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Fashion, History, On the Street, Pop Culture

Questioning out Loud

June 13, 2017

DMD

What is feminism and who makes the decision? I’m confused. Honestly. Are you a feminist because you say you are? IF, in fact you are because you say you are then, who am I to say you’re not? In recent pop culture Amber Rose posted a pic of “whohah”, or as my great grandmother used to say, “her pocket book”, but for civilized discussion, we’ll say vagina. I clearly understand that the feminist movement emerged as a way of creating a dialogue of inclusion. The pinup girl flaunted feminine sexuality, but is the image and persona of Amber Rose hyper sexual? Does capitalizing by exploiting one’s talent or physical beauty marginalize the entire feminist movement? Or is it empowering to be in control?

 

The female body is beauty and art in and of itself. What troubles me is NOT the fact that she is half nude, it’s the fact that what she purports her image to be is unrealistic and can create unrealistic standards of beauty for young girls and women struggling with body image.

Although I admire her confidence and ability to be unapologetically Amber Rose, does she have a responsibility to use her platform in a different manner. The Slut Movement is a way of her reclaiming and re-appropriating negative and shame language. Or is it? Is this attention seeking behavior to the zenith power?

History repeats itself and continues to push the envelope forward. After all, she’s not the first celebrity to pose nude.

 

Sex sells. Drama is shocking and the ratings and approval or disapproval skyrockets. But guess what? We’re all talking about it. Whether we approve or not, it has created an opportunity for a conversation to have space. To expose thoughts, question norms and engage to understand, or not.  Just my glamourtunity for thought, or not.

Fashion, History, On the Carpet, On the Street

Met Gala – We still ain’t over it

May 15, 2017

 

By Dominique M. Davis

Eric already ran down the tea but I wanted to review the Met Gala from a lens of art being a realistic and economically viable career path. I wonder how often we as a society steer away from pursuing dreams and the creative arts from a lack of knowledge about the career paths and opportunities the field has to offer. Or maybe, I’m just speaking from personal experience, but had I known all of the different options that were available in the creative arts space and the ability to parlay academia into a creative niche I might have taken other paths in college. Or for that matter an overall working knowledge of multiple career paths in general. The ability to choose and make informed decisions in planning for one’s future is diminished by ignorance. So often in communities of color the lack of knowledge becomes the burden of the oppressed which can lead to a perpetual cycle of paucity; not only economically but in intellectual capacity. Scarcity of resources and financial means to support one’s self reduces higher order thinking in that the basic needs for self actualization are difficult to achieve under those circumstances. So the cycle of poverty persists. Reduced funding for school programs in communities heavily populated by black and brown people makes the access to career paths even more challenging.

The Former First Lady recognized the need for arts in education and led a national campaign to re-engage arts education in early childhood and elementary schools. The arts is and has been a source for escapism in transforming intangible concepts of pain and love into tangible, physical material. Symbolic representations have the ability to create space for dialogue, reflection, self expression and serve as a conduit or vessel for cultural exchange. The use of the arts as a practical tool in education could provide youth the skills to utilize multiple forms of intelligence and develop transferable skills for careers, having the ability to separate vocation from avocation or combine the two. Knowledge or lack thereof is one of the biggest challenges with gaining access to opportunities.

We know the Met Gala started as the annual fundraising benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. But what you probably didn’t know is that the Costume Institute was started by two women who’s life work was rooted in community social work. Irene and Alice Lewisohn worked at the Henry Street Settlement house which worked with immigrant families from underserved communities in New York City. The Anna Wintour Costume Center is the home of the collection of The Costume Institute and was formally opened by Former First Lady Michelle Obama of the United States of America.

It’s our duty as leaders of the future to recognize talent and assist with the progression of transforming communities by providing information to the un or misinformed, and directing peoples to resources. How does this all relate to pop culture and the Met Gala? The arts have provided a national platform to combine social work initiatives with creative expression. To understand and realize that such careers exist and are attainable is the work that needs and must continue to be among the conversation when structuring early childhood and educational programming for students. Leaders recognize the need for change and work to achieve to make it happen.

Fashion, On the Street

Hat-titude : Our Favorite Fall Accessory

November 22, 2016

By Dominique Michelle Davis (photo credit above: Getty Images)

One accessory that I have always admired most is the woman or man who rocks a hat to complete an ensemble. In thinking about the fall trends for hats this Fall, this piece is giving a little history to the 2016-2017 fall winter hat trend we see on the runways and also on the streets. Brimmed hats: the Fedora, bucket hats, pork pie hats, and british boilers are a few of the hats forecasted for the Fall are officially everywhere.

The Fedora was popular as early as 1891 and was popularized by Sarah Bernhardt in the play titled Fedora where Ms. Bernhardt wore a brimmed hat as a cross dressing heroine. Fedora’s typically have a wider brim while small brimmed hats similar to the Fedora are called Trilbies. Guiseppe Borsalino established Borsalino a hat company in 1857 and is one company that became well known for the manufacturing of the Fedora.

Photo credit: Vogue.com

Photo credit: Vogue.com

Photo credit: Vogue.com

Photo credit: Vogue.com

The bucket hat was originally made from wool felt or tweed cloth and were traditionally worn by Irish farmers and fishermen as protection from the rain.

Photo credit: Style Dumonde

Photo credit: Style Dumonde

Photo credit: Harper's Bazaar

Photo credit: Harper’s Bazaar

And “Pork Pie” hats like those below were first worn by women in the 1830s.

Photo Credit: Hat and Headgear Love (Pinterest)

Photo Credit: Hat and Headgear Love (Pinterest)

Photo Credit: Hat and Headgear Love (Pinterest)

Photo Credit: Hat and Headgear Love (Pinterest)

Fashion, On the Carpet, On the Street

Are Dress Codes No Longer A Thing? (Fashion Conscious: A Column)

June 6, 2016

by Dominique Michelle Davis

In a recent discussion with a close friend the topic of appropriate dress attire was debated. I took personal offense to the attire worn to a business casual event and said as much, which got my gears grinding about the inception of formal dress codes and the purposes behind them. I went to my Emily Post book and scanned a few articles about western and eastern dress codes and the class and social status that dress can portray. There was clear evidence of a haves and the have not’s formation in the writing there, so it imagined people as being either wealthy or poor. Are we seeing a reduction in dress due to a reduction of the middle class? Or is it pure rebellion against restricted social structures that pre-approve style trends?

Emily_Post_etichette_good-manners

Post is the author of the legendary etiquette guide. It is either loved or hated or some combo of both.

As a person who questions all forms of conformity within society I really had to think about why this particular issue bothered me so. I saw my friend as an extension of me, which was something (his attire) and someone I couldn’t control. I took personal umbrage because I knew that he was aware of the rules and chose not to oblige, yet, I choose to break dress code rules as a way to establish individual style and personal preference all the time.The great thing about people pushing back against codes of appropriate dress is that it encourages individuals who choose not to follow traditional and conservative paths of dress to the work of developing cultures and norms off the beaten path, something that could also then extend into their pursuing career fields and environments more accepting of their individual expression (or perhaps even changing the sense of what is and is not appropriate dress in some of those more restricting and conservative fields).

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A glimpse at some perceptions about acceptable and unacceptable work clothes.

The free spirit and conservative conformist within me polarizes my thoughts and led me to a temporary state of confusion and concluded with why do I even care how another person chooses to dress? I know from personal experience that I loathe when people try to dress me in what they deem to be appropriate for the context or setting, but sometimes it’s just easier to get along and go along than to stand my ground on the issue. Some battles just aren’t worth it. Some days I wish I could just go to work in jeans and a t-shirt. It’s not as if my intellectual capacity is in any way affected by my outward appearance. SO again, why was I so bothered?

The answer for me, and for many, is that what has been impressed as acceptable has molded my view for dress codes to be in alignment with venue and social settings. Deep down I admired my friend’s ability not to care about what other people think, yet his choice to choose that setting to make a point to be an individual had me less than pleased. My ability to recognize my conformity to rigid social structures of dress has helped to create a voice that I never knew could coexist with following a set of rules imposed against what some may call free will. It is important to also consider, put simply, that these rules are often in place to create new structures for disciplining people on the basis of their identity – especially gender, sexuality, race, and age – and that this too is reason to be very critical about too while also investigating our individual belief systems about dress codes. That is, what is the underlying statement or implication for statements we make about the dress of others particularly as it relates to systems of oppression, marginalization, and injustice?

dress-code-4

The Patriarchy always got something to say about fashion. These are facts.

In 2016 where the rule stands to be there are no rules, or moving further along those lines, do dress codes even still exist? And when is it ok to make a fashion faux pas? Kanye West’s recent display at the Met Gala speaks to previous writings by Dr. Eric Darnell Pritchard in an essay for Ebony Magazine called “Who Gets to Make a Social Fashion Statement?” In some respect, lending credence to artists who have created a platform have the ability to make socially conscious or unconscious statements with dress is a win for everyone as it disrupts rigid belief systems of propriety that limit who can and cannot transgress in everyday life.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Kanye West attends "Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology" Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

photo credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Met-Ball-Best-Dressed-Kanye-West-3x4

We don’t know about these blue eyes, but I am here for this Balmain Trucker jacket and YSL boots though.

I am in no way in support of the blue eyed contacts Kanye wore to the MET Gala, or even suggesting that Mr. West was making a socially conscious statement, but one does have to question why he chose that venue, that setting and that platform to make a world debut of a clearly statement on representation and race by wearing blue eyed contacts after creating recent songs such as “Black Skinhead” and “Blood of the Leaves,” I’m just saying. I’m really interested in understanding his thoughts with his latest fashion statement and how it, as an example, might inform my larger comment here about social spaces and appropriate dress. Kanye’s introduction to the black skinned blue-eyed West was probably the most appropriate place to display his break. Maybe he actually knows the Bluest Eye and will enlighten us in his new album; title yet unknown.

Dress codes, and a lack thereof, ranging from white tie to grunge all fall within an economic class, and in many cases a performance of race, that has been normed by those included to be an inclusive safe haven. I think about a quote from Emily Post, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Fashion, personal style and dress codes create an outward outlet for freedom of expression, which also has the ability to offend our delicate sensibilities when it doesn’t align with constructed worldview that we’ve created. In this respect we see how the feelings of others can be both something that liberates, but also in the case if dress codes, can constrain and regulate people across difference and individual as well as communal modes of style for expression. Kudos to those who create their own lane, it takes courage to break the mold. Just maybe give those of us who aren’t prepared a heads up? Even if you do not give a heads up, there always seems to be a code to be included regardless. The code when you are breaking the social norm is you are not to be trusted because here comes trouble. It is worth it to think about what that response to dress code transgressions mean and what effect they have for the transgressors and also the transgressed.

 

Fashion, History, Interview, On the Street, Pop Culture

Sankofa Couture: Interview with School of Thought Collection Creators

December 15, 2015

by Stephanie “Rhythm” Keene 

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 9.18.25 PM

photo credit: Mike Ryan/Brick x Birch (all photos in this post)

I recently I sat down with Maryam Pugh of Philadelphia Printworks and Donte Neal of Mars Five to discuss their fashion design collaboration, the collection “School of Thought.” The “School of Thought” collection “imagines a different world where colleges and institutions have been established based on the philosophies of Marcus Garvey, Audre Lorde, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver and James Baldwin. The collection represents the double consciousness experienced by” African diasporic people in America  “and creates a safe space for the praxis of liberation.” [Editor’s Note: The interviewer, Stephanie “Rhythm” Keene, is also featured in the “School of Thought” campaign photos wearing the ‘Tubman’ shirt]. 

Keene: How did this idea come about?

Neal: I had an art studio at the Window Factory in North Philly, and so did Maryam. I got to see the beginning of what Philadelphia Printworks was, and I always wanted to collaborate with them. Then in the beginning of 2015, we came up with this cool idea to do collegiate sweatshirts. I always wanted to do something that had a collegiate theme, and [liked] being able to do that with Philadelphia Printworks by way of using very significant black intellectuals.

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Keene: How did you choose which intellectuals to use? Will others show up later?

Neal: There was a much larger list. We wanted to, at least for this run, to do names that were a good balance between men and women.

Pugh: Any time we design a collection, there’s always that balance of trying to find people that we think are impactful and someone that has done things that we feel deserve to be brought to the light and recognized and honored. If it goes well, we can expand the collection to include other names and other products.

Neal: We wanted to make sure that we grounded ourselves somewhat in reality; if these schools existed, what would be the cornerstone of their educational system? So [for example] Garvey Industrial Institute. So we focused on the technology of industry, the building of factories, etc. Ida B. Wells was one of the writers who started writing about the lynchings in the South in the height of it, when it was going down. [Someone going to that fictional school] could be someone who maybe wants to be involved in politics, bringing important subjects to light regardless of what kind of adversity they’re [facing] at the moment. So we didn’t want to pick names out of a hat because these names are cool. These are the ‘schools of thought.’ These are the ideas of importance, and here are some people that represent these ideas.

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Keene: The timing of this project feels really important given the current state of affairs for black people, particularly in America. How intentional was that, and what are your thoughts about the images of this line, juxtaposed against images of what’s happening in America right now?

Pugh: Philadelphia Printworks has been doing this for 4 or 5 years and it’s interesting to see how the climate of the world affects the things we do. Specifically now, it’s very important that we have these positive images and think of ways we can manifest the future we’d like to see.

Neal: I hope this collection and this effort can bridge the gap between people who started with the same fire that [the youth] have now. It would be great to have youth adopt these names into their way of thinking and draw a comparison between what they’re going through now in their fight and what was going on in the times of the folks that appear on these sweatshirts.

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Pugh: Historically, the younger people are where the revolution comes from, but we can’t lose what we learned in the previous generations. It’s the idea of Sankofa – going back and trying to apply what we’ve learned from the past. With the concept of this collection, we were able to take past revolutionaries and apply it in a very futuristic way.

Neal: This is very Afrofuturistic. We are imagining our future, planting the seed for a manifestation of a bright future.

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Keene: The “A Different World” [late 80s and early 90s NBC sitcom about a fictional HBCU called Hillman College] connection is seamless. How did the idea to make that visual connection come about?

Pugh: “A Different World,” [the films] “School Daze,” “Higher Learning,” they all talked about really important topics, that unfortunately we’re still experiencing now. And I’ve seen the younger generation reach out to these shows [and films] that we grew up on and use them as a conduit, so it made sense for us to also tie our collection into it.

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Neal: For a lot of black folks, that alternate universe in which these characters existed, there was hope in this show. Being young and impressionable, seeing that show I was just like “Wow. Here are these completely normal… They don’t fit like a stereotype. This black person is like this and this black person is like that, and they’re friends and they exist in the same [space].” Seeing that was really inspirational. The impact and the positive influence that show had on black folks, that was imagined. That was written by somebody. If someone can imagine that and make such a great impact and inspire black people, why can’t we at any point imagine a product, whether it’s a book, a movie, a piece of clothing, art… We can imagine things and create a space in the future in which these ideas can exist. Who knows? Maybe one day we might have a Tubman University.

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You can purchase items from the “School of the Thought” collection here.

Follow Philadelphia Printworks on Twitter, IG, and Tumblr: @philaprint

Follow Donte Neal of Mars Five on Twitter: @donteneal_

Stephanie “Rhythm” Keene is a Philadelphia-based writer and performer. She is a co-host of The Harvest, the largest open mic experience in Philadelphia. A proud graduate of The Lincoln University (PA), she is an ally and advocate fighting for the freedom of all people. Follow her on Twitter and IG: @rhythmkeene

Glamourtunist, On the Street

Celebrity Mugshot Tshirt @ Righno in Indianapolis!

April 23, 2015

Photo Feb 15, 12 31 39 PM

Visited Indianapolis and stopped in Righno where I saw this dope t-shirt that found a witty use for celebrity mugshots. Jane Fonda (who looked a lot like Katy Perry back in the day), Robert Downey Jr., Christian Slater and Snoop Dogg. Really great pieces there. If you are ever in Indianapolis stop in. The store sells mostly men’s wear but has some gender neutral pieces as well, like this tee shirt. It’s east of Mass Ave, a growing, trendy area with lots of local businesses including boutiques.