2020, amiright? Model BFFs JoJa get real about how their industry has shifted this year and why they’ll continue to speak up for social justice
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the status quo doesn’t quite cut it anymore (and really, it never should have). In a year marked by crises—including the COVID-19 pandemic, and widespread anti-Black racism and police brutality—there have been moments of reckoning, and change, in many industries.
One industry impacted by 2020 is fashion. And no one knows that better than models Josephine Skriver and Jasmine Tookes. The IRL BFFs who launched their shared Instagram fitness and lifestyle account @joja together in 2016 are fashion world veterans and they’ve seen the industry change in recent years—in both good and bad ways.
FLARE chatted with the faces of Dynamite’s fall and holiday 2020 campaign about their friendship, the shifts they’ve witnessed in the fashion industry in 2020, and why it’s so important for models to use their voices for social change. Because no, they won’t just shut up and pose.
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They stared @joja out of a desire to unite and motivate their fans
JoJa (a combo of Josephine and Jasmine, obvi!) is a one-stop Instagram stop for fans who want a behind-the-scenes look at Tookes and Skriver’s real lives, health habits and fitness routines. Their feed is populated with photos of their delicious breakfasts, Instagram stories about their Starbucks orders and fitness tips, courtesy of JoJa’s trainers. Most often, the two are pictured together; a scroll through the @joja feed is a peek into their special friendship, and in a way, that’s kind of the point. “Initially, we wanted to share some of the insider knowledge we had access to since we were lucky to work with some of the best trainers, athletes, nutritionists, etc. in the world,” Skrivers says of the inception of JoJa. “Experiencing challenges with your best friend is always more fun than doing it by yourself and we wanted to bring that uplifting and motivational nature to our business.”
In this case, followers are just an extension of their friend group. And despite the obvious gymspo, the goal of JoJa isn’t on improving the physical, but rather on being your best self, and becoming “a better, stronger version of yourself mentally and physically,” Skriver says. “JoJa is a place where you can come find motivation for your mind, body and spirit, any day, any time. Sometimes you need a little push to do another rep and sometimes you just need a friend to remind you to take a break, get some ‘me time’ in and exhale,” Tookes says. “We want our community to enjoy finding that balance.”
And that’s extended into their work with Dynamite
With inspiration and motivation being the driving forces behind JoJa, it should come as no surprise that Skriver and Tookes would work with Dynamite. The Montreal-based brand simultaneously launched their “The Muse Project” and #IAmDynamite campaign over the summer of 2020, celebrating successful and creative women (like artist Rubina Dyan and author/model/photographer Daniella Midenge) excelling in their fields, featuring them on Dynamite’s social media channels. By spotlighting inspiring real women following—and excelling at—their dreams, the campaign serves as a sort of call to action for Dynamite’s followers to go after their own goals. It’s a message that both models can wholeheartedly get behind. “Sometimes you need a little reminder to have faith in your beliefs or you just need a boost of self-confidence and then everything else falls into place,” Skriver says. “We hope the Dynamite campaign inspires our fans to reconnect with themselves and remember what they have to offer.”
“When you believe in yourself and your capabilities, others believe in you too. That type of empowerment and positive reinforcement is really important,” Tookes adds. And sometimes, that confidence and reinforcement comes from seeing someone who inspires you doing their thing—whether it’s on your social media feed, or in a national campaign. Because we’ve all been there. “We get nervous for shoots, we second guess ourselves at times, but having someone to turn to to help you see clearly again makes all the difference in the world,” Tookes says.
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The fashion industry *is* changing…albeit slowly
While 2020 has been a truly bonkers year overall, there has also been an awakening of sorts, with more people finally opening their eyes to systemic racism and police brutality in North America—and speaking out against it. In the fashion world, many brands have been called out for racism by employees and held accountable for a lack of diversity and representation. A need for more diversity in advertising and on magazine covers is something Tookes says has been a problem throughout her decade-long career. But she says it is slowly changing now that these important discussions are happening out in the open. “I personally have seen slight changes as more companies have been trying to hire more Black models for their advertising or covers and reaching out to do more work with me,” she says. “But, this is not something that can change overnight.”
Tookes says that it will take time for Black models on magazine covers to actually become the norm and not a one-season “trend,” but she’s hopeful. She adds: “I really do have faith in the fashion industry that they can actually make proper changes to better help the Black community—and that also goes for the people they’re hiring in their company offices.”
Models can—and should—speak out about social justice
Change will continue as more people speak out—including models in the fashion industry. In February 2018, basketball star LeBron James was told by Fox News’s Laura Ingraham to just “shut up and dribble” when he criticized Donald Trump, implying that the star athlete is only valuable for one thing—his basketball skills. It’s not a stretch to assume that some people may feel the same about models—that they should just stay quiet on social issues and “do their job”—but it’s imperative, and essential, that women like Tookes and Skriver are vocal about their activism, and advocate for the voiceless. “I was raised to stand up for what you believe in. If I want to be true to myself and my values, I think it’s important to know when to use your voice,” Skriver says. “There are many people who unfortunately don’t have that luxury to be able to use their voice freely; we want to advocate for those voices.”
Not to mention, Skriver says, that as public figures they bear a certain responsibility to their followers to uphold a level of integrity. “It can be terrifying to be vulnerable, but that’s why working through challenges together makes it slightly easier. The support we have from each other and from the community can lead to great things and we are in need of change and great things right now.”
For Tookes, although she says models are hired to evoke a particular look or style for brands and thus have a very visual relationship with their fans, “that’s only one part of story-telling,” she says. “Speaking up and showing support, especially for the narratives that are taking place today, is also part of the messaging. We’re proud to be able to do that.”
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And also, they know loungewear is here to stay
If there’s been one silver lining to the year that has been 2020, it’s that with more people spending time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, loungewear has had a major glow-up; some may even say a renaissance. And Tookes and Skriver are absolutely here for it—and its longevity. “I think loungewear is definitely here for more than a moment and I am not mad about it!” Skriver says. “I think this current trend has evolved into something that’s completely wearable no matter where you are and no matter what season it is and that’s the best part,” Tookes says.
Also the best? When you find chic loungewear set that can pull double duty as both comfy at-home clothes *and* Zoom-appropriate workwear—something Skriver says she’s found with Dynamite. “The beauty with the Dynamite loungewear is that it’s chic enough to pull off as your everyday ‘normal’ pants but also provides the comfort you’re looking for. Win-win!”
Consider us sold.