Rikki Byrd on the anti-Black history of American department stores

I, like many other Black people, have been followed around stores for no reason other than my race. Add general anxiety to the mix and that makes me feel even more uncomfortable to just… browse. Rikki Byrd chronicled this anti-Black racism for Vox, via the depiction of Marshall Field’s in the hit series, Lovecraft Country:

Set in 1950s Chicago, Lovecraft Country’s deliberate insertion of Marshall Field’s exemplifies the show’s commitment to blending horror, magic, and science fiction with historical references to explore racial injustices faced by Black people in the US. Ruby’s determination to work at Marshall Field’s not only references racial discrimination in department stores writ large, but her persistent return to this store specifically is reflective of its impact on the city.

Now a Macy’s in downtown Chicago, Marshall Field’s was once a pillar in the Windy City, transforming the retail experience from merely an errand to an outing worth looking forward to. From its ceiling designed by Tiffany & Co. to its series of retail firsts, the building has a storied history complete with success, failure, and innovation. It also has a history of racism that long impacted Black Chicagoans eager, like Ruby, to work and shop there.

For more stories about anti-Blackness in stores, read this piece from Cassi Pittman Claytor, Traci Parker’s Black Christmas in American Department Stores, and Michael Liscky’s article on racism outliving the American department store.

Prince's shoe collection exhibited at Paisley Park

The Beautiful Collection opened on 9th July 2021 for fans to view over 300 pairs of Prince’s shoes and the stories behind them. The exhibition will be on for a limited time as part of the Paisley Park tour and will also include video interviews from Prince’s design partners and content about Prince’s influence on fashion and gender.

Loungefly's Star Wars Boba Fett Cosplay Mini Backpack

Loungefly's Star Wars Boba Fett Cosplay Mini Backpack

Be the coolest person in your galaxy with this official Boba Fett backpack. It comes with a stitched Boba Fett helmet design on the front, a Metal Mandalorian crest icon on the zip, and matching interior. What’s more, it’s vegan-friendly and measures around 9 inches wide and 11 inches tall.

Pre-order it at Geekcore, TruffleShuffle, Just Geek, and Get Ready Comics

(h/t Star Wars Clube Portugal)

Out now: 'Clarks in Jamaica' (revised second edition)

Jamaica loves Clarks shoes and Clarks in Jamaica by Al Fingers celebrates that with its second revised edition:

Clarks in Jamaica is a colourful, in-depth study into Clarks’ celebrated status in Jamaica, where for decades they have ruled as the “champion shoes”. Starting with the origins of the Clarks brand in 1825, the book goes on to detail the arrival of the brand in the West indies over one hundred years ago, the adoption of the Desert Boot as the rude boy and Rasta shoe of choice in the 1960s, and the filtering of this popularity into reggae and dancehall song lyrics.

Featuring current and historic photographs, interviews and never-before-seen archive material, this classic style reference explores how footwear made by a Quaker firm in the quiet English village of Street, Somerset became the “baddest” shoes in Jamaica and an essential part of the island’s culture.

Clarks in Jamaica is out now, available at Gardners (UK) and SCB (US) for £39.99 and $59.99, respectively.

Islamic tartan of Scotland

The Islamic Tartan Concept weaves together the different strands of Scottish and Muslim heritage creating the fabric of the future.

The theological explanation of the design is as follows:

– Blue to represent the Scottish Flag
– Green to represent the colour of Islam
– Five white lines running through the pattern to represent the five pillars of Islam
– Six gold lines to represent the six articles of faith
– Black square to represent the Holy Kabah

Sophia Tassew's Khula jewellery brand is dope

Sophia Tassew with 4 models wearing Khula earrings

Last year, I said I wanted to showcase more Black content, particularly creative endeavours and projects that deserve all the spotlights and this is the perfect example of that.

Khula is a jewellery brand by Sophia Tassew, a plus-size content creator from South East London. You may recognise her name from an earlier blog post I wrote about A Quick Ting On—she’ll be releasing a book about her experiences in 2022. In an interview with Bricks Magazine, she called Khula “a sort of homage to my parents who come from Ethiopia and South Africa.”

I’ve always wanted to have my own earring collection or design something. I always thought it would come in the form of a brand collaboration but it didn’t and still hasn’t so I decided to start it myself and learn how to make earrings. Also, as a plus sized girl, growing up, my fashion and style journey was tedious. You were forced to shop for clothes that were meant for people three times your age or the mens section. The only thing I could always rely on were earrings. They’ve been my savouir (sic) many times as well as a small representation of who I am and where I come from. So much growth has happened between then and now and that’s exactly what Khula means in Zulu, grow. 

Sophia runs Khula completely on her own, working very long nights and making her vast collection of earrings by hand, as well as packing and posting the products herself. It’s the epitome of a one-woman team.

I especially love the late 60s/70s vibe from the designs, which she said inspired her alongside her roots from East Africa and South Africa:

Taking inspiration from my heritage and putting that into my brand makes me feel so much closer to my roots in a way that I know how, and a language that I understand which is jewellery. I’m very interested in Black people from different eras and celebrating them and their looks.

If you can, please support Khula and buy something from the store when the next batch drops. And follow both the Khula brand and Sophia on Instagram.

(featured image taken by Chad McLean from Instagram [his website])

Chiso is a 466-year old Japanese kimono house

Truly great gowns, beautiful gowns from Chiso, a traditional Japanese textile producer in Kyoto, Japan.

When Yozaemon Chikiriya established his garment business, Chiso, in Kyoto, his primary customers were monks who required fine clerical vestments. That was 1555. More than four centuries later, the company’s intricately cut robes are coveted as luxury garments, and Chiso—having persevered through shrinking economies, shifting trends, wars, and more—has found itself among the last of Japan’s bespoke kimono houses.

Renowned's John Dean on Zoom calls with Angela Davis

Angela Davis wearing a Renowned t-shirt featuring herself

Renowned is a streetwear brand created by John Dean III and in his interview with In The Know, he discussed how it all began and his Zoom calls with Angela Davis.

I had the opportunity to have a Zoom meeting with Angela Davis. It was amazing. Talking to her is like talking to fairy godmother; this icon—she’s a feminist, philanthropist, scholar, the total representation of culture. For her to wear my t-shirt and send me a picture just shows how powerful the t-shirt was but just also how the messaging is effective.

Angela Davis appears in her own exclusive Renowned line alongside the likes of Huey Newton and Kathleen Cleaver.

Stream the interview below.

John Dean's streetwear brand, Renowned, is a celebration of Black heroes and Black culture

Robb Report on the iconic fashion designer Willi Smith #

willi smith

According to a 1983 People magazine article, Smith’s brand employed 85 people and shipped its men’s and women’s lines—WilliWear is credited as the first brand to encompass both under one label—to more than 1,000 department stores nationwide. A year later, the company was grossing some $25 million annually (over $55 million when adjusted to today’s figures) and embarked on the first artistic collaboration of its kind with the likes of Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger and Keith Haring creating widely accessible designs. And yet for many who weren’t alive at the time of Smith’s massive success, his name was a mystery before 2020.

archtype: the culture-rich creative agency

archtype logo

The Black Lives Matter protests this summer reinforced my relationship with my Blackness and the Black people around me. I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with Josh Akapo on Twitter and thought I’d pay it forward with a post on his creative agency.

archtype is a creative agency that started in 2016 as a clothing company for young people (the site notes that they were known as “ARCHTYPE” and a “louder set-up back then”) before becoming an agency in January 2020.

The three founders are:

  • Jaydon (Co-founder and Creative Director)
  • Josh (Co-founder and Head of Accounts)
  • Thomas-James (Co-founder and Head of Finance & Merchandising)

The trio has 15 combined years of experience, having worked with the likes of DLT, Samm Henshaw, #Merky Books, and Lovebox Festival.

For archtype, it’s all about “creating impactful moments in culture” which is something I can happily endorse. They do this by providing merchandising strategy, design, production, and garment finishing amongst other services.

If you want to get involved, send them an email at hello@archtype.co.uk or sign up to their newsletter for future updates (at the bottom of any page on the site).

Proper Gnar: a skate brand for and by Black girls

3 femme models for Proper Gnar: 1 crouching, 1 standing with their skateboard, and one on their standing on their skateboard

I’ve been seeing a lot of stories and brands about women in skateboarding and Proper Gnar is another one to add to the list.

Proper Gnar is a woman-owned skateboarding and streetwear brand, created by Latosha Stone. She set out to draw her own designs not only for clothes and skateboards but as standalone art.

Talking to Skateism, she talked about sizing and the struggles she has faced when trying to get clothes in plus sizes:

The size thing is something that really bothers me as well. And it’s an issue with the apparel industry as a whole. I’d love to carry all sizes but it’s almost impossible to find suppliers that go past a 3X, sometimes 5X on tee’s, and on crop tops I haven’t found larger than an XL. I always feel so bad when someone asks if I carry their size and I can’t because my suppliers don’t.

And her views on a connection between skateboarding and “femme power”:

I don’t think there’s a direct connection, I’m just a feminist in general. And I just feel like there’s something badass and powerful about taking something and putting your own twist on it, making it your own.

Follow Proper Gnar on Instagram.

Killing the planet is the new black

Every year, Pantone Color Institute releases its colour trends report and the fashion world clambers to follow it. But with all trends, they’re fleeting. People spend billions on clothes and dispose of them within months, only for those colours to return in future years.

Elizabeth Sergan wrote “Our obsession with ‘color trends’ is killing the planet” for Fast Company back in February to illustrate how harmful these colour trends can be.

Companies from H&M to Target have figured out how to manufacture the latest styles quickly and cheaply, making them accessible to a broader range of consumers—but also adding to the waste problem.

All of this has sent us into a state of massive overconsumption. Most of us have about 150 items in our closet. The number of times we wear each item before throwing it out has gone down by 36% since 2000, and many of us only wear an item seven to 10 times before it goes in the trash. And all of this waste is clogging up our landfills and oceans, and spewing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change.

If you’re not into fast fashion, maybe you’d consider clothes made by fish leather (providing it doesn’t contribute to overfishing).

The diasporan style of Grace Wales Bonner

A man in a brown jacket, sweater, and trousers.

The New Yorker profiled Grace Wales Bonner, a Black UK designer who draws inspiration from the African diaspora to create beautiful fashion rich in Black history.

The twenty-nine-year-old London-based designer—a slight woman with enormous intellectual and artistic ambitions—draws from the creative and thus political minds of the modern African diaspora, not only to inform her art but to reveal how style has grown out of the diaspora itself, linking together our fragmented worlds in ways that others may not have noticed, but that we have. Equally at home with Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor’s theories about Negritude as she is with the history of Christian Dior—last April, she worked with the fabled house to reinterpret its New Look—Wales Bonner has been sui generis from the start, in part because, unlike many other designers, she doesn’t reference the past to service trend; in her work, she aims to make the broken history of the Black artist and intellectual in African, European, and American culture whole.

For more about Grace Wales Bonner, check out this interview she did with The Gentlewoman.