The Exhibition

Within the Black studies tradition, it has forever been important to engage in practice alongside critique— to craft new worlds as the current one burns. The very construction of the discipline was founded on the understanding that intellectual works need to be rooted in people’s real lives. Students in this field are to pair their lived experiences with their academic knowledge to create tangible change in their communities. In essence, Black studies asserts that theorizing is essential so long as it leads to real, actionable steps. Consequently, when approaching this research and delving into past and present fashion innovations, my hands itched to join the fray.

My fashion-tech proposals interweave Western and Indigenous technology. Using code and electricity alongside braids and textile legacy, I blend various manifestations of innovation and ingenuity. Additionally, both designs provide protection and cover to the wearer. The lengthy braids and yarn shield the body from peering eyes, invasive cameras and non-consenting technology. They allow for quiet— one’s deeply personal life experienced apart from the public lens, as defined by cultural scholar Kevin Quashie in The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture. Here, behind a veil of yarn and braids, wearers are quiet as they hold their desires, vulnerabilities, hopes and fears only for themselves and those they choose to let in. The focus is on agency, choosing when to be seen and when to relax in privacy. And in a world in which Black people are characterized as “public subjects with identities formed and articulated and resisted in public,” quiet is intimately radical resistance. Still, the extravagant accessories call for attention; they pique interest. The Black cultural legacies from which the work draws are demanding to be seen, heard and revered. After centuries of belittlement and cooptation, the Black aesthetic traditions embodied by these pieces take center stage. Nevertheless, we do not clearly see the subject even when viewing these eye-catching garments. Thus, the wearer uses the garments to both protect their individual selves while proudly displaying their larger cultural identity.

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