The Funk Boutique: Self-Representation—How Can It Expand the Boundaries of Black Fashion?

The Funk Boutique: Self-Representation—How Can It Expand the Boundaries of Black Fashion?

Designers and industry insiders alike look to different forms of inspiration to create a wider range of representation.

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“Enjoy the opulence.”

Twitter is a magical thing, and Jeremy O. Harris knows it. In just over a week, the long-awaited Zola—a film based on a viral Twitter thread in 2015 about Aziah “Zola” Wells and her 140+ tweet rant about a weekend Florida—will be available to view, and the playwright turned screenwriter hosted a private viewing of the film with... Gucci.

The Tony-nominated writer of Slave Play spoke with Highsnobiety about his process of writing Zola and the questions he had to ask in order to get the character right. Reflecting on this second iteration of the film, Harris says the following:

The Internet called it “The Thotyssey” for a reason. They related to her as Homer in the very first iteration of what this was. And that, I think, points to epic storytelling as something we needed and wanted again.

As a writer, Jeremy O. Harris is one of those people that you can’t help but look up to and gravitate towards.

And not just other writers; Gucci hosted the “Very Jeremy” slumber party which featured not only the film but Harris draped over a chaise lounge getting his hair braided amid a group of models decked out in Gucci loungewear, from tracksuits to silky bomber jackets to plaid pajamas. Add to that an iconic photo of Harris completely submerged in a bubble bath in head-to-toe Gucci from the shoes to the sunglasses.

And of course, he closes out the shoot in a royal purple velvet suit on a grand staircase. Because why TF not.

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Barter, Barriers and Black History

Barter, Barriers and Black History

There are many ways to explore and talk about Black history, and Steven Barter, the designer of Barriers, is telling his stories through clothing—specifically, streetwear. Many people of a younger generation—okay, fine, my generation—don’t know the difference between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, let alone who Fred Hampton or Bobby Seale were. Barter, aware of this fact, takes recognizable photos of these Black historical figures and creates a collage of their images plus any other visually important content on a background of boldly colored apparel. One of the best-selling items is the lavender-colored hoodie with Angela Davis and Assata Shakur.

In addition, when he launches a new collection, he also puts up an accompanying art installation that goes with the theme of the launch, and moving forward, he wants to go deeper than just Black history, creating art and design that explores all untold stories.

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Wales Bonner and West African Inspiration

Wales Bonner and West African Inspiration

“I wanted to be inspired by these images, but not to create something super referential; to think about how I could move these influences forward, while bringing a sense of optimism and style to something to move in.”

Grace Wales Bonner has been pushing the boundaries around menswear since her first collection debuted. Now, she’s taking optimism and inspiration from West Africa portraiture in the 70s to create a vibrant and optimistic SS22 collection. Bonner tells British Vogue one of her biggest inspirations is Malick Sidibé and how his photography centers around self-representation.

Bonner’s SS22 collection isn’t the only project she’s working on. Earlier this year, Bonner partnered with Adidas to create an elevated collection of sneakers and athletic clothing. In reference to Sanlé Sory’s photographs and her own inspiration, she states, “people are wearing Adidas trainers and T-shirts. When I look at research, sportswear is always somehow integrated into the wardrobe.”

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Abandoning the Angels

Abandoning the Angels

Image for article titled The Funk Boutique: Self-Representation—How Can It Expand the Boundaries of Black Fashion?
Photo: Frazer Harrison (Getty Images)

’Tis the end of a racist, unrealistic, hypocritical and white AF era. In a “dramatic attempt at a re-brand,” Victoria’s Secret is hanging the Angels’ wings up at the back of the closet and launching a new initiative which calls itself the “VS Collective”—a group of successful and famous women, not all of whom are models. There are seven founding members: Adut Akech, Amanda de Cadenet, Megan Rapinoe, Paloma Elsesser, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Valentina Sampaio. Their professions range from mental health advocate to pay equity advocates to transgender models and body-positive activists. After building its reputation on a very narrow spectrum of beauty and body image, the VS Collective now aims to dismantle mainstream beauty standards and create a new path led by a diverse group of women with many different body types, skin tones and gender identities.

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Jumping for June

Jumping for June

In case you’ve never owned a pair of Pumas, have been living under a rock, or just genuinely don’t know who she is, let me put y’all on to June Ambrose. Not only is she the creative director of Puma, but she’s an all-around style icon and epitome of Black Excellence. Within that excellence comes a level of confidence to which we can all aspire. #30DaysofJune is the clever hashtag she gave her namesake and birthday month, and this year, Ms. Ambrose turned 50. “The biggest misconception is that 50-year-olds are old, that they’re not relevant, and they have to live in a mature state of mind,” she told Vogue. “This isn’t true; I still get the giggles of the little girl that I am inside!”

Her 50th birthday party was filled with star-studded celebs dressed to impress and ready to party. From Beyoncé and Jay-Z to DJ D Nice and Kelly Rowland, everyone was out to celebrate June and the next chapter of her life.

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The Black Fashion Council Wins an American Image Award

The Black Fashion Council Wins an American Image Award

Image for article titled The Funk Boutique: Self-Representation—How Can It Expand the Boundaries of Black Fashion?
Photo: Vivien Killilea (Getty Images)

In 2020, The Glow Up 50 honoree Lindsey Peoples Wagner teamed up with fellow honoree Sandrine Charles to create The Black in Fashion Council. At the 2021 American Image Awards, the Black in Fashion Council received the Fashion Maverick award. The Black in Fashion Council’s mission is to create equitable space for Black designers and give them the same opportunities to advance in the fashion world.

“We really just wanted to work hard and make sure that there was measurable and sustainable change in the industry and we’ve had a long road to this, but we’re super grateful and super honored,” Peoples Wagner told Footwear News.

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