Fashion is watching divine spirits dressed in serene testimonials. Backstage is where these spirits speak Patois and Kreyol, prep in full glamor, and pray each time before hitting a stage. On the street these spirits are situated under hegemonic modes of control, but on stage their spirit radiates, in the words of Audre Lorde, “like a fucking meteor.” This is African Diaspora Fashion.

African Diasporic Fashion is a defiant visual tradition rooted in redesigning testimonials of poetic writers, eternal improvisations of jazz maestros, radical artistry of painters, and political commentary of photographers. Transversed beyond time or land, this list reimagines the past, present, and future of African Diasporic fashion.     

From Designer Grace Wales Bonner and filmmaker Isaac Julien reimagining masculinity, Akeem Smith re-presenting Jamaica’s Dancehall scene, Frances Negrón-Muntaner prioritizing The Young Lords’ history against U.S. imperialism, historians Norman E. Whitten Jr & Arlene Torres radically exploring Blackness throughout the Americas, late Mauritian filmmaker Med Hondo reexamining French imperialism through African griot narration, to Virgil Abloh revisioning Off-White as an African fashion brand, this list homages late writer Greg Tate’s 1986 foundational text “The Rise of a New Black Culture”, and also hopes to depict Guadeloupean writer Maryse Conde’s writing of a revolution “starting with new clothes.”

black and white photo of young man in suit and sunglasses on a motorcycle

Photographed by Sanlé Sory. Yamaha de Nuit , 1972, Silver gelatin print 20 x 16 inches. Courtesy of Jackson Art Atlanta.