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.
Recently I was part of Going If you would like Natural’s 10th anniversary photoshoot event at Afropunk and my hair was styled by a gifted hair stylist and jewelry maker Shakilla, who calls herself a loc sculptor, and her work is filled with truly divine masterpieces. Her styling business, A Manifestation of a Vision, is filled with her unique visions that she recently realized uses mathematics as well to structure the designs. The entire week and half I wore her design, I was like a mini-celebrity and even received comparison to a few characters in sci-fi films and shows. I was happy to be part of her first photoshoot to showcase her work and push her business out there more. If you would like to have your hair done by Shakilla, this is her number – 917-573-9937- and tell her I recommended her! Check out the pics below:
Since I am doing a Caribbean focus, here is my interview with Tiffany Rhodes, designer of Butch Diva, whose first major patron model for her fashion line (and one of my favorite artists, too) was dancehall queen, Patra. Rhodes’ designs are vibrant and colorful, and look as much fun to be in as it is to look at them. They look like extensions of skin making whoever is in them moving artwork or like Diana turning into Wonder Woman. Take a look at her interview as well as the photos and promo video for her upcoming lookbook. Enjoy!
1) Growing up in Brooklyn, how did fashion in Brooklyn inspire your clothing line? What other experiences influenced your fashion?
I think growing up in Brooklyn influenced my fashion sense because the rawness of it. I was always kind of attracted to the real, raw, DIY sense of style—standing out in a crowd. This came from people in the streets. Trends start in the streets and work themselves up, even in high fashion when you see trends go from street to the runway. I was also influenced by TV, film, music–90s music, and the 80s and 90s in general. I was drawn to films where the female roles were sassy and bold, and empowering. Basically, growing up in that whole era and the fashion trends that came with it.
2) Why did you choose spandex as an important fabric in your fashion?
I was drawn to working with spandex ever since high school. It’s flexible, comfortable, and makes women feel like super heroines.
3) You also use the phrase “spandex and chaos” to describe your line.
What does it mean?
The story behind it is that a peer designer had dismissed it as “spandex and chaos.” At first I was offended because I didn’t want my work to be categorized in a box. But then, I embraced it because it really did embody what I was doing at that time in terms of specializing in spandex and using bold and colorful prints.
4) Why did you want to incorporate a sense of androgyny yet femininity
in your clothes?
Because I think that realistically that’s what today’s female is composed of. Also, what society considers as masculine tendencies, such as being in charge or having particular roles of power are things you see women doing more of these days. I wanted to represent the change in times by expressing the modern day female.
As I get older, one way that gauge how old I am is boy bands/boy groups. At 22, I am that crux where I am old enough to be over them and still young enough to swoon over them without that much shame. I still remember singing along to B2K and B5, and that was only the last decade. For other generations, it was the young and sexy Dru Hill and Jodeci R&B of the 90s, and the saccrahine R&B of New Edition in the 80s and Jackson 5 in the 70s. Well, I recently found out that this generation now has a new group: Mindless Behavior. And while their electro-R&B songs can be catchy (although singing a song about how much of a player you are and breaking girls’ hearts is not really my thing), I do have to admit I am more attracted to their style. For example, I am liking this James Bond-looking ensemble in their video for “Keep Her on the Low” and I want Princeton’s glasses, it would be great for a steamfunk outfit:
Yesterday, I watched Isaac Hayes’ Unsung on TV One and one thing that stood out to me about Hayes besides his musical talent was his fashion sense. The man who co-wrote the superhero lover songs like “Hold On, I’m Coming” and “Soul Man” for Sam and Dave, had his own particular smooth style. For a big, bulky Black man to not be afraid to wear bright colors like pink, red and orange would be thought of as a sign of gayness by some today, it was just a part of psychedelic style of the late 60s and 70s, and Hayes was one leader of that. He matched swagger with sensitivity. He wore the cool, insect-eye sunglasses before artists like Kool Moe Dee, rocked the bald head when it was not popular and wore outfits that made him look like a king from outer space. One such outfit was the one he wore at Wattstax, a vest made out of gold chains, like an alchemic transformation of the old grey metal chains of slavery, wearing it before Mr. T or early hip-hop stars wore gold chains on their necks.
While doing some research I came across this event that took place last year at the British Library. Space Children: From Dr. Funkenstein to the ArchAndroid featured interviews with George Clinton and Nona Hendryx in which they discussed their spaced-out fashion styles as well as a screening of John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History. There are only a couple of videos about it online. Does anyone know of a video of the entire event? Let me know.
Below is an interview I did with artist Tunde Olaniran about his fashion style:
1) Describe your style. What different elements make up your style?
My style is meant to evoke visceral emotions as well as exuberant nostalgia. I blend very tribal shapes and influences, 90s grunge and punk, and large, changeable shapes and draping. It’s part fantasy, part S&M, part science fiction. It’s DIY, since most of my pieces are completely custom-made. People often say “Damn! where did you get that?”
2) When and how did you develop your unique style?
Everything relating to my music and style ended up evolving during college. I got a job in the costume department of my university’s theatre program. I learned a little bit about sewing and met my future costumer, Christina Tomlinson. She and I have been working together for a few years. Getting to collaborate on different performance and video gear has opened my mind, when it comes to style.
3) What is your favorite clothing item?
Part of me wants to say my fog machine! I literally keep it in the trunk of my car so it’s always nearby. Aside from that, my favorite item is probably a large stained glass necklace I designed and had made for me by Crystal Pepperdine, who runs a nonprofit called Flint Handmade. I think the custom pieces are what make me feel the most powerful. A few years ago, I had a silver batwing poncho that was a staple for me at shows.