We often see fashion as a source of self-expression, as a way to show the world a little bit about our passions and positions from the outside. I think that was something that always made fashion so powerful to me. Everyday when I get dressed, even as a little girl, I consider who I want to be for the day, how do I want the world to perceive me. But it wasn’t until I grew older that I’ve learned the true power of apparel, and how it relates to art and activism.
To me, art has always been political. Growing up with a family of artists, I saw the way my parents used their creative talents to educate others on social issues, or as a form of protest in cases of social injustice. I believe this is true for most art – whether it is a painting, a play, or literature, art is typically what lies beyond the surface. There usually lies a deeper meaning, one that gives commentary on society and politics.
I believe that apparel has this same power. To not allow for self expression, but to also allow for activism. We’ve seen this as certain trends push boundaries for what is acceptable, but also as groups take on certain looks and uniforms. Think of the Black Panthers, and their black on black looks that showed power and unity. Or the Brown Berets of the Chicano Movement, that were used to create a sense of identity and pride.
We also see clothing used in indigenous communities throughout the Americas being used as a form of resistance to colonialism that tried to strip people of their traditions and customs. There is now a resurgence of tribes and ethnic groups reclaiming not only their traditional attire, but languages and customs as well, as they carve out a space for themselves in the face of globalization.
One of my favorite contemporary brands that is creating a space for apparel as art and activism is unsurprisingly B.Yellowtail, and the newly released “Slay” collection – featuring a dress, a hoodie and a tote bag. This collection was literally born from art, inspired by a digital print by artist Kimberly Dawn Robertson which reads “SLAY – colonial, white supremacist, heteropatriarchal bullshit.” A statement which breathes power into all of us warrior women resisting the oppressive status quo.
But B.Yellowtail’s activism extends far beyond words on a hoodie. From it’s conception, the brand has been about action – from fighting cultural appropriation through authentic indigenous designs, bringing awareness to issues such as NO DAPL at Standing Rock and Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, and being a supporter of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Through and through, B.Yellowtail is about standing up for community, authentic representation, and “dressing the resistance”.
Our fashion choices are not only a reflection of our tastes, they are a direct reflections of our values and what we stand for. I encourage you to literally wear your values. To support brands that also live up to your standards. But above all, I encourage you to support art and activism, because these forces truly have the power to change our society.
Con Mucho Amor,
Earrings: B.Yellowtail Collective
Skirt: Raven and Lily – For Women Empowerment
Location: Descanso Gardens, La Cañada, California