Blogs: African Americans

Dynamic Design Duo

#BlackWilliamsPDX

February 27, 2015

Culturally Creative lunch boxes and water bottles

Photo Credit: http://shop.soapboxtheory.com/

Source:  Kayin Talton and Cleo Davis

Kayin Talton and Cleo Davis are a husband and wife designing force. If you can think of it, they can create it! Recently named curators of the Williams Art Project, their talent and ingenuity will soon be displayed for all to see and enjoy.  When they aren’t creating for the Williams Art Project, you can find them at 3940-3944 N Williams Ave. for all of your designing needs. Or, you can find them online where they specialize in being “culturally creative.” In their own words, “As part of the Honoring the African American History of N Williams Art Project, we are combining stories, memories, and locations to create what is essentially a walk through mid-century life in Portland’s largest Black community. Follow us on twitter @blkwilliamspdx for updates on the project, and share your stories using #blackwilliamspdx.”  Be sure to join in!

D’wayne Edwards

 

Pensole Founder D'wayne Edwards Photo: bmeccommunity

When he's 17, he crushes the competition in a Reebok design competition. While attending college, he secures a job with L.A. Gear, an old-school footwear company. Every day he submits shoe drawings and a suggestion to hire him as a shoe designer. After submitting a total of 180 sketches, he’s offered a job as the youngest footwear designer in the industry at that time. Eventually, his hard work and determination land him a job at Nike as design director for brand Jordan. His designs sell more than $1 billion, he owns over 30 patents and designs shoes for some of the world’s top athletes, woosh! He decides to leave Nike and use his own money to start Pensole, a shoe design academy. And he’s right here in Portland!

Further Exploration: http://www.pensole.com/dwayne-edwards/

Available at Multnomah County Library: Footwear Design by Choklat, Aki

Introduction: This, the final week of Black History Month, we focus on NOW!  The past several weeks featured African Americans, both dead and alive, who made significant contributions to American culture. Their ingenuity, creativity and dedication inform and influence how we live, NOW! The same inventiveness, originality and artistry continues today, as we will see in the lives of this week's features. And you don't have to go very far to find most of them. History is NOW! We live, NOW! We end this month's journey through Black history with a focus on NOW! Enjoy and engage.

Clarke Flowers

 

Portland Model Clarke Flowers Photo:

She’s beautiful and taking the fashion world by storm. Clarke Flowers proves you can pursue your dream while obtaining a college degree. Here’s the kicker: She didn’t start modeling until she was 18 years old! As winner of the 2014 Portland Fashion and Style award for Best Female Model, Flowers is versatile. She’s done editorial, glamour, lifestyle, swimwear, promotional and fashion, but her favorite is owning the runway. And good news: She’s right here in Portland. Although there are rumors of her relocating to Los Angeles. Where ever she goes, Portland has the distinguished honor of claiming her as our own.

Further Exploration: www.optionmodelandmedia.com

Available at Multnomah County Library: The Fashion Industry by Roman Espejo

 

Ben Arogundade

hoto of Ben Arogundade - Photo from www\.benarogundade\.com

We wrap up this week’s fashion theme with a book recommendation, author Ben Arogundade’s Black Beauty. As stated on Amazon:

“Through over 150 color and black and white photographs and an engaging, informed text, Black Beauty discusses the position of blacks within the beauty hierarchy of the West, as well as the kinds of work available to black models within the past century. Author Ben Arogundade also offers insight to the ways in which certain styles of black beauty have been promoted above others. In considering black icons and celebrities from Marcus Garvey, Josephine Baker, and Muhammad Ali to Billy Dee Williams, Grace Jones and Lauryn Hill, Black Beauty reveals the many differing images of those who have embodied black beauty in our culture. Portraits by Herb Ritts, Albert Watson, Richard Avedon, and other eminent photographers are included in this stunning compilation.”

Further Exploration:  http://www.arogundade.com/ben-arogundade-biography-bio-author-and-e-book-publisher-arogundade-books.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: Black Beauty by Arogundade, Ben

 

Laquan Smith

Laquan Smith Photo: VibeVixen

 

What happens when you’re turned down by two of the top design schools in the country and you have no contacts or experience? Ask Laquan Smith. His grandmother gave him a sewing machine and taught him how to sew at the age of 13. This and ambition were all he needed to turn his dream and ideas into fashion history!

Anne Lowe, Willi Smith and so many, many others may have lit the match, but Laquan Smith is taking the torch and running. He is the new face of contemporary fashion. You may not know Laquan, but no doubt you’ve seen his work. His designs are devoured by today’s pop culture icons: Rhianna, Lady Gaga, Raven Symone, Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks and more. He even designs for the Joffrey Ballet! Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley took Smith under his wings and taught him to fly in the often fickle world of fashion. Smith uses unconventional materials like PVC and scuba material to create breathtaking works of art, we mean ... clothes. Laquan isn’t the only fresh face in fashion; check out David Tlale.

Further Exploration: http://www.laquansmith.com  and http://www.bet.com/video/b-real/2014/style/laquan-smith-spring-summer-2015.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: A.L.T. A Memoir by Talley, Andre’ Leon

 

Willi Smith

Willi Smith Photo: Chron

 

He was hailed as one of the most successful men in the fashion industry. It was the late 1970s to the mid-1980s — if you weren’t wearing Williwear, why get dressed, DAHLING? Willi Smith took the fashion world by storm. He believed designing should be fun and unconventional. He’s known for the signature highwaist wrap pants. He was edgy and youthful. He even designed Mary Jane’s dress in the popular comic book Spiderman! Smith designed for men and women. He created innovative clothing that people could afford. Smith was born in Philadelphia and attended the Philadelphia College of Art. He later received two scholarships to attend Parsons. He dropped out at 19 to do his own thing! His fashion house was worth 25million, in the 80s! ”I don’t design clothes for the Queen," he once said, "but for the people who wave at her as she goes by.”

Further Exploration: http://www.complex.com/style/2013/02/the-25-greatest-black-fashion-designers/

Available at Multnomah County Library: Fabric of Dreams, Designing My Own Success by Hankins, Anthony Mark

 

 

Kermit Oliver

Kermit Oliver

This is the type of story books are made of. A quiet Texas postal worker designs for a well known fashion house and until recent years, this was unknown. Now, Kermit Oliver is retired. At one time he was a postal worker minding his business, providing for his family and painting on the side; a form of relaxation, a way to take the load off after a hard day of work. He’s a recluse, almost agoraphobic, actually. As a shy child raised on a ranch near Rufugio, TX and the son of a vaquero, he took comfort in art as a means to communicate without words. His artwork is colorful and calls on nature, children and his experience growing up on a ranch for inspiration. Oliver has a natural need for privacy and aversion to attention. He’s the only American artist to have his paintings printed on the famous and costly Hermes scarves. A former student and teacher of art, Oliver’s work can be found in galleries, museums and on the wall of high art collectors. While Oliver’s work commands five figures, his so called success didn’t come without heartbreak. If you think Oliver’s art is amazing, discover Kehinde Wiley.

Further Exploration:  http://www.npr.org/2012/10/21/163273742/how-a-texas-postman-became-an-herm-s-designer

Available at Multnomah County Library: Wake Up Our Souls. A Celebration of African American Artists by Bolden, Tonya and The History of African American Women Artists by Farington, Lisa E

Donyale Luna

 

Donyal Luna Photo: NYmag

On March 1st, 1966, this image appeared on the cover of British Vogue. Can you guess why her hand covers her face (particularly her nose and lips)? Before Beverly Johnson (yes, Beverly Johnson), Ya-Ya Dacosta, Naomi Campbell, Damaris Lewis, Iman and Tyra Banks; there was Donyale Luna. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Luna rose to fashion fame at a young age. In 1965, she was sketched on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, dubbed the reincarnated Nefertiti and worked with the top photographers and designers of the time. Luna even had mannequins made in her likeness! She transformed the fashion world and buffed accepted images of beauty. Donyale struggled with her racial identity. Eventually, her life came to a tragic end at a young age. If you think Donyale transformed fashion and images of beauty, wait until you discover, Diandra Forrest

Further Exploration: http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/07/first-black-supermodel-whom-history-forgot.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: Commander in Chic by Taylor, Mikki

Introduction: This week we focus on fashion! From big earrings and mixed prints to fabrics and style, the influence of African American culture on fashion is undeniable. Join us this week as we highlight the contributions of 7 African Americans and their impact on fashion.

Anne Lowe

Photo of Anne Lowe and the wedding dress she designed for Jacqueline Kennedy. Source Women's World

 

She designed the most photographed wedding dress in history, Yet, you probably never heard of her. Anne Lowe is the creative genius behind Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress. In fact, she designed dresses for the Duponts, Rockefellers, Roosevelts and many more of New York’s high society. But due to race relations at the time, Lowe did not always receive credit . In fact, it was not uncommon for a white designer to receive credit for her work. In 1946, it was Lowe who designed Olivia de Havilland’s dress for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. However, Sonia Rosenberg received recognition, not Lowe. Despite being New York society’s best kept secret, Lowe did receive due acknowledgement in Vogue, Vanity Fair and Town and Country. Lowe led the way for contemporary designers Tracy Reese, Samantha Black of Project Runway, Azede Jean-Pierre, Laura Smalls and a host of others. If you think Anne Lowe’s story is incredible, discover Elizabeth Keckly.

Further Exploration: http://blogs.archives.gov/prologue/?p=11922

Available at Multnomah County Library: Threads of Time: The Fabric of History, Profiles of African American Dressmakers and Designers 1850-2002 by Reed-Miller, Rosemary

 

Sarah E. Goode

Patent by Sarah E. Goode, by Krhaydon Public Domain, wikipedia

These days, tiny homes are all the rave. But, actually, this trend is a little old. In 1884, Sarah E. Goode (a Chicago furniture store owner) invented a folding cabinet bed to fit in what is known  today as tiny homes. Goode wanted to make it possible for people living in small homes to have furniture that fit in restricted space. When folded, the cabinet bed looks like a desk. Goode is known as the first African American woman to receive a patent, on July 14, 1885. Today, there’s a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education (STEM) school in Chicago named after Sarah E. Goode.

Further Exploration: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/goode-sarah-e-c-1855-1905

Available at Multnomah County Library: Women Designers in the U.S.A 1900-2000. Diversity and Difference by Multiple Contributors

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