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Working in a toxic creative space? Here’s to pushing out the bad vibes

There might be nothing worse than working in a toxic creative space…

Toxicity is the quality of being toxic, very harmful, and unpleasant in a pervasive or insidious way. It happens to be a slow burn that we all face in our lives.

Whether from exterior influences or if it is coming from inside ourselves, toxicity will, in due time, take over your mind and body while hindering you from reaching your creative potential.

Everything from the crabs-in-a-bucket mentality to the haters-gonna-hate, scenarios we find relatable. Self-deprecation is also considered a toxic thought process and not the reality check we think it is. 

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These are key drivers of a toxic creative space. We have expectations of our lives as much as someone has expectations of us, and often creating an infrequency between the groups and the individuals.

Toxicity comes from more than one place in our lives.

Bodying the toxic work space

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In a survey conducted by Fierce Conversations in 2019, they found that 44 percent of respondents said the number one response is to ignore toxic co-workers.

Although 50% agreed in 2017, the downturn fails to suggest enough to cancel out toxicity. The survey also concluded the 72% of respondents wish their employers were less tolerant of toxic employees. 

Stacey Engle, President of Fierce Conversations, says, “the fact that confronting problematic employees directly is people’s third choice of action should be concerning to all organizational leaders. The amount of time and energy that can be saved by providing employees the skills and empowerment to address issues head-on.”

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The fact is, there will always be someone who will want to see you in a subordinate position to them, or in no position at all. And you may think you haven’t received a fair shot at life. But dissidence will not help you get ahead in life and reach our creative goals. 

When the toxicity stems from a superior or an equal counterpart, the result will lead to failure if the communication doesn’t change.

Ignoring the toxicity will not help while addressing the matter head-on creates anxiety. Believe that change will come from how you perceive your situation, and you will be able to work through it.

Overcoming your own toxic headspace

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Subconsciously, most fall victim to comparison scenarios in relationship to hyper-connectivity. This constant distraction from social media like Instagram and our smartphones discredits our livelihood and our accomplishments. 

It’s difficult to acknowledge the obstacles we have conquered for the possible privileges afforded by others in this condition. A constant rundown of why someone else is where they are and why you remain where you are, holds you back, hindering creativity and adding toxicity.

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard sums this feeling as, “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” The anxiety you feel is letting you know that something about you can change your environment.

Other factors included jadedness, becoming overwhelmed, and even “gassing” yourself up to believe you are owed something you hardly worked for yet. These are the telling signs of creative toxicity within ourselves. 

A life not grounded in reality but floating high in a proverbial castle is how we may craft our self-image. American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau said:

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Henry David Thoreau

He encourages the “big idea” creative to take the small, consistent steps of brick-by-brick construction of your vision.

If self-doubt of your abilities comes from “thinking big” and the anxiety and the inability to take the first steps – in any direction – you may want to narrow your perspective on the idea.

Ease the creative process by doing the little jobs that get you closer to your goals. You want to drown out that toxicity with small actions in “building that castle.”

Navigating the toxic shared space

Beyond the hype of creativity and creating the world around us is social engagement and community upbringing.

Alliances with like-minds and same or adjacent skillsets bring creatives together to achieve common goals. Within that lies an enormous amount of altruistic individuals who support other participants of the group and their creative endeavors. 

Harvard Biologist E.O. Wilson outlined this way of thinking as “eusocial” behavior during a talk at the Geological Lecture hall at Harvard University.

Human social behavior evolved through competition with groups of related and unrelated individuals, working selflessly to benefit the group and not for selfish gain. 

Facts or nah?

Eusocial behavior is responsible for the survival of the smallest creatures like ants and mole rats in Africa, as well as evident in human cultures.

If you are a supporter of creativity from others and seek to benefit the group, you gain positive ground, reducing the creative toxicity by changing your environment. Eusocial communities are in sync with one another and are reluctant to extend themselves outside of the group, though. 

This external push is often what social and working environments use to protect and grow their creative space. This group will avoid toxicity for the benefit of preserving their environment and creativity.

The creative toxicity you experience may be from being in the wrong group. But you may not be presenting yourself as related to another group. You may be holding on to past thoughts and emotions of inadequacies. 

Reliving past moments or trying to correct something you have no control over stunt your evolution as a creative. It won’t help with the toxicity in your environment, rather keep you in the thick of it. 

Seeking to change who we believe we are with who we want to become creates harmony. Especially within our creative space, although it may be anxiety-filled as well. If the past has you stuck, the growth you seek, and the future of your creativity is at stake.

Changing up your space

Sisqo Is Back With The Remake You Didn't Know You Needed

What has to change is your attitude toward toxicity and how we perceive ourselves. Disconnect from that toxic creative space and recognize that it is a place to create. Realize your worth as a creative and transform those defeating thoughts. 

Change in perspective happens when we pivot from defending ourselves from the toxic creative space to accepting who we are and change. We have an opportunity to elevate our vantage point to where our goals are always visible, and we move toward them earnestly.

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.

Why does marijuana front the bill for the new Black reparations law?

Monday evening, March 22, 2021, Evanston Alderman approved a first-of-its-kind municipal reparations program for Black residents in an 8-1 vote. The law is designed to give reparations to Black residents who have faced codified discrimination through housing policies in Chicago neighborhoods through money gathered from donations and marijuana tax revenue.

Many believe this is a start of a domino effect that can happen across the United States. They have confidence in its expansion into more legislation like it. Some, however, feel that this law falls short of repairing the continued persecution of Black populations, even as it pertains to marijuana.

Finally, a Black reparations program

The housing market favors residents who can afford it. Thus this juxtaposed to the many who want a “bottom-up” resolution.

marijuana law
A pro-reparations sign is posted outside a home in Evanston’s 5th Ward, March 23, 2021. Evanston aldermen approved Monday the first expenditures in the city’s municipal reparations program. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

The reparation program was in the planning stages since 2019. It has a cap of $10 million which will be funded mainly by the recreational marijuana sales tax revenue at a 3 percent rate. Plus, donations of about $21,340.

Nonetheless, this program is limited to helping those with housing in Chicago. Yet, it opens up the critique to hypocritical nuanced dealings of white supremacy through the “War on Drugs” and policing in America.

Marijuana laws in the U.S.

Ironically, marijuana sales across Illinois hit $1 billion in 2020. What’s more, the 80 recreational marijuana dispensaries in the state combined sold nearly $87 million in weed products last month.

And, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, about $12 million more than November.

In fact, Illinois happens to be one of 15 states to have a law allowing the sales of recreational marijuana. While over a quarter of the year’s recreational marijuana sales went to residents from outside state lines, 30 dispensaries are preparing to open under the new Illinois legislation.

Up to 75 new recreational licenses are likely to be granted with an agreement from the state. Not to mention, this would be allowing for hundreds of unsuccessful applicants to try and qualify.

A 3 percent tax and a $10 million cap appear as a fraction in comparison to the numbers of Black people charged and incarcerated for possession of marijuana. Often, charges rise to intent to distribute, harming the trajectory of young Black lives.

The Cook County State’s Attorney office has declined to prosecute most cases. Particularly, those with non-violent offenses of low-level cannabis possession of 30 grams or less.

This conditioning went on even before the Cannabis Regulation Tax Act and now with the new law.

marijuana law
Steven Stelter, president of the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs, expresses his concerns about legalizing adult recreational marijuana at a Sept. 28, 2019 marijuana forum hosted by West Suburban Chamber of Commerce. (Hank Beckman / Pioneer Press)

The Chicago Police Department

The Chicago Police department and the mayor’s office have made clear the changes to marijuana laws. Still, the records show otherwise.

Black men are still arrested at a rate higher than their white male counterparts. Records from December alone show dozens of those arrested who qualify for expungement of their non-violent offense.

Kenny Myles was once arrested for a marijuana infraction in 2007 by the northwest suburban police department in Chicago. He was charged with possessing 7 grams of marijuana. This included a misdemeanor and a charge for manufacture and intent to deliver another 200 plus grams, a felony.

Myles was then fired from work and was unable to rent an apartment with a felony on his record. He also lost his federal financial aid halfway through his undergraduate degree for the conviction, delaying his graduation several years. 

marijuana law
Kenny Myles, shown on Dec. 27, 2019, was once arrested for a marijuana infraction. He has since earned his master’s degree in accounting and is applying to open a marijuana dispensary with his wife and a business partner. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

Now a recipient of a Master’s degree, Myles and his wife are applying to go into the marijuana dispensary business in Aurora, Illinois. His record has since been expunged for the manufacturing charge but not the possession charge.

At least, Myles is allowed to qualify as a social equity applicant for a dispensary license.

Who fits the criteria? Reading between the lines

Social equity applicants must meet one of three criteria. Either, including a prior charge that deems eligible for expungement under new legalization, living in a community disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs with a high marijuana-arrest rate or rate of people released from prison with specific marijuana charges.

With that said, Black residents are seven times more likely to be arrested than white residents. In fact, 11,000 pardons for low-level cannabis convictions were granted by Governor JB Pritzker in the first phase of a 770,000 person pardon agenda.

Ald. Cicely Fleming, of Evanston Alderman of the 9th Ward, cast the single vote against the municipal reparations program. She said “What we have here before us tonight, I would counter, is a housing program with the title reparations,” to the Chicago Tribune.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons of the 5th ward in Evanston first proposed the reparations initiative. And, on Monday, March 22 she called the approval.

“It is, alone, not enough. We all know that the road to repair and justice in the Black community is going to be a generation of work. It’s going to be many programs and initiatives, and more funding.”

Robin Simmons, The Chicago Tribune 2021
black reparations
Evanston Ald. Robin Rue Simmons, shown March 16, 2021, first proposed Evanston’s reparations fund in 2019. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty-AFP)

Simmons went on to say she wants “people to dictate the terms of how they are repaired.” Evanston resident, Rose Cannon says “I want reparations like any Black person in this city does,” in favor of cash payments.

Racial disparities still loom large in Chicago

Furthermore, $400,000 in funding is directed from the city’s Local Reparations Fund to a housing program. It awarded eligible individuals up to $25,000.

Seemingly, this doesn’t provide the coverage needed for those who aren’t in the housing market. White households in Chicago own their homes at a 74 percent rate. And, the homeownership for Black people is 39 percent, a report on racial homeownership gap, recorded in 2018 by Urban Wire.

Qualifications for the reparations bear another barrier for the Black people. Applicants must have “origins in any of the Black racial and ethnic groups of Africa,” states a memo on the legislation.

Meaning, you would have to be or have been a Black resident of Evanston between 1919-1969, or a direct descendant. Experiencing housing discrimination from the city’s policies or practices after 1969 will also allow you reparations.

The incoming Evanston mayor term starts this May. And Daniel Biss issued a statement the day before the municipal reparations program was announced.

“Reparations is a huge, difficult, and complex project that seeks to address the damage done by white supremacy, one of the great prolonged evils in human history. It will not be ‘solved’ on the first try. On the contrary, we will have to try many different approaches, listen with an open mind to learn from what works and what needs to be changed, and adjust our strategy on an ongoing basis.”

Daniel Biss 2021
black reparations
In Aurora, the state’s second-largest city, arrests related to marijuana possession, delivery, manufacture, and other crimes dropped from 659 in 2015 to 202 in 2018, police department data shows. (Steve Lord/The Beacon-News)

The Black reparations program

Moreover, a resolution on the programs effort reads:

“…revitalizing, preserving, and stabilizing Black/African-American owner-occupied homes in Evanston, increasing homeownership and building the wealth of Black/African-American residents, building intergenerational equity amongst Black/African-American residents, and improving the retention rate of Black/African-American homeowners in the City of Evanston,”

Racial disparities in a 2013 report on marijuana possession arrests were highlighted by the ACLU. They include concerns that this can continue under the new legislation. And, the law legalizing marijuana for recreational users remains an issue for consumption in public and transportation. 

Marijuana may be a way to relieve the trauma of an oppressive government toward Black people. Considering the war on drugs that hindered generations post-slavery.

In this case, the percentage of marijuana sales taxes combined with the reparations fund is attempting to rectify a history of redlining in the Chicago housing market against Black residents.

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.

Black excellence is celebrated in Macy’s new collaborative Icons of Style

Macy’s announced plans to celebrate Black excellence in fashion by doing a collaborative aptly titled, “Icons of Style.” The 160-year retailer announced in October that it has teamed up with Black-American creatives found within the seams of the robust fashion industry.

“We are excited to work with these tremendous talents to bring truly exclusive, one-of-a-kind collections to our fashion-devoted customers.” 

Durand Guion, Macy’s Fashion Office Vice President
Misa Hylton for I.N.C. International's Concepts. Macy's.
Misa Hylton for I.N.C. International’s Concepts. Macy’s.

And, as we move into the next decade, Macy’s is broadening the visibility of Black talent in the fashion industry. Thus, it will be working through 2021 with three drops of collections.

The “Icons of Style”

Exclusive, limited-edition seasonal collections are releasing throughout the 2021 calendar year. And, Macy’s has enlisted several brands from their roster to partake.

Pieces designed by fashion influencers like Zerina Akers (founder of Black Owned Everything), for brand Bar III, or the veteran stylist to Lil’ Kim, Misa Hylton for I.N.C. International Concepts womenswear.

Plus, Alaskan-born Aminah Abdul Jillil, whose dance background has led her into shoe design for women, creating I.N.C. footwear. 

Allen Onyia for I.N.C. International's Concepts. Macy's.
Allen Onyia for I.N.C. International’s Concepts. Macy’s.

Additionally, Allen Onyia, the style-guide behind social media account UpscaleHype, designing menswear for I.N.C. International Concepts.

And, founder of Brooklyn Circus, Ouigi Theodore, is designing heritage styles for Sun + Stone. All are adding their signature touch to the brands they are paired with.

Icons of Style
Aminah Abdul Jillil for I.N.C. International’s Concepts. Macy’s.

These designers and stylists all have considerably taken the long way to success, in their own right. Especially so for Zerina Akers, Beyonce’s costume designer.

And, not to mention, the man who came into his lane in fashion proclaiming his “100-year plan,” Ouigi Theodore. Both have exemplified what it takes for Black designers to break the barriers and have a specific channel that speaks to their audience and community.

Costume Designer Zerina Akers

Maryland-raised, LA-based stylist Zerina Akers is surely an icon of style. In fact, she is a costume designer who most notably designed costume pieces and wardrobe for Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Most notably, her visual album inspired by the Lion King called “Black Is King.”

Akers has also crafted pieces for celebrity entertainers like Chloe X Halle. Plus, she has launched the platform Black-Owned Everything, categorizing Black-owned businesses in fashion, arts, homeware, and beauty.

Akers came from W magazine as an intern. She describes her experience as “nurturing relationships, exploring the industry, and finding a place.” Yet, remembers being “often the only Black girl.”

For Akers, Macy’s was a central point for a coming of age in fashion. She recalls her school shopping experience as a big deal, chaperoned by her grandmother.

Thus, it was a full-circle moment for Akers when she was given an opportunity at one of her first assistant styling gigs for Macy’s catalog.

Moreover, Akers is inspired by her love for androgynous styling as seen in her Bar III collaborative designs. With Minimal silhouettes accented by sleek and edgy tailoring and an earth-toned/pastel color palette.

So, it is this contrast that helps identify Akers’ story, as well as her style which she describes as “twisted basics.” 

Icons of Style
Zerina Akers for Bar III. Macy’s.

Coming from accepting a “lesser salary” and being “paid in clothes,” Akers remembers gaining access to luxury collections at the end of the 2010s. A time she recalls as “very elitist and intangible.”

Zerina Akers continues to make strides in fashion and remain visible for the Black community while also becoming one icon of style.

Ouigi Theodore of BKc

Ouigi Theodore (Founder of The Brooklyn Circus) is bringing the dynamic vintage-esque style to the Sun+Stone. The men’s collection found exclusively at Macy’s seasonal collections.

Theodore has implemented his heritage and newly minted approach to life within his designs. The BKc varsity aesthetic – the nostalgia of education institutions – has been a cornerstone for design. And currently, Theodore is focused on stitching his Haitian lineage into each garment.

He is all about heritage.

Icons of Style
Ouigi Theodore for I.N.C. International’s Concepts. Macy’s.

Just like Akers, Theodore remembers his early trips to Macy’s. Specifically, entering the urban fashion section for brands like Rocawear and Sean John. Thus, he coupled his taste for urban with the New York City staple of Ralph Lauren, often not too far from the more streetwear-focused tables of garments.

Theodore found his way into fashion through his attraction for footwear and clothing as a “Brooklyn 90s kid.” His Haitian upbringing in New York he describes helped him “tap into his roots.” And, he was also inspired by his mother who was an international fashion buyer, and an aunt who worked as a tailor. 

Taking notes, Theodore is now 18 years in the fashion industry, finding 15 years of success with BKc. The designer infuses the influences of his aunt while paying homage to his mom with the Sun+Stone collection.

For example, 1945 printed onto his pieces symbolizes his mother’s presence. She was born just after World War II and passed away in 1990.

The Black creative’s narrative from Icons of Style

Indeed, heritage and lineage make up the Black narrative and draws in the masses to the culture.

With “Icons of Style,” Macy’s wants to lead the change to the ‘must-see’ sport of fashion. Thus, they are allowing others to see how Black creatives can create and maintain their culture.

“We committed to bringing more diverse-owned brands and design talent into our assortment.” 

Durand Guion, Macy’s Fashion Office Vice President

Guion goes on to state, “we know having a supplier base that reflects our diverse customers offers shoppers a more robust experience, allowing us to expand the breadth and uniqueness of our merchandise while nurturing diverse talent in our industry.”

The collections will be available on and available at select locations nationwide starting March 29.

Teens learn to make sneakers from scratch with Chips Ahoy!

Chips Ahoy! x Dominic: Making sneakers from scratch

Each vote cast triggered a $5 donation toward the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). The money helps support arts programming at Clubs throughout the country, something Ciambrone has an affinity for with his Shoe Surgeon design school.

Voting ballots checked off the sneaker’s silhouette, style, colors, and other elements of the signature shoe-to-be seen on Chips Ahoy! animated spokes-cookie, Chip.

And, the winners of the competition were eligible for a pair of the final custom sneakers a year’s supply of Chips Ahoy! Or, the opportunity to attend Shoe Surgeon’s design school.

Not to mention, Ciambrone will ultimately gather inspiration from the votes and facilitate a virtual workshop of 10 teens from Boys & Girls Clubs of Americas. Hence, this collaboration will birth the exclusive Chips Ahoy! sneaker available for participating sneakerheads.

Dominic Ciambrone

Growing up in Santa Rosa, CA, a city located an hour north of San Francisco, a teenage Ciambrone felt fashion and sneakers were his “only purpose” for attending high school.

“I started customizing sneakers when I was in high school. I was passionate about expressing my creativity from a young age.”

Dominic Ciambrone

Thus, his collaborative effort with Chips Ahoy! resonates with Ciambrone’s continued effort in helping teens to express themselves through the arts. 

“This is a dream partnership for me. Not only that, but the program benefits Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which I attended in Santa Rosa when I was younger,” he remembers.

Dominic Ciambrone, 2021

Moreover, he recalls his youth in making a name for himself in a market he was interested in. And New York City has a part to play in his sneakerhead journey as it is the place where “Sneakerhead-ism” can find some prevalence. 

“The name came to me when I lived in Charlotte, NC, and took a trip to NYC with my best friend and my older brother. The energy from NYC was unreal. I was 18 and that’s when the name started – it was originally ‘$hoe Surgeonz.'”

Dominique Ciambrone, 2021

Overall, Ciambrone’s LA-based sneaker-makers school is “an immersive experience where students learn the process of designing custom sneakers entirely from scratch,” simply put by Ciambrone.

Thus, the teens who will be participating in the virtual workshop will learn how to make sneakers from scratch.

sneakers from scratch
The Shoe Surgeon x Chips Ahoy!

Sneakers from scratch

This inside look into making sneakers from scratch is a cobbler’s dream for the average sneakerhead. You may be fantasizing about your own collaborative ‘kicks.’ 

Additionally, the 10 teens from BGCA and Shoe Surgeons will have exclusive access to the creation of this sneaker from scratch. In fact, they will attend a virtual workshop.

There, they can be exposed to a behind-the-scenes look at the process that physically creates the Shoe Surgeon’s designs and Chips Ahoy! sneakers. 

So, while Chips Ahoy! mixes into sneakers and street culture, it also fosters a new generation of creators. And Ciambrone’s efforts as a sneaker-making professor bridge the gap between their interests and their dreams. 

Likewise, Ciambrone identifies this energy and the voting process as a “great model for how to get the fans involved and encourage them to get creative.”

Plus, he elaborates: “trends are always changing. This is a way to engage with the audience. And also, allow them to have a say in what they want directly with the brand.” 

The artistry present

Dominic is known to take the elements that resemble the physical attributes of a cultural icon. Then, not only does he place them onto iconic kicks, but he also captures the ethos and reflects that in his significant detailing finishes.

“Textures and colors of the cookies, the packaging details, the overall brand,” Ciambrone describes. He retracts stating “the elements of the final design is all up to the fans! That’s really what brings the final design to life and what makes this partnership so special.”

Dominic Ciambrone, 20201

Therefore, expanding into grade schools and universities is Dominic’s goal as he gets to work with students regularly through his institution.

Workshops and hands-on learning are unique opportunities to experience a lifetime of skill and craftsmanship. Plus, the artist doubles down on that notion, “It’s not just about shoes, it’s about bettering one’s way of life and outlook on themselves.” 

Thus, Ciambrone has a life and an outlook customized solely for him but makes sure to help others customize their own. He concludes in a confession of his customization-obsession:

“I like to customize almost anything. That’s why I put milk and ice cream on my cookies. It’s all about staying true to yourself.”

Dominic Ciambrone, 2021

Black femininity is captured in its elegance by these photographers

Black women and their innate femininity have been photographed over years of ubiquitous hardship and struggle. However, recently, photographers have shifted the focus to their resilience and beauty.

Hence, Black women have shown their “strength” and have perpetrated culture in ways that have become a staple of Black femininity.

But often, Black women are burdened with the masculine, atrophy, and contradiction to the soft and delicate. Masculine associations with Black women hinder the feminine factor that exists.

Yet, the image of Black women is often skewed through a modern context. Thus, reflecting ideas of macho-ism and laddish behavior.

Black Femininity through the lens

Consequently, Millennial and Generation Z photographers have taken to the image of Black women and have accentuated their existence.

Photographers like Renell M., Mark C., Micaiah C, Tyler Mitchell, Daniel Obasi, Joshua Kissi, Deana Lawson, and Dario Calmese, have all given their lens to Black femininity. 

Rihanna photographed by Deana Lawson for Garage Magazine.
Rihanna photographed by Deana Lawson for Garage Magazine.

The struggles and the positioning of Black people in society are artfully crafted in a single image. Image-makers like Lawson play an important role. 

In fact, Lawson does us a visual service with her portraits, highlighting the love a Black woman receives. The context lives in the unseen of the life inside a Black house-hold. Lawson retrospectively captures the love Black women have for themselves and their black femininity.

Thus, icons like Serena Williams, Beyonce, and Grace Jones have weathered the storm of critique on their black femininity. 

Serena Williams

For example, there is tennis star Serena Williams. She got scrutinized for doing what any man would do in an athletic environment.

Williams, on the contrary, has dictated by her work-ethic for the sport and her athleticism. She has worked to maintain a physique that some argue is not feminine [-enough].

Yet, she stands alone on a pedestal as arguably the greatest-athlete – among all athletes, including men – of all time.

Her winning mentality lent to the non-feminine association when she got into a heated discourse with an umpire at a tennis match. Thoughts of her angered over a call subsided as she gave birth to a child amid her illustrious career.


On the other hand, Beyoncé suffered a critique in a similar setting after performing at Super Bowl 50. After the game, degrading comments were made following the rumored reasons for the power outages toward her.

Likewise, Mrs. Knowles-Carter became a political threat to society and an internet meme for having a transformative gender aesthetic within her performance. Not to mention, they claimed she “attacked” the police.

Thus, a still shot of her performance captured her muscle-tone in a way that some viewers saw as masculine. And sadly, deafening the femininity of her song.

Beyonce at the 50th Super Bowl halftime show, Levei's Stadium, Santa Clara, California, 2016.
Beyonce at the 50th Super Bowl halftime show, Levei’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California, 2016.

Tyler Mitchell

However, Tyler Mitchell may have remedied that association later. His 2016 Vogue cover mirror what black femininity is really about.

The editorial captures Beyonce in a sun-drenched expanse of a yard, surrounded by soft-colored and floral patterned bedsheets on a clothes-line. Thus, Beyonce wears floral headdresses and dresses in a variety of styles, giving her a motherly, ‘homemaker’ aesthetic.

This traditional scope of femininity was a coming of age for the soon-to-be mother of 3.

Tyler Mitchell photographed Beyoncé for the September issue.
Tyler Mitchell photographed Beyoncé for the September issue.

Grace Jones

In a similar way, Grace Jones famously took on the masculinity perceived among Black women and made it her calling-card. In turn, she took Black femininity to an ambiguous state and brought it all home with the fashion that she dawned, fit for her future-fem persona. 

Photographed by Jean-Paul Goude, Grace Jones’ iconic photo showing her in a yoga-esque pose holding a mic.

This moment was perhaps the femininity she sought while displaying a strength unique to her. Subliminally, giving a voice to the group.

black femininity
Grace Jones, Photographed by Jean-Paul Goude

Black femininity in contrast

Words and anger from the public on these figures have contrasted femininity and have been unfair. The struggle for Black women is the notion that they are non-feminine. Depicted through a narrow and stereotypical lens.

Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis made this claim in her interview with Vanity Fair title “My Whole Life has Been a Protest.”

In the interview, Davis lays out the very nuanced and racist approach Black women within the art context and their public image.

black femininity
Gown by Armani Privé; earrings by MOUNSER; cuff by Giles & Brother.PHOTOGRAPHS BY DARIO CALMESE; STYLED BY ELIZABETH STEWART.

“Who’s telling a dark-skinned girl that she’s pretty? Nobody says it. I’m telling you, Sonia, nobody says it. The dark-skinned Black woman’s voice is so steeped in slavery and our history. If we did speak up, it would cost us our lives. Somewhere in my cellular memory was still that feeling—that I do not have the right to speak up about how I’m being treated, that somehow I deserve it.” 

Viola Davis, Vanity Fair

Davis goes on to say, “I did not find my worth on my own.” Possibly referring to femininity granted to white women (or women who are not Black).

This way, ideas of the non-feminine Black women, or the emasculating Black women, are long-toothed at this point.

Black women’s bodies have been subject to the will of white men throughout the pain and history. Not to mention, early medicine. In a deeper context, this involved slavery practices, surgical studies, biological testing, and sexual pleasure.

In a way, this forced procreation of Black people to further the slave trade.

It comes from the past

Dr. Samuel Cartwright published “Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race” in 1851. The article claims that bearers of Black skin were “partial insensibility.” As a result, this led to a snowfall of ideas and concepts that Black people were forced to confront.

Dr. J. Marion Sims was known as “the father of gynecology” during the 19th century. This was due to his white privilege over Black women’s bodies and their wombs. Sadly, he did as he pleased to many Black women without any political, societal, moral, or principal deterrence.

Furthermore, in the early 1800s, Saartje [Sarah] Baartman was subjected to European objectification for her full figure and Black skin as a staged circus act. Baartman wasn’t considered feminine. In fact, she was viewed as a physical anomaly, remote from any human connotation. 

The South African woman ironically was headlined to the masses as “Hottentot Venus.” “Hottentot” is the name that represents her African origins of the nomadic Khoi people.

The irony comes in the “Venus” name as it directly refers to the Roman goddess of love and fertility. Traits granted to women of other ethnicity or race. An innate feminine role. 

Yet, the image of Black women today contradicts the “strong Black woman” is an “angry Black woman.” She is a woman.

American women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth may have questioned her existence with her “Ain’t I A Women?” speech. 

The overall treatment of Black women was disputed in her words and later adopted by white women’s societal groups. Truth undoubtedly re-affirmed who she already knew to be a Black woman.

Giving way for generations of women who feel femininity is a struggle rather than a unique advantage of being a woman.

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.

The art to a sustainable wardrobe: Budget your style out

As we work towards our entrepreneurial goals, we must maintain our sartorial presentation keeping the regards high on our brands. It is worth our savings to have a sustainable wardrobe, focusing on the art of our style budget, rather than just copping the most expensive drip.

Getting on a budget comes with discipline and a keen eye for savings. Regardless of your style, budgeting a frugal fit will fare no fluster.

There are many influencers who you can follow to get in touch with your stylish side. Whether if you have expensive taste or short on funds currently, you can create and curate your sustainable wardrobe, focused on the art of your style budget.

A healthy budget promotes sustainability

Maintaining a healthy fashion budget is simply sustainable and will become easier to maintain wardrobe waste in the future.

You’ll always find yourself purchasing items you only love and keep in great condition for years to come. Your sustainable wardrobe ultimately becomes a closet on Grailed, where you can make some money for your taste.

This is not the time to open a credit card, order sign up for a monthly subscription on an e-commerce fashion platform. Style is about dressing precisely how you like – only what you love, and impressing even yourself.

Fashion statements are made through the art of budget and style, and that should be the focus.

Some of these stylists and style influencers have detailed and chronicled their fashion journeys enough that we can pull the thread on their quilt and reveal their secrets.

Fashion influencers set the tone for the art of properly maintaining a style budget

Goodfair is a new online platform that offers second-hand clothing in bundles which is a fun and great way to get a variety of styles at a flat rate.

They offer bundles from back-to-school packages to a denim-themed box set. The fun part is no item is the same from customer to customer.

Starting at fast-fashion shops seems like the obvious choice. Their omnipresence and accessibility make them no-brainers for basics and filler pieces.

It is best not to spend too much time here as you fall victim to the weekly style turnovers they enforce. You should be wise to buy quality garments, perhaps working your way up to name brands you couldn’t normally afford. 

Sustainable wardrobes demand quality garments

A sustainable wardrobe means balancing smart style with garments that will last a long time.

There are in-demand retail department stores like H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo who have all made efforts to produce on a circular scale in the coming years.

Other retailers offer a variety of basics to fill in any statement fashion piece in your closet. Richer Poorer, Express, Urban Outfitters, Pacsun are some of the styles havens that you can be creative at and not spend more than $100.

Online sellers like Asos, ThredUp, Depop, and Poshmark have items you can choose from new and used pieces on some of these platforms. There will be items that you will gravitate toward.

The idea is to find the garments that speak to you. Besides Asos, the other online retailers are acting as second-hand markets. Asos will be great to find something to highlight your thrift-aesthetic.

Consider buying unique styles from unique sellers. Dig into apparel from your favorite museums like The Guggenheim or MoMA.

Or perhaps your favorite artists, like Quiana Parks, or Preston Thompson, or local meatball shop for cool and uncommon tees, and sweaters, and hats, that give you street flair and savvy. 

Thrift stores and vintage shops like Buffalo Exchange, L Train Vintage, INA, and Crossroads Trading are places to purchase stand-out, full of showstopper fashion pieces.

Here is where you can up your per-item price, giving yourself room to buy – exactly – what you love. It will be worth it because it will dictate your style moving forward. 

A smart style budget is an art

Getting dressed up is something far from our usual way of living today. Most of us aren’t going to any parties – unless you live in Florida – and we have fewer daily commutes to work.

As we move toward spring, it’s only natural that we want to get out and show off. We all love to get dressed for any occasion, and we find joy in shopping and getting dressed in new clothes.

Most importantly, when you style yourself on a budget well, the experience of wearing clothing is a confidence booster, and that art is the main component of any look.

Look out for this post on PAGE magazine.

Why boudoir style fashion photography has become easier to love

Boudoir style fashion photography is something that has been seen with more relevance during the pandemic, as work-from-home orders and leisurewear brands have finally found a respectable place in the world.

Among leisurewear is lingerie, let us not forget.

Savage X Fenty, Agent Provocateur, and other underwear brands can thank the pandemic for spicing up this market with everyone restricted indoors.

And, when it comes to lingerie, that means in the bedroom. En Française, boudoir translates, loosely, as “private room setting,” or “bedroom,” or “upper-class woman” in some contexts.

boudoir style fashion photography
Amali Gassmann for Agent Provocateur PHOTO: Aiden Cullen

Boudoir style fashion photography as a tool

Boudoir photography has been the core messaging tool for the likes of Savage X Fenty and Agent Provocateur.

Boidoir fashion is a style that has come to age in photography during the 1960s and the 1970s. During that time of liberation, women accepted nudity, a rejection of the homemaker or housewife fashion aesthetic embedded in previous boudoir photography.

Thus, it was an evolution of women who were confident with their curvy figures, coming to acknowledge the “pin-up” girl, something seen – ubiquitously yet inconspicuously – attracting men of the 1920s and the swing era of the 30s and 40s.

The boudoir photographic perspective followed a painter’s eye; painters like Edouard Manet and his “Olympia,” or the in a recent review, Pablo Picasso and his “Les Demoiselle d’Avignon,” seen through a feminist scope as sexist.

Feminine fashion

Opening the doors for all body-types to participate in the boudoir genre has been the cornerstone for feminine fashion. Still, the lingerie and implied nudity skew the thinking of predatory photographers seeking to take advantage of unexpecting aspiring models.

The looming danger still lurks, as seen by the toxic photography of @LivinCool on Instagram, Emanuele D’Angelo. D’Angelo is still currently under scrutiny for being exposed as a sexual predator.

But, cancel culture spared no expense to reveal the plight. He used his photographic clout to lure unsuspecting women into precarious situations and involuntarily mishandled out of their already sheer garments.

Still, since the retail giant Victoria’s Secret hit the mainstream markets in 1977, at the height of the boudoir era, women have adorned themselves in the name brand.

Natural physiques of boudoir style were highlighted in fashion photography. In soft, lightweight, sheer, and decorative fabrics made from silk, lycra, chiffon, satin, and lace.

Boudoir style and Victoria’s Secret

Thus, Victoria’s Secret can take credit for the embrace of women’s bodies beyond the taboo.

In lieu, VS has also been on the cancel culture list as the culprit of body-shaming. They openly embraced an ideal body type, though they have opened up their catalog of models to other sizes.

Salek Wek for Savage x Fenty. PHOTO: Dennis Leupold
Salek Wek for Savage x Fenty. PHOTO: Dennis Leupold

Women who are comfortable enough to dress up in the trendiest designed lingerie often want to remember the moment outside of immediate context.

The feel of getting dressed – ‘down’ – in undergarments employs self-esteem worth exploring.

Miguel and Nazani Mandi for Savage x Fenty. PHOTO: Dennis Leupold
Miguel and Nazani Mandi for Savage x Fenty. PHOTO: Dennis Leupold

Men need not feel excluded from boudoir style fashion photography. Savage X Fenty has included men into their marketing campaigns (singer, Miguel and his partner, boasting traditional bedroom ‘fit’ of silk boxers and a robe, but with a modern flare).

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.

Collecting Black art has never been more important

Art collecting has long been a luxury for those who can afford to partake in leisure. In most cases, this is the economic advantage of societal white privilege. However, Black people collecting Black art is more common today than it ever has been.

Charles Moore’s brief history of Black artists in America contributes to our interest and insight into art collecting with The Black Market: A Guide to Art Collecting.

Previously, Moore published various works on contemporary arts for notable publications like Artnet, Artsy, and Cultured Magazine, to name a few. 

The Black Market: A guide to Art Collecting by Charles Moore. PHOTO CRED: Kevin Claiborne
The Black Market: A guide to Art Collecting by Charles Moore. PHOTO CRED: Kevin Claiborne

The value of Black art

For one, daily living factors like shelter, water, vitamins, and nutrients, are far from the thought of art. But in society, it is the expression of culture and the ethos of an era.

These factors make art such a valuable part of life and some of the few things to appreciate over time, regardless of the economy

Often, the art market is immune to the typical volatility of the economic markets in which its clients usually have large stakes. This kind of economy usually affects minority groups mostly, especially Black people.

Author, curator, and overall Black art enthusiast Charles Moore has made it his life’s work to remedy the perceptions of elitism in art collecting.

Charles Moore’s contributions to Black artists

Moore has rigorously taught the value of Black artists throughout his career. Straddling along the lines of what artwork sells and the many artists we can grow to love.

The Harvard University graduate feels that the undervalued Black art market deserves a reappraisal. Black artists and their works are neglected to a full extent by the leaders of industry throughout history.

The Black Market presents a brief art history about Black artists born between 1900 to 1990. That information complements recommendations for literature on Black culture and Black artists. 

There are remarks on younger Millennial artists like Tschabalala Self, whose works can go for six figures or more. Renee Cox, Norman Lewis, and even Derrick Adams are categorized.

Collecting art on the Black art market

Moore helps readers decipher these artists’ intrinsic value to Black art and Black culture from a cultivated perspective. He insists this is just a preliminary experience for readers of all education levels and knowledge of the art world.

Charles Moore, Harvard Club. PHOTO CRED: Kevin Claiborne
Charles Moore, Harvard Club. PHOTO CRED: Kevin Claiborne

“Black artists have historically been undervalued because the system that placed value on art didn’t allow them to participate in the reasons the market placed higher values on work. That is, the artists were not accepted into the academic institutions that provided training and criticism that cultivated their talent.” 

Charles Moore

His sentiment goes beyond traditional auction houses and galleries where art can be wagered on our dollar(s).

“The museums and other institutions didn’t place validation by placing their work in the halls [of the] gatekeepers of the arts. And collectors didn’t collect their work, therefore placing market value and demand in primary, secondary, and auctions.” 

Charles Moore

Building collections out of Black art

As we see more depictions of Black people in commercial settings, there has still been a trope of discernment in favor of white artists. Moore, as well as other curators, like Everette Taylor, CMO of Artsy, has been building collections and identifying rising talent for mainstream audiences. 

With that, Moore also delves into the consumption of fine art by Black artists into collections of white collectors and institutions founded by the hegemony.

“Right now, Black artists are having a moment! But the art that is going for thousands of dollars, that is predominantly figurative work, highlighting the Black body, is collected by white collectors. This is not to say that they shouldn’t have the opportunity to own these works. They should. And so should the prestigious institutions that historically shut out the Black artists.”

Charles Moore

Moore describes the ability to see art beyond its artistic value but rather, its economic value. He knows the struggles of deciding where to put your money when you have a limited amount of it. Moore teaches readers to recognize the intrinsic value of the art and the artist combined.

Charles Moore, Harvard Club. PHOTO CRED: Kevin Claiborne
Charles Moore, Harvard Club. PHOTO CRED: Kevin Claiborne

Giving back to Black culture

“The art world loves to tell you ‘buy what you love’ and worry about what financial value that brings. That is right and wrong. You should always buy what you love. Additionally, you should understand the power and social capital that comes along with ownership.”

Charles Moore

Moore’s acknowledgment of social capital speaks volumes of the importance of ownership of culture, Black culture. 

“I bought my first piece of art for $50, at the ICA Boston museum in 2012. I continued to buy limited edition prints that cost me under $250 for the next year. As I learned more about collecting, I changed my taste in the art I collected.

But if I wanted to continue to buy works of art, under $1,000, there is plenty of it out there. And one could find a classically trained painter or photographer or sculptor early along in their career and find works of art in their respective budgets.”

Charles Moore

The Black Market highlights museums and their exhibitions, galleries, art shows, and auctions. Moore’s interviews highlight a range of collectors, from an artist who collects Black art, to a reputable art school that reveals their secrets on collecting art. 

The book also features a collection of essays by the Black art enthusiast, describing his interactions with fellow art collectors. Whether that is with collectors who started a year ago, or collectors with years of experience, there is perspective to be learned. 

“Before you begin collecting art, I recommend collecting books–about art, and learn to develop your taste. I think The Black Market would be a good addition to your reading, and I’ve done my best to give some valuable guidance.”

Charles Moore

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.

How are Black artists influencing the art markets we love?

Black artists’ influence on the art market has never been greater than it is today.

“I bought some artwork for one million

Two years later, that shit worth two million

Few years later, that shit worth eight million

I can’t wait to give this shit to my children”

– Jay-Z – The Story of O.J., 4:44

The Black influence in the art market is at an all-time high, as expressed by well-known rapper Jay-Z. As we know, he has always flaunted an expensive and ever-expansive taste for highly intellectual living.

Black artists set the tone for high-quality art. And now, they influence the art market too.

In 2019, the highest bid on art from any living Black artist sold for $18 million. It was a work done by Kerry James Marshall.

Names like Sean “Diddy” Combs, Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, and Alicia Keys have popped up as winners at auctions. Bids have been spent up to $21 million on a previous painting by Marshall, purchased by Diddy just one year before in 2018.

To this day, “Untitled” (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat has sold for $100 million. This holds an auction record for any American artist.

In the last couple of decades, Black artists have surfaced to the mainstream art market, as streetwear, hip hop, and other parts of Black culture have created platforms of their own.

Purveyors of the art world are nurturing and guiding those multidisciplinary art forms, especially in the high-stakes art world.

Promoting Black art from the African-American, African, and African-Diaspora people are the art curators, editors, directors, writers, collectors, and many other Black leaders of industries.

Thelma Golden and the influence of Black artists

Thelma Golden. PHOTO: ULIE-SKARRATT. ARTnews.
Thelma Golden. PHOTO: ULIE-SKARRATT. ARTnews.

Thelma Golden may have spent what seems like her entire lifetime at a single institution located in Harlem, NY. She started her career as an intern, then became a curatorial fellow at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Finally, she took a position at the Whitney Museum of American Art soon after.

Over a decade spent at the Whitney, and she became a notable art curator with exhibitions including Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in American Art (1994).

Returning to the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2000, she would continue to highlight Black artists. Golden became the museum director and chief curator in 2005.

Studio Museum rendering of their new building. PHOTO: ADJAYE ASSOCIATES.
Studio Museum rendering of their new building. PHOTO: ADJAYE ASSOCIATES.

Golden is one of many curators who is and has been working to open the floor up to Black artists from all over, including Harlem’s own, Tschabalala Self.

Exploring the idea around Black female bodies, Self uses mixed media, paint, and printmaking to express her perspective.

In 2019, she participated as an Artist-In-Residence at Studio Museum in Harlem while exhibiting her work in a continuum.

Tschabalal Self PHOTO by Christian Defonte. Black art curation
Tschabalal Self PHOTO by Christian Defonte.

Antwaun Sargent and Black art curation

Antwaun Sargent is another curator, art critic, and writer. He has been pivotal in the conception of Black art and fashion by young Black photographers, and heavily instrumental in crafting a youth culture around it. 

The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art And Fashion by Sargent, in 2019, has summed up his understanding of what Black art is. He also covers the influence of Black art on the market of commercial fashion in his debut book

`Anttwuan Sargent, author of The New Black Vangaurd. PHOTO: Eric Chakeen. Black art curation
Antwaun Sargent, author of The New Black Vangaurd. PHOTO: Eric Chakeen.

The New Black Vanguard vignettes recent works from 15 Millennial and Gen-Z photographers crafting their idea of fashion and how it resonates with Black culture.

Photographs by Campbell Addy, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Micaiah Carter, Awol Erizku, Renell Medrano, Tyler Mitchell, Daniel Obasi, Ruth Ossai, Adrienne Raquel, Cary Fagan, and Joshua Kissi fill the pages in a catalog of art and fashion unique to the 21st century.

Sargent has dedicated his career to Black artists throughout. He has curated exhibitions while being a voice for Black art, contributing to publications like the New Yorker, New York Times, W magazine, Vogue, and Vice, to name a few.

The featured photographers have works seen globally by audiences. Not just in advertisements, campaigns, fashion and lifestyle publications, but in galleries, including solo shows. 

The New Black Vangaurd. 2019. Aperture.
The New Black Vangaurd. 2019. Aperture.

More importantly, the works are seen on their Instagram accounts, where this select group of photographers created their own galleries that Sargent himself identifies as their least bit of interest in “institutional validation,” in a chat for ARTnews live with Brooke Jaffe.

More on Sargent and The New Black Vanguard

The New Black Vanguard debuted in 2019, just before the racially tumultuous year of 2020, which included a pandemic. 

Sargent has recently taken the role of 1 of around 30 globally-positioned directors and curators of the Gagosian Gallery institution this past January of 2021.

Sargent will display a power that tends to be guarded by the hegemony in conceptualizing and implementing exhibitions, panels, and symposiums. He will also contribute to the Gagosian Quarterly publication. 

Naomi Beckwith and diversifying multidisciplinary art

Naomi Beckwith, Director, Curator, GUGGENHEIM. PHOTO: Nathan Keay, MCA Chicago.
Naomi Beckwith, Director, Curator, GUGGENHEIM. PHOTO: Nathan Keay, MCA Chicago.

Just a week before Sargent’s appointment, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago announced Naomi Beckwith as Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the prestigious Guggenheim Museum.

She also will be forwarding Black arts and artists to the art market and art world entirely. Beckwith will be helping as part of a plan to diversify, curate Black art, and grow the Guggenheim catalog.

Richard Armstrong, the museum’s director, said to The New York Times:

“She’s very adept at issues of identity and, particularly, multidisciplinary art. We have to think about the Guggenheim’s growth over the next few years, so it needs to be a person with enormous capacity.”

Richard Armstrong

New Black collectors are emerging on the art scene and disrupting the ways of the “conventional” art market

Besides Sean “JayZ” Carter, collectors from all walks of Black culture have also emerged on the art scene, creating a stir amongst traditional art dealers and collectors.

Collectors like Charles Moore, author of The Black Market: A Guide To Collecting Art, are informing and educating a new generation of Black collectors.

Moore and his book detail and cultivate knowledge around Black artists and their history, allowing readers to see the economic value of Black art.

The Black Market: A Guide To Art Collecting by Charles Moore.
The Black Market: A Guide To Art Collecting by Charles Moore.

An American collective of collectors, League OTO (Of Their Own), has shaken the auction rooms, having a contemporary art collection and the capital to be taken seriously.

The group of four, founded by two African-Americans, Gambriel Wills, and Demetrius Butler, including Jason Lee [Asian], and Jonathan Montalvo [Latino], have akin collecting art to how sneakerheads have treated sneaker collecting.

High school friends, Gambriel and Demetrius found their taste for street culture, particularly sneaker collecting, a winning feature in their collections of artwork from varying artists in varying mediums.

Gambriel Wills, Demetrius Butler of League OTO. Black influence art market
Gambriel Wills, Demetrius Butler of League OTO.

Black artists of all trades are helping Black art thrive

Black artists have displayed remarkable skill, surpassing the imagination and prowess of traditional painter techniques. We have Kehinde Wiley and Tschabalala Self, whose works can go for six figures or more.

Painters like Fahamu Pecou have challenged the status quo with the obscurity of the stereotypes of Black bodies. Artists like Renee CoxNorman Lewis, and Derrick Adams give Black culture a cultivated perspective.

Similarly, Deana Lawson and Carrie Mae Weems have shown how the black gaze onto the world has unique features reflecting struggle and beauty through elegant photography.

"Sleep," 2008 by Kehinde Wiley. Black influence art market
“Sleep,” 2008 by Kehinde Wiley.

Black culture is where Black art lives and thrives. And now it is expanding within the commercial art market.

Black art is a catalyst for the community and the culture surrounding the aura of Black people. The art market has increased its stock by including Black art [eg. “Untitled,” 1982], and today it is accredited to the Black community surrounding the art and uplifting the artist. 

Mainstream notarization and economic profit are just as important as creating art at will in environments that enhance those ideas. 

Today, Black artists are influential to the development of the art market and the next generation of artists. Black art is more than a token of life, it is the reflection of Black culture and the Black experience.

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.

Cidenna CEO Khalil Walthour gives fashion photography advice

For fashion brands, hiring a photographer can be a conflicting process. Cidenna CEO Khalil Walthour knows this all too well, and has shared advice concerning navigating the tricky maze of fashion photography.

Toxic photography has plagued the sets of many photoshoots. Brands have had to take responsibility for mishaps just as much as the photographers. In other cases, models can be inconsistent with brands and cause some issues for productions. 

Cidenna, and its founder Khalil Walthour, understand the perils of fashion photography, and they have found a temporary solution.

Khalil Walthour – Fashion designer and photographer

Born and raised in Hinesville, Georgia, 45 minutes from Savannah, Walthour was known for being a photographer, before deciding to design clothes.

“I was following my older sister’s footsteps behind the lens, shooting for other brands, weddings, and events. [I photographed] sporting events for my high school as my main task [during my] high school years.”

Khalil Walthour
Fashion Designer, Founder of Cidenna, Khalil Walthour. PHOTO CRED: Khalil Walthour
Fashion Designer, Founder of Cidenna, Khalil Walthour. PHOTO CRED: Khalil Walthour

Now living in Atlanta proper, Walthour has taken his photography with him on his sartorial conquest of the fashion industry.

Founded in the winter of 2019, Cidenna has been the brainchild of Walthour. He first explored his fashion taste during his time in grade school in which his school district enforced uniforms. 

“For a person who lives for a good style, and a bit of a rebellion, I decided to accessorize the uniforms for me and some friends. ‘Bands,’ J’s, Nike’s – different socks, bandannas – [or] whatever I could get my hands on. Then I had an epiphany: Why not do this all the time? So I could express myself my way.”

Khalil Walthour
Fashion Designer, Cidenna Streetwear by Khalil Walthour. PHOTO CRED: Khalil Walthour
Fashion Designer, Cidenna Streetwear by Khalil Walthour. PHOTO CRED: Khalil Walthour

Self-expression is the best advice a fashion designer can offer

His classmates would ask for his help in styling them daily. Proof that Walthour has been giving fashion advice, inside or outside of photography, for some time.

Walthour used this experience as a foundation for Cidenna. Foregoing button shirts and pants aesthetic of the school uniform, Walthour created the core of Cidenna garments opting for sweatpants and hoodies. 

“It was something I could personally place my fingerprint on and breathe inspiration into. Cidenna is the product of my creative flow. It’s Vogue, it’s Street. Seeing a need in [fashion] where there was once a void,” Walthour recalls. He continues, “as someone who lives and thrives off of creativity, I search for inspirations in fashion, design, patterns, and music.”

Khalil Walthour

Cidenna sales reach globally in European, Canadian, U.S., and Japanese markets. And this is accredited to how Walthour markets his brand and gives advice through his photography. 

Fashion Designer, Cidenna Streetwear by Khalil Walthour. PHOTO CRED: Khalil Walthour
Fashion Designer, Cidenna Streetwear by Khalil Walthour. PHOTO CRED: Khalil Walthour

Cidenna’s visuals and Walthour’s approach to design

Khalil Walthour keeps Cidenna’s visuals aesthetic in a minimalist realm. He mimics his brand’s tonal aesthetic and translates that in his simple use of a backdrop, a camera, a light, and an intriguing character to style and model.

Finding models and a photographer is a challenge for any brand, but Cidenna has been through the wringer when it comes to talent. Still, the advice he gives as a fashion photographer can help out anyone in either industry.

Walthour reflects:

“The experiences [for me] varied; I’ve had good and bad ones. The Worst cases were photographers who were not getting the shots I desired. Or we’re super distracted during the shoot. [They were] not completing the task, leaving me with shots I couldn’t even use for my website.”

Khalil Walthour

Walthour decided as a fashion designer, to photograph his line. Usually, this isn’t recommended – unless you’re Karl Lagerfeld – as brands want to attach specific artists to their democratic and creative process.

Walthour responded to issues he faced in operating as a producer for shoots by becoming the creative director of the visual presentation of Cidenna.

Fashion Designer, Cidenna Streetwear by Khalil Walthour. PHOTO CRED: Khalil Walthour
Fashion Designer, Cidenna Streetwear by Khalil Walthour. PHOTO CRED: Khalil Walthour

What advice does Walthour have for fashion photography and managing models?

Walthour is currently using a FujiFilm TX2 for studio and outdoor shoots, but holding a very editorial aesthetic in the visual presentation of Cidenna.

The Cidenna brand floats a studio aesthetic with streetwear style, nonetheless. Walthour says, “the FujiFilm TX2 can connect to my phone wirelessly, making it easier for me to view every shot as it’s being taken. I take this camera with me everywhere – it’s a very inexpensive gem.”

Focused on the vision he has for his brand, Walthour is carving a very unique lane for himself.

He says about his photography of Cidenna; “Having great visuals whether that’s photos or videos for your brand is very important to track customers and express your brand’s identity. I have to ask myself – would I shop from a brand without visuals or something appealing to look at?”

Models were just as difficult to manage at times for Walthour.

“I’ve had experiences where [models] would call out the day of the shoot,” Walthour remembers. He eventually started to contract the models. Adversely, he found that wasn’t always a fail-proof plan. Walthour remembers, “I’ve had models show up with not much experience and give me dynamic shots I could work with.”

Khalil Walthour
Fashion Designer, Cidenna Streetwear by Khalil Walthour. PHOTO CRED: Khalil Walthour
Fashion Designer, Cidenna Streetwear by Khalil Walthour. PHOTO CRED: Khalil Walthour

What’s next for Walthour and Cidenna?

Walthour has plans to get his brand more visibility through his brand visuals and his fashion design, of course. He intends to work with influencers and collaborate on projects with – not just photographers – but music artists, influencers, and the music industry. 

Walthour certainly maintains an admiration for what photographers do. Declaring he’s “always inspired by the talents of KombucciBanvoaDeana LawsonTyler Mitchell, and many others.”

Walthour has humbly made his brand flourish during a pandemic. And his creativity has been stopped by such and he wants his work to reflect. 

“[These] photographers have jaw-dropping work and you can tell they pour out every ounce of their creative side in their edits,” Walthour claims.

“The pandemic has not stifled my creativity. If anything, it has allowed me to see a need for new styles as many of us change our places of comfort. Being on quarantine has allowed me to maintain my creative flow by using my free time to create.”

Khalil Walthour

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.