Ensemble from Tihara Smith’s Windrush collection, back view
It is not only Lazare’s story that is present in Tihara’s collection, but also the wider Black British experience. Easily recognisable in the ensemble acquired by the museum are statement pieces that were popular among fashion lovers when Lazare was a young man in London, such as flared denim jeans and brown leather boots.
While developing the collection, Tihara was struck by the Stand firm inna inglan exhibition at Tate Britain, which featured photography of Black communities in London. The display encouraged her to focus on her own family’s immigrant history as a starting point for her collection. She found old photographs of her family and studied popular items of clothing from the period.
She looked to Neil Kenlock’s photography of Black Panther members in 1970s London for further inspiration. The Black power fist logo and slogan ‘Black & British’ embroidered onto the raffia vest reflect the feelings of marginalisation and resistance of the time, while the red lion symbol links to the pride and experience of being Black and British.
The shirt in the collection is made from a vinyl tablecloth purchased in Peckham Market, which was reminiscent of the crochet or lace tablecloths often used in the West Indian front room. The West Indian front room, known for elaborate decoration and ornamental objects, were the pride and joy of the Caribbean diaspora. This was a space reserved for special occasions and entertaining guests.