Legacy, Legacy, Legacy: What Best Befits a Civil Rights Icon?

Malcolm X (Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images); Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)
Malcolm X (Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images); Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)

As we wrap up the biannual phenomenon known as New York Fashion Week, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the amount of new fashion and trends we saw on the runways, forecasting what is to come in Fall/Winter 2018. But since we here at The Glow Up sit at the intersection of Fashion Week and Black History Month (and Wakanda, obvi), we couldn’t help noticing another trend rising the past few seasons: a surge in blackness-branded clothing we haven’t seen since the early ’90s (more on that trend to come).


What was really striking to us was the re-emergence of our two primary civil rights icons, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., as the focus of two clothing lines this season: the Malcolm X Legacy collection, which debuted at Harlem Fashion Week 2018, and recent releases from New York-based skateboarding brand Supreme, whose latest lookbook features clothing emblazoned with MLK’s visage and most famous phrases: “I have a dream” and “We shall overcome.”

Supreme New York
Supreme New York

Suffice it to say, reviews on the much-better-known Supreme collection were mixed, especially among The Root crew. Our internal—and anonymous—staff discussions went something like this:

“This is ridiculous. The King family is a mess for authorizing this.”

“Cash grab.”

“My beef with it is ... why is it so hideous? It looks like some shit you’d see for sale on the side of the road ... or at a swamp meet.” [Editor’s note: Yes, she meant “swamp.”]

“There will be no Supreme-bashing on my watch ... aka my favorite brand right now. Although I must admit that this morning’s lookbook was sad, and the MLK hoodie was one of the better pieces in a sad way. ... Supreme has honored several blacks in the past, including the great Pam Grier ... Sade, Muhammad Ali, KRS-One, Malcolm X ... MLK fits that mold, even if that all-over print sweatshirt is fugazi.”

“The Sade was fresh. This was a mess. It looked like something I’d be forced to buy if I caught a chill at Jazz Fest ... and I’d stay cold.”

“I think MLK on the arms was overkill. Never put MLK on the arms.”

“That sweatshirt was all the velvet paintings and airbrushed backdrops of MLK that ever were.”

OK. So that release was considered less than “supreme” around these parts. But not to be outdone, the jewel in the crown that was 2018 Harlem Fashion Week was the debut of the Malcolm X Legacy collection, co-helmed by the six daughters of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz—Qubilah, Attallah, Ilyasah, Malikah, Gamilah and Malaak Shabazz. Instead of simply licensing their father’s words and image to an existing brand, the Shabazz sisters teamed up with tech company Hingeto and emerging designer Yvonne Jewnell to collaborate on a clothing line that pays homage to their father’s legacy.

The contemporary urbanwear line features clothing inspired by the 12 principles of Malcolm X, which stressed the importance of human rights, education, economic independence, cultural pride and justice. The Shabazz sisters created the collection in hopes of inspiring a younger generation of activists to follow in their father’s steps.


The Glow Up’s editorial team (supermodel Veronica Webb and myself) had the pleasure of being front row at the debut of the Malcolm X Legacy collection at the inaugural event of Harlem Fashion Week on Feb. 4, a sold-out runway presentation at the gorgeous Museum of the City of New York. We can vouch for the fact that these are definitely clothes for a new generation of Malcolm X followers—fresh, funky, fashion-forward and sexier than expected.

And while we both enjoyed the presentation, we’ll let you judge for yourselves this round. Because when it comes to wearing our love for our slain civil rights leaders on our sleeves, maybe there’s only one question: Who wore it best?


Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



Unpopular Opinion: Some things are not for sale.

Because at the end of the day who are the people who actually have the coin to buy these? Not to mention MLK and his dedication to economic inequality and economic justice. And this is the problem I sort of had with Beyonce (The Most Capitalist Black Woman next to Oprah) Black Panther Tribute and sort of put on. I just wanted to be like, whos going to give her the memo that they were socialists? Our revolutionaries should not be up for commodification.