Curl Codes is an ongoing project in London that warns about the damage that wigs and weaves can cause to afro hair
Elizabeth Joseph is a young Bajan web designer living in London, who also runs creative workshops. Her latest project is Curl Codes, an exhibition held out of her studio in East London as of today, where she’ll be showing decorative afro hair, handmade wigs, accessories and information about the many different types of afro hair and how it should be treated.
Her goal? To help educate around and thus prevent the traction alopecia she sees on black women and particularly fashion models.
Traction Alopecia is a form of hair loss, usually around the front or back hairline. It is caused by extensive pulling of the hair, which can be due to tight plaiting, braiding, or ponytails. The repeated pulling on the scalp causes damage to the follicles and can lead to hair loss that can be temporary or permanent. It's particularly common among women of colour as popular styling techniques put more pressure on the hair, from weaves to chemical relaxants. In America, one-third of African American women say they have experienced it.
“I have suffered from traction alopecia in the past,” says Elizabeth, “in my teens I had tight braids put in which were very long and therefore quite heavy. However, my hair did grow back along the scalp.”
Over the past couple of years Elizabeth has noticed traction alopecia appearing on fashion models' afro hair: “As a woman of colour, I know that our hair needs to be treated differently from European hair, and this may be a factor in the damage of afro hair. I've also noticed that the hair accessories we see in fashion magazines usually focus on non-afro hair.”
In the new solo show, she does not advocate that women give up weaves or braids, she just wants to stimulate a conversation about the topic. “I would like stylists and the fashion industry in general to have more knowledge about afro hair, its different types, and how to be creative with it without damaging it. I've noticed less creativity with afro haired models on the catwalk and also in magazines. I'd like to work with stylists on fashion shoots and catwalk shows, creating bespoke accessories and creative looks while keeping the hair healthy.”
Curl Codes is on at Chisenhale Studios from the 18th of March