Disclaimer*- I am fully aware that 22 designs is a small fashion business, however this blog is very near and dear to my heart. The following post would be considered political and you may not like it/me/want to support the business afterwards, OR you may learn something from it, OR you may love it. With all of those assumptions being said, I have come to terms with each of them. This is not Vogue or Vanity Fair or Harper Bazaar. Each of those publications produce incredible work, but for me personally I don’t always relate. *Don’t get me wrong I’ve been reading Vogue since I was 7 and it would be a dream to work there, but…I’m having to be realistic*. Fashion and the writing that surrounds it can come off as grandiose and unattainable unless you’re part of the upper echelon of society. 22 is looking to take local people and their experiences, and bring them to light.
As a small business owner, I can’t help but notice how lacking the diversity is in marketing for other small businesses, especially in the local aspect. As a young white woman, I can’t even always relate to the tall skinny blondes that businesses use to model their clothes or to be the face of the brand…I can’t even imagine how people of color and minorities in general must feel to not always have representation while shopping…or doing anything for that matter. To further explain this comment- I usually don’t relate because so many models are stick thin. Kudos to them! I am curvier, with stretch marks and cellulite. I can’t imagine not being able to relate aesthetically because no one I see on a website/social media is the same color as me. If you want to use models of all the same color, cool. Do you. I just feel that brands and companies are cutting themselves off from all audiences. These things just come to mind when I’m looking through social media, and that’s where we stand firm in not being grouped in with the masses. 22 designs is dedicated to making everyone feel welcome. NO matter your race, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. We aspire to make our customers feel their best. We want everyone to feel like they can shop and feel good about the purchase they’ve made. There’s no agenda here. I’m not attempting to force my thought process on anyone, so if you disagree, well take a minute to really think about it before you become a keyboard warrior. Simply sharing things that I notice and question.
Beautiful. Wild. Suave. Rock N’ Roll. Confident.
What started out as a typical 22 designs interview with one of my closest friends turned into so much more. I was able to learn and walk away with a new perspective. In this day and age when everyone is so concerned with what “side” people are on, we forget that without the politics, the labels, honestly…the bullshit- we’re all human beings living very different lives. I urge you to never miss the opportunity to engage in a truly human experience…to look someone in the eye, hear their voice quiver while telling a sad story, watch the lines in their face change when they smile, feel their energy as they sit across from you and allow you to peek into their soul. I experienced each of these while Medgar Alexander Jeffers answered my questions.
The following shoot was inspired by the Netflix Original show, “The Get Down”- a glimpse into the lives of a young group of black men growing up in the Bronx circa 1970’s. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll hopefully see the inspiration in the train boxcars and art that covers them.
When it comes to fashion, what do you feel most comfortable/yourself in?
I’m just a fan of t-shirts and dark jeans that actually fit me the way I want them to.
How do you incorporate that into your career?
Well right now I’m in between jobs -design engineer that hopefully soon branches more into 3d abstract design work.
SO you’re familiar with creating things?
Yes and especially in nonconventional means. I feel that working in 3d space is something that has so much untapped potential in regards to many different facets of industries.
Speaking of untapped potential, when you tell people you’re an engineer do they ever seemed surprised?
I’ve gotten all sorts of looks/responses. I think it’s the perfect combination to be honest. I think it’s due to me being the perfect right place wrong time combination of age and race. If I were white and this age, or if I were black and older they’d say that’s cool but because I’m this age and black people sometimes don’t believe me. I think it’s very telling of our current socio-economic climate, I’ve had to go by a different name on my resumes to even get an interview, even with all of my credentials. *This broke my heart. I watched Medgar study his ass off in college, and to know that someone as smart as him is going by his middle name, Alexander to have an interview thrown his way is…well it’s completely unfair. And the irony of it is that Medgar is named for Medgar Evers, a war veteran and civil rights activist that was murdered in the early 60’s by a white segregationist. People draw away quickly from anything that is “different’ or outside of their norm, in fear that differences will create issues instead of taking the time to educate themselves and create a new realm of thought process in how they treat people.*
Do you find that there is a certain stigma associated with men wearing jewelry/having tattoos?
Oh yeah. Definitely. I think that’s due in part to the misconception that men can’t express themselves through means that don’t have an intent on harming other people-emotionally, physically, etc. To clarify for a lot of guys, within our own clique of masculinity, it’s not fashionable to show emotion or express ourselves in something that’s nontraditional, example being having on jewelry. It’s hard enough to just be alive, why can’t you just be you?
Do you believe that stigma derives from a self-conscious place in others (jealously in not being able to pull the look off)?
Yea, I’d say, more often than not. I think that’s in part of pride- pride in our own upbringings…how it makes us different from other people. Some people like to use their own pride or self-consciousness as a means of bartering their self reconciliation.
So with that word “different”, have you been told that you’re different or not like “a regular guy” because of your interests or the way you dress?
Yes, I have before. It’s even more influential, and not in a positive way when it’s people who you thought were so close to you and turn against your differences from them.
Have you ever been shamed for something you’ve worn and did it influence you to not wear the outfit again?
Yes and no. I first started getting shamed in middle school when I had no uniforms. At first I was taken aback…but then in high school I sort of came into my own as being both emotionally self-conscious yet uncompromising in what I chose to do with my physical appearance. Ultimately I decided that it didn’t matter what others thought of what I wore, so long as I thought it was acceptable it was good enough for me.
Do you have a favorite fashion icon or role model that you draw inspiration from?
In a truly indirect sense I draw personal inspiration from the late Jean-Michel Basquiat a Haitian American artist, just because of his confidence in his own self presentation and his overall expressiveness.
How did you come across him?
So, I was researching American art specifically Black Art. And I came across what came to be some of my favorite artists after researching the Harlem Renaissance. His art pieces in themselves were beautiful,abstract tapestry of social commentary. For example one of his most notable quotes and why I carry myself the way I do- I make my own noteworthiness by making myself un-noteworthy -stems from his quote, “Most young kings get their heads cut off“.
With your mention of the Harlem Renaissance, I can’t help but ask- and making sure I ask in a mannerly way, do you feel that there is a new wave of Black artisanship that has taken over and unless they make it into the mainstream they go unnoticed?
There are so many people in this country to try and appeal to, as an entertainer/entrepreneur, let alone a black one.. if you don’t fall under one of the social niches it makes sense to un-notice you from the public perspective and that’s the unfortunate thing. If consumers don’t feel like you’ve tailored your craft to THEIR needs, they feel that whatever craft you’ve offered almost deserves to go unnoticed. And that’s how selfish people can be and how unforgiving the industry can be. It took how many years for the modeling world to not have models that were paper thin? And not even getting into race, but if you can gather people to like something, who are (for all intents and purposes SOCIALLY BLIND) the best you can hope for at that point is to get the attention of someone that is good hearted and worthwhile. If you aim big, don’t send your mix tape to someone that will bend you over the barrel- send it to someone that is going to build you and sees an increase in your knowledge as a promising ideal instead of a threat. I hate when people do that shit. Upper movement in a company, if they don’t have your best interest at heart- it’s no different than a pyramid scheme.
You mentioned there are many people to appeal to in this country, do you find that there is a hyper sexualization of black men within the industry?
I’d say that the powers that be, are doing their best to try and call it something different than what it actually is. It’s analogous to other industries with prominent black figureheads i.e sports, it’s all fun and games until you want your rights: Ask Colin Kapernick. It’s funny that people want to mimic us but not deal with the inherent consequences. People want to try to be black in America but nobody wants to BE black in America.
Without me making the mistake of coming off as uneducated, as a small business owner in the fashion industry, what can I do to bring about more diversity and celebrate it?
Because you’re a realist, Id say keep on with what you’re doing. People can attempt to take away from you because they don’t agree with you. They can’t take away your mindset or drive. and that’s all a lot of us have anyways. and for your customers that do support you, kudos to them, it’s giving you a chance to be closer to something so much bigger than you. Some people will see that as a motive to not buy from you, it’s their loss. When you sell a stack, the monetary transaction might be finished, but the transfer of an experience or its association with a shared story is just the beginning. That’s why all your stuff is more symbolic than anything. Some would say it’s easy to put together a bracelet and try to make a quick buck with it. But I double dog dare someone to not only bring forth the quality of the craft, but also meld their own experiences, ideals, logic, and lifestyle choices into their work like you do.
And that my friends, is one of the many reasons why Medgar and I are best of friends. We take the time to listen and learn from one another. A huge thank you to him for sitting down to interview and for being one hell of a model.
If my outspokenness or even commentary on this topic is perceived as “too liberal” or me “crying” being a “snowflake”, then what label can I throw on your silence? We have social responsibilities to uphold as human beings. Treat people with kindness and respect. Know that your words can cut deep, and that you can’t argue with someones experience in this world. You can take a seat and listen. Learn from your brothers and sisters. I urge you to open your mind and realize that positivity is so much easier to experience than hate or negativity.
Thanks for stopping by,