[transcript] "Gospel, Gold, and Go-Go Boots: The Role of the Black Church in Contemporary Fashion and Black Identity."

[Presented at "Black Portraitures III" in Johannesburg, South Africa 11.17.16]

The African American church, our go-to-meeting place, served not only as a place of worship, but for many, it also became the catalyst for our Construction of Self; not only amongst our community but later in the world. Imagined futures were realized as domestics became rhinestone-encrusted heads of the Women’s Auxiliary, and rail workers became tailored chairmen of the Deacon’s board.  Over time, church aisles evolved into sidewalks and pulpits became concert stages; the protection offered by four white-washed church walls were replaced by stone-washed designer denim and monogrammed totes, but the premise remains the same: the constructed self. The NEED for the constructed self. 

Drawing on theoretical knowledge and empirical research, this presentation draws the line between religion, self-representation, and the Black imagination.

Business of Fashion: Fashion Does Not Need Cultural Appropriation.

Shortly after Gucci’s Cruise 2018 show, an opinion piece titled “Why Fashion Needs Cultural Appropriation” was published here in response to the massive social media lashing designer Alessandro Michelereceived after referencing an early Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day creation. The article seemed to justify fashion’s perennial appropriation of black culture for profit. Referring to social media whistleblowers as a “virtual lynch mob,” the author’s apparent attempt at a warm cultural kumbaya was served ice cold.

HuffPo: America’s Double Bind: Using Fashion to Discuss our Cultural Schizophrenia

 I might sorta kinda be, just maybe... schizophrenic. I don’t say that to belittle, demean, or be insensitive towards those suffering from the disorder, but hear me out. You might be too.

As a photographer, casting, and visual director for many brands like Public School (whose designers now helm DKNY) and organizations such as the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), my creative path has taken me around the world, and believe it or not, fashion-although a seemingly superficial industry (who needs another pair of jeans?)-has the capacity to reflect our deepest fears and desires.

The Daily Beast: BLACK DESIGN MATTERS The Invisible Men and Women of Black Fashion.

Consider Ann Lowe, the mid-20th century designer of dresses for America’s social elite and “society’s best kept secret,” according to the Saturday Evening Post. In 1953, when admirers asked Jacqueline Kennedy, Lowe’s most famous client, who had designed her beautiful wedding dress, Kennedy replied, “a colored woman dressmaker.” Likewise, The New York Times went on at length and in detail about the opulent dress, its tucked bodice and circular designs, and its 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta. The one detail the Times neglected to include was Lowe’s name.

The Daily Beast: Kanye West’s Full Frontal Assault on Fashion.

Kanye West is an undeniable cultural powerhouse. He is just as surely one of our culture’s most polarizing figures. Whether he’s claiming on television that President George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people” or producing the visual magnum opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, his undeniable brilliance is countered at nearly every turn by the tantrums and unfiltered utterances of a spoiled child. His Nietchschean will-to-power has even gotten him on New York’s runway calendar, and his wife, Kim Kardashian, on the cover of Vogue, despite a rumored blackout against the West-Kardashians at the publication. But who needs whom? Is Kanye truly in charge of his fashion prowess, or is he merely treading water in new triple-filtered, rarified pools of tokenism?