Standing out in the monotonous scroll through Instagram is Nana Agyemang, Journalism ’17, and her popular fashion blog, EveryStylishGirl. Divided chromatically by bright periwinkles and lush lavenders, the individuals featured on her feed empower people of color on a platform and industry often lacking representation.
Agyemang spoke in the Ella Weed Room in Barnard’s Milbank Hall on Sunday as a part of Bold, Beautiful, Black at Barnard, a four-day event founded by Phanesia Pharel, BC ’21, which focuses on widening access to the arts for women of color. Agyemang discussed everything from how to build your personal brand to her time at Columbia.
“EveryStylishGirl is about to blow up; they already kind of have. ... It’s a fashion brand specifically for black women. When more black women find out about this, it’s over for everyone; they’re blowing up. So the fact that [Agyemang is] coming to Barnard, I’m telling all my girls, ‘Look cute and show up with a resume,’” Pharel said.
While Bold, Beautiful, Black at Barnard strives to recognize women of color in the arts, EveryStylishGirl was created in response to a lack of representation for these same artists during Agyemang’s senior year at the George Washington University.
“I was just so frustrated with the lack of diversity in the space. I never saw anyone that looked like me. I used to read Seventeen magazine and Teen Vogue all the time, and I was just like, ‘Are these not for me? Does my story not matter, does my voice not matter because I am not represented?’” Agyemang said.
Agyemang has worked to bring portrayals of those who look like her to the mainstream, manifesting first as an Instagram feed of stylish outfits donned by black women. That feed now boasts a 20,000+ following, and since its creation, EveryStylishGirl has sought to make a space in fashion, media, and pop-culture for women of color.
Not limited solely to the digital confines of social media, the brand has also attempted to help women of color break barriers across industries by offering career advice and hosting networking events.
The brand has expanded from thousands of Instagram followers to offline experiences such as panels, workshops, and an internship program for college students like Morgana Van Peebles, CC ’20. This was made possible, in part, by Agyemang’s time studying at Columbia.
“Columbia did two really powerful things for me,” Agyemang said, “One, it educated me on the legal background of business. Two, it educated me on what growing a business and being an entrepreneur looks like.”
She credits two resources for those advances in her style blog: the Law School’s Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic, which helped her to register, trademark, and set up the legal backing of her business, and Columbia Startup Lab, which informed her about market research, pitching products, and more.
“Columbia really helped me take EveryStylishGirl to the next level and turn it from an idea to a long-term business,” she said.
That long-term business, Agyemang believes, is poised to make waves in an industry in which blackface scandals have been a common occurrence.
The event came in contrast to Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri’s appearance on campus in February, during which he apologized for a recent blackface scandal at his company.
While Bizarri was caught failing to answer social media’s cry for diverse representation in the fashion industry, EveryStylishGirl has been ahead of it. Its well-curated, color-coordinated Instagram posts show the latest fashion trends on diverse models.
When asked about the Gucci scandal, Agyemang said EveryStylishGirl’s mission provided a solution to racial insensitivities plaguing the fashion industry.
“Diversity is so important in the larger scope of the high-fashion industry, but also just with an everyday girl—letting her know you are important, your voice deserves to be heard,” Agyemang said. “We’re going to be that platform to make sure women of color’s stories and styles are being told.”