I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I learned I would be following virtual New York Fashion Week Shows. There were so many questions; would these shows be a live stream, were they pre-recorded, or would this be a completely different kind of experience? Well, Carmelo Anthony’s “A Black Future” STAYME70 PROPEL PROGRAM pushes the limits of what I was expecting, and I can’t wait for more.
So what is this Propel Program, and what does a basketball player have to do with NYFW? Anthony decided to collaborate with seven Black designers, using his platform to help amplify Black creators. The challenge, create a sweatshirt that honors Black excellence. The initiative is more than clothes; it is about creating a community for Black designers, demonstrating it isn’t a competition but working as a collective. Anthony’s vision is more than creating wearable designs, it is about honoring the vision of Black excellence to inspire the culture to continue creating and moving further.
I’m excited to share my collab with the 7 black designers selected for the inaugural class of #PropelSS21. The opportunity to use my platform to help uplift Black creatives means a lot to me. Stay tuned for ‘A Black Future’ Monday, Sept. 14 on https://t.co/bUhKgttPPo. #STAYME7O pic.twitter.com/B5L0ChKFXy
— Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony) September 11, 2020
While watching PROPEL SS21, which showcases the designs, I was struck by the powerful words and images on the sweatshirts. One sweater, designed by Shakira Javonni, had a young girl holding up a torch, another designed by Ouigi Theodore, who goes by The Brooklyn Circus, displayed a message about mass incarceration and had a broken set on handcuffs on the back. Tier’s design, whose members include Nigeria Ealey, Esaie Jean-Simon and Victor James, had giant teardrops, symbolizing the generation and decades of tears shed by the Black community. The trio later stated they are tired of crying.
Although the sweatshirt designs were beautiful with poignant messages, it was the after-show talkback with the designers that stood out, demonstrating the ingenuity and insight these designers brought to the table and what inspired them. Anthony invited these seven designers on to his “What’s In Your Glass” series, where he asked them questions regarding their designs, what the process what like, what their inspirations were and some of the challenges they face.
Michael and Nicole Nicholas, the names behind DIEM which stands for “Does It Even Matter”, shared their inspiration stemmed from their vision the country will be run by women in the next five years, bringing love, strength and creativity to the table. Reuben Reuel, whose line is called Demestik, designed a beautiful purple flower collage stated fashion provides a voice and a method of protection. Steven Barter and Jeff Jean-Jacques, or Barriers Worldwide, created a design intended to inspire their consumers to research the meaning behind it, highlighting they’re goal wanted to create a trend, instead wishing to share a massage. Lastly, Ghetto Gastro, composed of Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao and Lester Walker, designed a sweater with a seemingly simple but powerful message “Revolt.” The trio discussed using food to be a storyteller, break bread and foster a community, something which is also done through fashion.
Throughout the entire dialogue, one thing was certain; these designers are storytellers, and their garments only touch the service of the tales they have to share. Anthony is helping amplify voices and visions which need to be seen and heard. These garments are an extension of the visionaries who created them, and our country needs to recognize the talent these designers bring to any table.
This collection is also available for pre-order here.