PRODUCED BY NOAH.
PRODUCED BY NOAH.
Clothing never made the person, however, it can create the character. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my twenty some-odd years in the “fashion” industry, it’s the psychological effects of “style” will always outweigh the material manifestations of it. With this in mind, (clothing) companies spend billions annually to ensure their products outfit our thoughts as well as our bodies.
There’s nothing like being obsessed with an item you just gotta have. That pair of $425.00 Alexander Mcqueen jeans, those $1,595.00 Louboutin pumps, or the exclusive $200.00+ pair of Jordans, obsessions seem to find their way into our subconscious effortlessly. Never-mind the constant bombardment of advertisements, “Reality TV” and fashion magazines literally telling us what we must have to be In-style, we actually need these things…right?. Perhaps, but most likely not. Even if you can afford such objects of desire, the question is, what makes us want them? Regardless of your tax bracket, it’s hard to justify 200 pairs of designer shoes as a “necessity”. Although, there is no direct correlation between an expensive wardrobe and style, it does seem like the really “nice” things come with a hefty price tag.
Throughout history, people have always found indulgent ways to adorn themselves. Whether through religious, political, social or pure individual expression, style can launch careers or capsize kings. I’ve seen extremely stylish people pull off great looks derived from second hand stores and discount outlets, while I’ve also witnessed extensive budgets wasted on couture creations that clash with the individual’s persona. As a designer and stylist, I’m constantly exploring the evolution of past, present and future (fashion) trends, and have yet to find, or hear of anyone who holds claim to ultimate style. Of course there are forecasters and trendsetters who channel the mystical wizardry of Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Tally, hoping to distill a perfect style formula, but most fall short after a few seasons of casting their recycled spells.
After all, is this not what fashion has become? The persuasion and programing of people through mass media to sacrifice needs for wants? Put style over substance, and look the part, either real or surreal. The question is no longer whether you can afford it, but how bad do you want it?, and how fabulous will you look in it?. Ironically enough, the pursuit of luxury brands (by the haves and have nots) has fueled an ever growing “bootleg” market. As a matter of fact, I know of several “well to do” women who frequently purchase black market accessories, but will only discreetly admit it. Their reasoning is…”nobody will know the difference, so why spend the money? I’m obviously well off, who would expect my bag to be fake? Besides, the quality is just as good (laughter)”. Go figure!
This interesting phenomenon prompted me to try a little “style-cological” experiment of my own. I went down to my local thrift store and purchased a nondescript, yet nicely crafted vintage men’s blazer and an old tattered track jacket, and took them both to my studio for a makeover. Stripping away any obvious markings, I then stitched the labels and buttons of a high end, well known Italian brand onto the blazer, and the labels of an even more exclusive Parisian brand on the worn out track jacket. After complimenting each decoy with their appropriate packaging (bags, hag tags, etc), I set off to test my theory amongst a crowd of educated consumers.
In classic, blind taste-test fashion, I asked participants to choose between the two designer labels. Which was more coveted and stylish? Some chose one over the other, some chose both, some even offered to purchase what they thought were legitimate articles, but when confronted with the fact that neither item was an authentic product, most shuttered in disbelief. However, several people said they would still wear the garments, the notion of them being “almost real” was good enough for them.
Ultimately, we (the consumers) dictate what style is and how much we’ll spend on it. Even amidst the barrage subliminal influences and social (style) engineering, we have the final say on what embellishes our bodies. As companies cross pollinate ultra luxe with street wear, skate with tailored, department store with boutique and a million other combinations creating the next hot trend, we decide what makes it from the catwalk to the sidewalk…n beyond.
Here at KULTJAH, we have a number of phrases that help keep us focused on the path of authentic “Brand” building. Sayings such as “Mind Power”, “Today’s Mathematics”, “Grow Knowledge…Teach the Seeds”, “Guerrilla Intelligence” and various mantras synthesize our overall goals and perspectives. However, one particular phrase has become more prevalent in recent days…that is the saying “Heal Yourself…Heal Your Hood”.
As a vegetarian for over 17 years, I can’t front…I’ve slipped a few times (no pork tho..). I’m currently not “totally” vegan, however I’ve found a comfortable balance with room for improvement. Like so many “Ghetto Youth”, growing up in the projects wasn’t exactly an introduction to healthy living. Moms tried her best to make us eat our veggies, but the billion dollar marketing budgets of fast food chains and our friendly neighborhood (junk food dealing) bodegas…made sure we satisfied our daily cravings for a dose of dietary destruction. Yet somehow, in my late teens, I found myself striving for a healthier lifestyle. Books like “How to Eat to Live” by Elijah Muhammad, “African Holistic Health” by Dr. Llaila Africa and songs like KRS ONE’S “BEEF” guided my cerebral transformation, while access to wholesome, tasty alternatives made switch more appetizing.
The first few years were trial and error…cut back then cut out. Lots of research on how to combine foods for maximum nutritional value. (Sidebar…it’s always amusing to hear people become back seat nutritionist…making statements like “You can’t get enough protein as a vegetarian” or “You need to eat some meat to be healthy”, when the majority of research proves just the opposite). Of course there was the initial criticism, or rather disbelief from doubtful carnivores. Having to defend ones own palate at “Holiday” festivities and family gatherings became a norm. However, time and social acceptance soon turned criticism into inquiry and admiration.
Ultimately it’s all about you. After the latest trends, fads, cool gym outfits, advice from Oprah, reality TV show mysticism, etc…you are your most valuable asset. Investments in your health build the greatest equity in life. What you eat, think, do or don’t do…has a direct effect on your life force. You (nor I) wouldn’t dare pour gallons of junk into a prized automobile and expect it to run at peak performance, but we do it to our bodies and expect healthy results. I know some will say “my grandfather smoked cigarettes til’ he was 90” or “I eat and drink whatever I want and I’m as healthy as can be”, but the odds of living a vibrant life with that mentality benefit very few…much sooner than later, it will catch up to yah.
The reality is…we are at a pivotal time in history. I’m not implying that a veggie-burger is the solution to the worlds problems, but I do think it all starts with how we treat our minds, bodies and souls. Perhaps, (zen moment) the process, or at least the attempt to heal ourselves would create healthier communities and thus…global environment. If we are what we eat…you can’t blame “Them” for treating “Us ” like pigs, cattle and sheep. Free your mind and your ass will follow…”Heal Yourself…Heal Your Hood!”