As Black History Month enters its final week, Tidal is releasing “Shades of Fashion,” a new series exploring the evolution of black American fashion design and its contributions to fashion history.
The series premiere follows Ev Bravado’s Who Decides War fall 2020 runway show and stars Bravado, whose real name is Everard Best, Dapper Dan, Don C, Aleali May, designer Joe FreshGoods, Guy and Sharene Wood of Harlem Haberdashery and 5001 Flavors, and Hanifa designer Anifa Mvuemba, sharing insights on their work, their careers, the industry and advice for the next generation.
While most of the episode is focused on the current fashion system and the potential future, each star speaks of their own past, like the Woods, through 5001 Flavors working with Colin Kaepernick on his GQ cover and the late Nipsey Hussle and coaching The Notorious B.I.G. to change his style to match his lyrics and music. Best takes on growing up in the church and learning about textiles under one of his mentors, his father, Nigel Best.
“We came from picking cotton, so now we’re selling all these garments around the world for crazy amounts of money,” said Best in the premiere. “It’s kind of like a ‘haha’ to the system, ’cause they wouldn’t let us in, but now the kids want to buy our clothing ’cause we’re pushing the boundaries.”
The narrator mentions Olivier Rousteing and his work for Balmain and Kerby Jean-Raymond and what he has accomplished with Pyer Moss, but shares a deeper fashion history lesson that goes back to Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley who created dresses for Mary Lincoln, the wife of Abraham Lincoln, and made 16 dresses for the first lady in one year alone. The narrator also speaks of Zelda Wynn Valdes, who created looks for Ella Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Eartha Kitt, did the bridal party dresses for the wedding of Nat King Cole and Maria Cole, and designed the first Playboy bunny costumes.
“Fashion is just a way to tell my deeper story. If you’re not grounded in a spiritual sense, then everything else is superficial,” said Dan in the episode. Dapper Dan spoke of having ups and downs in his career, but this current point, which includes a collection with Gucci and operating his atelier, he credits to “black Twitter,” the subset of Twitter users that are predominately black and discuss black culture, entertainment, sociology, politics and humor.
Joe FreshGoods shared a similar sentiment in the episode saying, “Even with Dapper Dan — he got that job with Gucci because of black Twitter. We have the power to be like ‘Yeah, I’m not wearing that’ and that’s valuable.”
Dan said, “Black Twitter spoke for me, but there’s this other black Twitter that has this voice that’s going to determine how we should conduct the fashion business. People in fashion need our own voice. We can’t have activists who have no footprint in fashion speaking for us. That’s dangerous.”