and modelling, different members of the group lent their talents to creating striking and uplifting photostory.


We’re excited that Black Icons has been able to pop up at the Knitting and Stitching Show, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Black Cultural Archives and II Temple Place, and that the Black Icons magazine is preserved in the archives of the INVIVA Library and the Black Cultural Archives.


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