10 Jul BLACK ARTS: A PERSPECTIVE
If the first thought that comes to mind when you see the title phrase is voodoo or black magic, you need to be pop-cultured. Fortunately, for the more ‘open-minded’ people (our countless self-assertion statements and mind-revamp rituals paying off hugely), Ghanaian-American Virgil Abloh, our homeboy, has paved the way for us. By paved, we mean exactly that (happy tears from soul brother Kanye are definitely worth their weight in gold), and we realize, being witnesses, that we are gifted with more than just a “can-do” spirit or a reference but something deeper – a rare, uninhibited, rewarding passion.
As cliché as it may seem, passion is just as commonly used as ‘racial prejudice’ in current social conversations and both ideas are as equally disparaged and loosely used, undermining the seriousness that each carries. Racial Prejudices are berated too loudly in discussions over coffee by the very same who eschew black-populated communities or secretly think an unfamiliar accent discredits the bearer’s intelligence. So it is with ‘passion’. The word itself is effusive, favored by big talkers. So before you find yourself, a few after-hours Tequila shots in, eyes blazing , talking facts and fiction about your grand plans to change the world and how everyone else just doesn’t get it, the idea is to understand first, that passion is a living, breathing word. And true passion is actually just as rare and groundbreaking as a Black artistic director on a Louis Vuitton runway.
Abloh might be the most recent passion-laden hero on the block; he’s definitely not the only one. As it turns out, the aliens from whatever planet it is you go to become the best version of yourself have gone back to base and have left in their wake a string of passion juice-infused super people living their passions, walking where few dare to tread. Also born in Ghana, Edward Enninful, the Editor -in-chief, British Vogue ranks highly among chief influencers in popular culture with an impressive resume spanning two decades. Once in a rare while, some black designer comes through with that ‘je ne sais quoi’, that elusive extra that propels them to the helm of affairs. And boy, do they shine…
What has actually got us humming the Freedom Song is the quick succession of both appointments. Though unrelated, Enninful’s British Vogue appointment in April last year and Abloh’s in March this year have sparked varying conversations on the evolving art of fashion , the relevance of black designers and the all-inclusive idea that fashion is now becoming. Runways now heralding models of every color and nationality, everyone duly represented where a fashion statement is made, it’s a new dawn and times are changing, evoking strong emotions, new passions and a fierce challenge.
Now that the world of fashion is becoming a huge melting pot and ‘black art’ may be seen as just ‘art’ is the time to truly celebrate. Categorization used to be the bane of black arts. A way to be separate, to stand apart and say this is the black industry where we all look alike and have similar or complementing ideas, consequently limiting ourselves to black investors, black clients and that identity. Maybe our ideas were subjugated at one time, maybe a black model or black designer suffered some prejudice at a time or the other and somehow we make that a common problem forgetting that the only concern should be the passion and how it comes through, unconsciously relegating the art. Fashion is art and true art is unhindered.
Putting this succinctly, Shayne Oliver said of his collaboration with Helmut Lang “I realized the house’s history but it was the democratic vibe that really got to me” Sophie Delafontaine, artistic director of the brand also said on the subject of Shayne’s collaboration
“We are a very Parisian brand, and Shayne is a very New York designer, but we are linked by creativity and open-mindedness. After all—it doesn’t make sense to collaborate with someone who’s just like you!”
This is such an example of the triumph we speak of… The reward of an undying passion.
The general idea about phases and eras, tells us that this revolution has been in the wind for a while. Current zeitgeist as interpreted in our music, movies and other pop culture show that in the now, we are all the same and your next genius idea is probably in a stimulated conversation with the Asian who you were sure, had nothing in common with you. You cannot, however, give what you don’t have and the authenticity of any venture comes first with recognizing who you are and then being a channel of your substance.
The world of fashion seems to be getting the memo a little late though but Abloh’s revolutionary first outing last month seems to be the inevitable ignition. Every attention piqued, every brow raised, the most impressionable reviews and remarks. We can be very sure that more passionate statements will be made for what else is fashion if not an outlandish response to the soul’s whims?
Black Arts woman by Oladimeji Odunsi (Unsplash)
Virgil Abloh & Helmut Lang bag from Instagram