“Here’s how the real story goes,” Janaye Furman says candidly. We’re on a call that the model and Riot Picks founder takes from Studio City, California, where she’s working on her new collection and explaining the moment that her mom gifted her first Afro pick. “Basically, holiday time comes around, my mom’s cleaning out the garage,” Furman remembers. “She sees an Afro pick, and I’m like, ‘Oh, this is cool; it’s one of those black fist ones! I don’t have an Afro pick.” And she was like, ‘Wait, what? You don’t have an Afro pick? This whole time?’” By then, Furman was in her early 20s and signed exclusively with Louis Vuitton, the house where she made history as the first Black woman to open their show for Nicolas Ghesquière’s Spring 2018 runway collection.
Soon, Furman was wearing the pick at Paris Fashion Week. “People backstage would be like, ‘Do you know there’s something in your hair?’ and I’d be like, ‘Of course I do,’” she says with a laugh. “And then people on the streets would be like, ‘That’s cool, what is that?’” She found herself stopping to explain its meaning everywhere she went. “I realized so many people don’t know about Afro picks and what they mean,” Furman says. “I’d be like, ‘This fist means Black power, it comes from the civil rights movement,’ and the more that happened, the more I realized that people need to know about this.” She intentionally wore her pick for paparazzi photos, and photographers began asking her where it was if it wasn’t visible.
“That’s why I made Riot Picks,” Furman shares of creating a space for representation. “I think the fashion industry still sees diversity in a very narrow way. We understand we’re different colors, but if you break it down, there are so many more things involved—our rituals, our cultures, our religions,” she says. “It can be a political statement as it was for the Civil Rights Movement, and that’s exactly what the Afro pick’s history is, actually. It’s been here for 6,000 years, dating back to Egypt, where they were made as status symbols with different groups in Africa.” One of those symbols that spoke to Furman was the Adinkra, which she notes means “greatness” and incorporated into her first collection.