Provocative. Soul-stirring. Innovative. Haunting.
These are the perfect words that can be used to describe director April Joi and executive producer (PV Alumna) Shayla Janel’s jaw-dropping documentary Fashion Weak, a stylish film that brings racism and fashion to the forefront. Prior to being invited to a private screening at 4118 Fannin Studios, I knew very little about the four fashionistas who took New York Fashion Week by storm. Of course, I’d seen the viral images that plagued my Instagram timeline and my colleagues over at Fashion Bomb Daily even granted these brave souls a feature that, ultimately, tallied up as one of the most popular posts of that particular week. With a politically-charged statement pieces and the names of police brutality victims plastered across their backs, the anonymous selfies featuring the creators of the #SlayForAChange movement have further validated the lasting power of fashion and self-expression. And, I’ve loved every single moment!
I went into this event with an open mind and an open heart. I mean, just based on the fact that I am indeed an African-American woman, the #SlayForAChange movement hits extremely close to home. I have an entire slew of younger relatives who are faced with the struggle of fearing those who are assigned to so-called “protect” our communities. But, since the rise of senseless killings of Black men all over the nation, an entirely different view of cops has been the ongoing brunt of debate after debate on every major new outlet. Despite what outside races may think about Black culture, one thing is for certain – our men (and women) are suffering. They’re losing their lives. And, for no specific reason at all…
Yet, this film was the answer to all my prayers!
April and Shayla did a marvelous job in setting the dialogue and tone for the audience. While they gave viewers a brief glimpse into the inspiration behind the #SlayForAChange movement, they never forced their opinions onto even the most anxious of onlookers. In an intellectual yet touching manner, this brilliant duo managed to give an entire history lesson as to how they spearheaded one of the most influential acts to ever hit Skylight at Moynihan Station. I literally felt like I was there throughout every step of their journey! From the emotional rectification of the heart-tugging “Never Forget” tuxedo jacket to the cultivation of the show-stopping magenta, sequin-drenched jacket that simply displays “Vogue Doesn’t Care About Ebony Issues”, each custom piece was discussed while shedding more light (and attention) on an issue that African-Americans have toiled with for centuries.
A few other memorable moments included a quick NYFW run-in with the iconic celebrity stylist June Ambrose, live viewings of THE actual #SlayForAChange pieces and an emotional panel discussion with the activists themselves. All in all, this entire night was filled with all kinds of positive energy and I bonded with these complete strangers on a spiritual level. It was amazing!
Throughout the panel discussion, a plethora of attendees expressed their own concerns about their place in society as people of color. We chopped over the struggle of “fitting into” corporate America, we brushed the topic of moving forward and progressing (despite the racial tensions that are swirling throughout the media), we touched on the effects of cultural appropriation within the fashion realm and we even had the privilege of having a real-life hero explain why she chose to fight for justice for Sandra Bland in the small town of Prairie View, Texas.
My eyes were opened completely. I looked around the room and I saw myself in every single individual. The melanin was poppin’, the naturalistas were rolling deep and the all I could think was “I love my people”. This entire experience was a gentle reminder that a little #BlackGirlMagic can go a long way.
I left the event with a heavy heart. But, I also felt empowered. I felt like I could go out and conquer the world with a single swish of my hips. But, more importantly, I left feeling optimistic. My perception on our entire world was altered and I’m forever changed.
Even when it comes to fashion, I’m willing to take those extra risks! Now, that may mean rocking an offensive shirt or uplifting a racially-charged graphic tee, but I’m going to be fearless. Point blank. Life is too short to wear boring clothes. So, why not rattle a few cages in the process?
Lesson learned: Make your outfits do ALL the talking! And, apologize for nothing.