Today, the influence of street clothing culture is inevitable. As a witness to the emerging topography of the fashion industry, it is hard to deny the transfer of favoritism to designers who can sell $ 500 T-shirt logos as well as an immaculately tailored suit. A few years ago, the idea of a self-contained designer with little to no formal training in managing a store-bought fashion house seemed almost unsatisfactory, but like recent Virgil Abloh installations with Louis Vuitton and Matthew Williams at Givenchy shows, street clothes are king.
Hypebeast culture has done much to significantly accelerate its popularity. Last year, Supreme was worth $ 1 billion, making it the first brand of streetwear it made — showing the world that street clothing is a force to be reckoned with, but the faces reflected in the -four sweatsuit and exclusive sneaker drops do not show the history of the culture I grew up I know.
It is easy to be swept away by the glamorous bomber jackets and designer bucket hats, but in its origins, street clothing is a fashion-borne fashion of fashion. generation in Black and Brown communities. Looking at the mass of visual campaigns from streetwear adjacent to publications and brands, I ran into the same trope of viable commercial female sneakerhead: often vaguely racial, with loose curls and the modelesque physique to match. I rarely see a representation of Black women I know who are first in line to buy Nikes ’latest pair. You can almost forget that Black women like Mary J Blige, Mass Hylton, and SWV are some of the cultural trailblazers who made cool wearing large sizes and chunky gold jewelry. Honestly, there are no more street clothes today as we know it without the trend behavior of these women and others like them.
More and more as I walk the industry, the connection between its origins and its marketed appeal now seems to be slowly collapsing. Everywhere having Black founding mothers does not feel celebrated or recognized as their male counterparts. Part of the process of emphasizing the contributions of Black women in this narrative includes an honest discussion about what street clothing is today and where it is going. In an effort to identify and put Black women back in the street gear narrative, I wanted to talk to some of the food tasters working to change the industry from the start. Ahead you will hear from three Black women in the state of street attire, their fashion icons, and what they are doing to move the conversation.
What are some of your earliest street clothing memories?
My first introduction was in the late 90s / early 2000s, sneak to watch BET. Knowing how I grew up as a first generation Caribbean American, I was not allowed to watch BET or MTV, so not everything I learned about street clothes was unnecessary for all iconic stylists from ago, but from watching rap music videos I noticed all the brands like FUBUs and the Baby Phats of the world, going, "Okay, that's what I have to wear. That's what I need to buy." My school was very preppy in a neighborhood neighborhood, so it & # 39; s different to include the types of styles at the time.
You have worked closely with many brands of street goods in the PR industry. How has your style changed?
After going to New York City for college, my style began to grow through my experience working with various PR and internship agencies. I have also been influenced by women like Misa Hylton, who is now a consultant for the Black in Fashion Council and just one person I look up to and admire, and Vashtie, whom I have often seen in SoHo since I lived in Tribeca at the time. Importantly, my evolution towards street attire is through personal accounts because I have no luxury to be exposed to the growing culture.
Black women have a hand in setting many fashion trends. Have you seen this type of representation work in PR?
When I worked in PR agencies, I was definitely the Black girl or Black man. When I came across a specific agency later in my career, I was fortunate to have a diverse team, and the brands they gave me were what they called “street equipment” brand agencies. Since then, when I started owning various clients, such as working with Ronnie to open Kith and launch Kith Treats, that's when people started recognizing me. But in retrospect, the opportunities we were given were probably not enough to be apart from street clothes that way. However, I have now noticed a higher presence of Black publicists in the field. Years ago, I was always in LA and New York working on all these great collaborations that also exposed me to many different people from other places in the fashion industry like Bephie from the Union, which I look at, and many other people you may not know until you are familiar with the industry. After seeing it I was like, "Okay, there's another me here" or "There's another me there."
Speaking of women like Kimora Lee Simmons with Baby Phat and Angela and Vanessa Simmons with Pastry, why do you think we don't see that kind of big brand ownership from Black women inside the street attire space?
That is a good question, and I do not really know. Before recent events, I think people don & # 39; t invest in Black women or Black men, in general, so & # 39; t when we ask questions like, "Where are the investors? Where are these people? to start a new brand? " I think many of these people are just trying to stay above water or work with companies where they already know that if they work for a specific name they can raise the industry. That was really all that was said to be “possible” at that time. I’m not saying people can’t go out alone, but if you watch the trail of past urban wear or streetwear brands, you might be a little hesitant. There are many amazing people who have worked for FUBUs, Karl Kanis and Baby Phats of the world who are in the various spaces of the fashion industry today and are still rich in knowledge or enough ideas to start their own brand. And maybe they are or maybe they are not okay with it. Starting a brand is expensive to a certain degree, and at that point in time, it is different. I mean, now we have so many Black-owned brands – even for a decade – that become pieces and collections every single season, but was it possible 15, 20 years ago? Not at all. I am not sure about the details, such as what the goods cost, where they get their materials, how much it costs if they support them, or if they work two jobs to get there, or if there is such a quiet investors, etc. However, we know those around growth have been affected and inspired by many non-proprietary street brands today.
What do you think are the changes needed from the industry to change it?
I think it should have only been a conscious decision. You need to help Black women. You also want to elevate them to spaces where their talents and resources are recognizable and available. And not just because we are in a space of time where people feel they have to do it. It is very easy to find new talent today. I have met so many Black women working behind the scenes in this industry that I do not know otherwise. Last year I had a call from a well-known streetwear brand, and I was shocked to learn that the girl I was talking to on the other side of the phone, who was their public, was a Black woman. I said to him, "You Black? Oh my god!" It's delicious to look at. So it & # 39; s very interesting as we continue to grow. People get these positions and their stance in different spaces.
Are there any Black women in street clothing you are currently looking at, or brands owned by the women you are looking at right now?  Thus, Beth Gibbs or Bephie who owns Bephies Beauty Supply as well as Estelle Babenzien who co-owned Noah. Then you have a lot of new designers coming out through the Council I meet like Sade who founded EDAS. I also like Glazed NYC. I think a lot of veterans and newcomers we will see one hundred percent more growth. By the time I retire, I just hope I can pass the baton to Black girls either working for me or some of my mentees or other Black women, in general. I hope as an industry we will continue to win over Black women in a variety of fashion spaces. And for me, whether it be street clothing or high streetwear or footwear, I think there are plenty of spaces and opportunities that we will definitely continue to work in that wheelhouse where we do not compete with each other. It doesn’t have to be one on the table.
What are some of your earliest street clothing memories?
I have always been a solid street / sneaker baby because my name is Jourdon. My mom had me when she was in her twenties, so I was always “Jourdan in Jordans,” and that was what it looked like. My mother is also my style icon. She played the lesbian and the relaxed style of baggy & # 39; 90 very well, so & # 39; t even the pieces she had in her twenties, those pieces are now mine. When I got older, I was a Karmaloop girl. I also went to Rocawear and Baby Phat, but when it came to me buying my own stuff, it was the Karmaloop for me all. There is a SoHo store called Michael K, and I am there every week.
Really weird because I ended up interning for every brand or store of street furniture I wanted to grow up in. Getting married to Mob was one of my favorite teenagers, and I interned for them after college. On the contrary, I wore Stüssy all throughout high school, but I didn’t really go to the top until college. It was all about finding what I wanted and learning how to do it myself because I attended a high school where we had to wear uniforms almost every day. The only time we had to show up was in our dress-down days, and when those days came, I made sure I was in my fresh Wedding Mob with some H&M jeans and Dunks with a headband of shoes.
What was the moment that led to the creation of True to Us?
A friend working in journalism sent me a DM about a publication making another podcast of the same show that they already had only featuring men. At that moment, it was like one of those moments where I realized I could be the change I wanted to see, or I could complain about it. There are many times where it is like, "I is the change I want to see, and I am very tired," but also like, "What is stopping me?" In journalism, they teach you that you have to associate your name with a publication in order to succeed, but as the pandemic has shown us, that is not true. So many people I know use their voices during the pandemic. Inspired by that, I did what I knew best to do: I created my community. It’s more than just bringing together all of my people because these are the conversations I already have apart with my homegirls on Twitter or at small Nike meetings. I just put them all together in one place with True to Us.
What are some of those conversations that have been aired?
I think even more so that story that is told or at least marketed inside street clothes and sneaker space is that Black women look a particular way. That’s the biggest thing I hear over and over, over and over. I can ask the same question from different Black women, and they will always say the same thing: "There is always a girl with big curly hair who you are not sure if she is Black. Like he may be Black, but not sure. It looks like a token. He does not represent me and what I look like, or what my neighbor looks like. "The issue is he does not represent the majority of Blacks women. We seem to be in this marketing space where brands think they can have a Black girl in their ads and absolutely cool. That's not enough. This is the same rhetoric for everyone — not just one store made an exclusive women’s fall for the recently released silver Jordan 1s. It’s like women have to struggle constantly to be seen and heard within the street apparel and sneaker industry. And that & # 39; s why True to Us highlights different black content creators in these spaces. We talk to different Black women in different areas of these industries.
You have worked with some really popular street clothing companies. Have you seen many Black women in these spaces?
I never really saw that. In most of the places I entered, I was the only Black woman. At Married to the Mob, I was one of two Black women, and I remember just working there before college during my holidays from my full-time job. I interned for Vashtie and Wedding at Mob at the same time, and none of them paid me. At first, it was like, "Okay, cool, I don't mind not paying if I get some kind of education out of it." And so I remember like sitting in Married to the Mob, you know, just waiting for something, and it was when the company was at their peak. But I learned nothing. And then I just realized, you know, I spend my days off here to learn something about street clothing, to learn something about being a boss and I really do nothing. So I didn & # 39; t leave.
After that, I started interning for Vashtie working on my lunch breaks for her. It's the same thing, though. I am just waiting for this moment where we seem to have a heart-to-heart and you will tell me what it is to be a Black woman in street attire, to be one of the first Black women to have her own Jordan . Seems like, I'm just waiting. I often find myself in those moments as I try to give people through True to Us today.
What did you learn about that experience?
I feel like I wasted a lot of time. I took the journalism route in street clothes because no one told me how to get into that business. No one came to our high school at the job fairs and said, "Hey, this is how you get into the industry. Even if you don't want to design your own thing, you do it. Even if you want to work at the end of marketing , you do this, "and no one was there to tell us that. So for me, I look at Complex I look at The Fader and I feel, "Okay, well, this is my end." I got to the intern with my street clothing idol and the cool brands I wanted to grow up with, but I learned nothing. So I didn & # 39; t step away from it.
How do you see the industry today?
I have never really seen too many Black women, even though I think now, I see many of us. Some of these women approached me, and I still feel like I was the little kid who interned. I still learn and soak too much. I just wish I had it six or seven years ago because I think I will have a different path, or I will get to this journey sooner.
Which changes do you think need to be made so that the street apparel and sneaker industry will increase diversity?
I need everyone to correct all the goals and actions they set in June. When there was this social reckoning, and everyone was fighting for how to support the Black community, right now especially during Black History Month, I need to see those receipts. That means you are really doing the job. That means you not only pick a Melody Ehsani for a collaboration, but dig deep into the girl who is always like Melody, who makes her own iterations of sweatpants or sketch sneakers on the train — it is tapping on the girl and tapping on that talent Can we have another Aleali Mai sneaker? Absolutely But can we have a sneaker made by the girl looking at Aleali Mai that would not design the same exact sneaker for her? Absolutely; there is room for both. It’s just a matter of brands that really do the job. That means, you know, not just choosing the models that are your friends, it means we dig deep and we will not simply pick the same five girls who will appear at campaigns or events. Because you know, after a while, it seems, you look at marketing, and realize that the woman is just the same. Or it looks the same as a woman but with a different name.
What can street furniture brands learn from True to Us?
I don't think these big brands talk to people. They do not talk to the buyer. They’re not talking, you know, the girl who changed from her Hush Puppies to her Nike going to school because she had to look like she was flying in her uniform. They do not talk to these people who have stories. I learned so much just by talking to people and sharing.
What compelled you to forge fashion and create Mama Banna?
I first started taking sewing classes, and then the idea gradually grew. It usually came from my love of fashion. I always felt that fashion was a way for me to express my beliefs and my cultural heritage, and looking at the other brands there, I felt that my Eritrean background was dramatically missing from my choices. in fashion. There is really no place for me to go to kind of reflect on that part of myself. At the same time, I noticed a lot of Eritrean and Ethiopian artists and creative coming out, so I didn & # 39; t feel the need for this kind of fashion brand outside of myself, for a larger community.
Is having streetwear a presence in your Eritrean upbringing or within the Eritrean community?
Back home, whenever we were called to wear cultural attire, it was always for weddings or formal events, and we wore clothes. That really is the only way to express or retrain culture through fashion. Street clothes are not appropriate. So yes, that's part of it. The whole idea behind Mama Banna is that I want to be able to wear things that reflect my cultural heritage, and not just at weddings.
I noticed you included Brooklyn, Amara, and L.A. in your Instagram bio. Do you spend time in all these places?
I included all three cities – Asmara, Brooklyn, and L.A. – on the Instagram bio of the brand intentionally. I’ve noticed a lot of Black people coming to the continent recently, and I really love us to have a tri-coastal lifestyle where we have one- or more beaches — that we can consider major creative hub in Africa. I think that will be the future, the wave of many people returning to the continent will be stronger.
Obviously, in pandemics, there are a lot of other people moving into the house and as those people start getting together, like having their whole life there, much more, I think there will be more reasons to visit. That is also part of the idea with Mama Banna. I come from L.A. and Eritrea is on the East Coast of Africa right next to the Red Sea, so I see many similarities between coastal cultures. I don’t feel that African culture is really associated with a coastal culture that often even though there is a whole whole continent with many coasts. So that & # 39; s not something I hope will help to bridge the gap. I don’t see why that too could not be part of the lifestyle.
Do you make other streetwear brands?
Stüssy really inspired me. I love how they stick to what they know best, and everything they do is just beautiful. There is also this pride in just wearing a simple shirt that says Stüssy here, in a different way than I think wearing a Supreme shirt. You know when someone wears a Stussy shirt, it really feels like they represent a certain belief system or value – as if there is something with integrity behind it. And I expect that and their ability to maintain that for years to come. I hope one day, or even today, that if someone is wearing Mama Banna or just mentioning Mama Banna people will remember the values associated with it. I will consider that aspect that is really important to me for my brand besides aesthetics.
Everything from Mama Bana was self-funded and everything she did was reinvested in the business. Anything that stays or lives for a long time I believe is built brick by brick, per person, so even if I get a new order or ten new orders from people I have never met and really sound the brand, it really makes me feel like I am building it right. The reaction has really been good from the community; I receive messages all the time like, "Continue," "Thank you for doing this for us," and "I have never seen anything like this before." I just think paying attention to your own culture is a powerful thing to do because all our things are cool. It will only take someone to really dig and show it in a certain way.
What changes do you want to see within the street clothing industry?
Certainly in street clothing, specifically, The culture of animal hype includes territory, but the fast-paced approach to street clothing makes many pieces of feeling empty. It just feels like all the aesthetics than what the street clothes originally meant to do, to reflect a culture or a group of people and be something everyone believes. I want to see people, not buy into that kind of emptiness of some of the drops I see, and hope for more brands than just buy a T-shirt because it’s really cool and that’s it. I want you to tell me a story or use clothing in a subversive way, to convey something. Everyone is kind of looking to make a statement on what they are wearing and use that real estate to really tell a story or project their own beliefs. And I just want that more from brands.
Luxury fashion using street clothing is also like this new territory because to me, natural street clothing is accessible to people. It seems a bit contradictory to charge $ 1000 for a T-shirt that probably costs $ 5 to make. I understand the concept of supply and demand, but I am not sure how it will play in the industry.
Ang isa sa mga bagay na lumalabas nang malaki para sa akin ay hindi ko nakikita ang maraming mga Itim na kababaihan na nangunguna sa malalaking mga label ng damit na kalye, nakakakuha ng parehong uri ng pagkilala bilang sinasabi ng isang Kataas-taasan. Iyon ba ang bagay na nararamdaman mo sa negosyo?
Pakiramdam nito ay marami itong nangyayari. Ito ay tulad ng kapag ginawa ito ng mga Itim, tinatawag itong "lunsod o bayan," ngunit kung ginagawa ito ng mga puting tao, tinatawag itong "kasuotan sa kalye." O tulad ni Justin Bieber, tinawag itong "pop music," ngunit kapag ginawa ito ng isang Black artist, tinawag itong "R & B." Nakalulungkot na hindi ko talaga nakikita ang maraming mga Itim na kababaihan sa kalyeng pang-kalye kahit na ito ay ipinanganak mula sa mga Itim na kababaihan.