Behind the Mask: Interview with DOPEciety’s Denisio Truitt

Fulani T-shirt

Recently, at MoCADA‘s Soul of Brooklyn Launce and Concert, I was introduced to Denisio Truitt’s line, DOPEciety, which she described as afrofuture apparel. I was intrigued and so I interviewed her to find out the inspiration for her line and her plans for it. Read below:

1) How did you become interested in fashion and how did you start your clothing line, including creating its name? Who or what are some of your fashion inspirations?

My mother loves to tell the story of how I used to raid her closet at eight and nine years old and cut up her clothes to make outfits for myself.  Eventually she taught me how to sew clothes for my dolls and then for myself. I’d have to say though I only really took an interest in fashion a little after college. I was artistically blocked (I’m a former English and Studio Art Major), so creating outfits and clothing became a different medium for self expression. I used to make little one-off t-shirt designs for myself, and people started commenting that they loved them, so I decided spring of 2013 to launch my own t-shirt company. The DOPEciety name is a contraction of “dope” and “society”. The idea for the name, like many of the designs I create, is meant to evoke a sense of duality of being both gritty and high society.

Dean Gle Mask
2) Your designs remind me of other artists work like, Margaret Vendryes African Diva project. What are some of the inspirations for the designs? Why did you decide to design with the image of the sculpture/mask?
I first began incorporating the use of masks in my artwork during my senior year of college in 2005. My mother is Liberian, so I grew up with a lot of traditional West African art in the household, but it was a trip to New York’s Museum of African Art that really sparked my obsession with masks and masquerade. The exhibit was called Passages and featured larger-than-life photographs of various ceremonial rights of passages from tribes in Africa (northern too but primarily sub-saharan). Reading the captions and learning about what various masks and costumes were for fueled an ongoing mission for me to learn more. I began using masks, specifically the Dan “Dean Gle” Mask (Liberia, Sierra Leone) in a lot of my portraiture.
Dan Masks pertaining to the spiritual world of the forest fall under the subtype of Gle; the Dean Gle and the Bu Gle specifically. The Dean Gle is meant to represent androgynous ideal of beauty and is a peaceful mask, while the latter is meant to frighten and ward off bad spirits. I chose to use the Dean Gle because it is an image that celebrates black beauty, the full lips, the almond eyes, the strong nose…and despite being ancient is still relevant today.
In addition to the mask, I chose to use the Fulani earrings because to me they are a symbol of African beauty and the richness of our resources. I’ve seen them become so popular with Black American women and even other cultures, and I wanted to create a shirt that celebrates that connection to the source…to Africa. Thus, the Fulani Tee was born and every subsequent design I’ve made branches from it.
Flower Bomb Sweatshirt (One of my favorites)

3)  How does the clothes reflect your personality and cultural background? What are some of your favorite designs so far?

Some of this I think is answered in the previous question, but I think my own duality, of being both Liberian and a Black American, of being connected to the ancient world and a part of the modern world, is something I strive to convey in my designs. I like to be fashion forward but also incorporate and celebrate the traditional because it is encoded in my very DNA.

4) What are some of your other interests and work besides the clothing line?

I was an art and English major in college, so I write and paint as well. I am an avid cook and love hosting dinner parties. I love bringing people together for good food and good conversation.

5) In what ways do you plan to expand the line and what are some of your future plans for it?

Recently I’ve partnered up with a fellow creative and we are working to expand DOPEciety from a clothing line to a broad platform for artists from all mediums (fine arts, music, writing, film…etc) that reflect the DOPEciety aesthetic. We are also beginning to curate creative-friendly events. I see so many inspirational creatives out there and I would love to help give them a platform through collaborative events.

6)  Why do you consider your line afrofuturistic? My blog is named Futuristically Ancient, so in what ways is your clothing line both futuristic and ancient?

Well, I’ve touched on it quite a bit already. But why might *you* consider DOPEciety afrofuturistic?! I love hearing others interpretations of my work! 🙂
I basically agree with how Truitt described her line. I like how her designs combine together traditional and current style;  the cool, sacred aesthetic of these traditional masks in a sense anchors and gives a deeper meaning to the chic style of today, that in several ways are mirrors to each other, linked in ancient philosophies found throughout African cultures of fashion and art as extensions and reflections of the inner world of spirit and how that is reinvented throughout time.
Thank you Denisio Truitt for taking the time to do the interview and everyone else go take a look at her other designs at Dopeciety’s website.

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