In 2019 while earning my MA in Fashion Journalism online at the Academy Of Art University I was enrolled in Danielle Wallis’s Fashion Styling class. After enduring weeks of preliminary lessons where we learned how to style for a client, photograph accessories, and analyze magazine editorial layouts, we finally reached the final project.
Since one of my goals, as an African American fashion/feature writer is to incorporate my culture into my writing, I wanted to choose a final project concept that reflected that. Compiling various ideas from five influences, representing art, literature, music, dance, and fashion I came up with a cohesive story that I called African Americano.
In homage to my paternal grandmother, who was half Italian and half African American, I cautiously presented it to Professor Wallis. Once I further explained, in my bubble map and mood board, that I was also going to represent the 1960s and 1970s, and my muse was going to be Tish Rivers from James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk she became excited as well.
Two of her requirements that almost halted the project before it began, however, was that I look for clothes and accessories within my zip code and the outfits had to be realistic. So anything with an African American flair had to be thoroughly incorporated and make sartorial sense. In the film, based on the book, Tish Rivers worked in a department store, but in my fashion story I widened her scope and gave her a wardrobe that would be just as appropriate if worn at school, in an office, or a bank.
Within my zip code, 90008, the shops I chose were within the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and the surrounding areas. What I couldn’t find there I found in my closets. Edited down to five outfits, which I also modeled and photographed, the African American touches-a multicolored cloth bag from Malik Books, two African necklaces from the Pan African Film and Arts Festival, a Notorious BIG t-shirt from Ross Dress For Less and a black and white Black Panther tote from the Soul of a Nation exhibit at the Broad Museum-embued my styling with a uniquely ethnic flavor.
Now as I look back at African Americano, and put it into context with the other projects I completed at the Academy Of Art University before receiving my degree last December, I have to say it was definitely the one that made me proudest to be an African American.