Theophilio & Black Fashion Fair publish ‘Family Portrait II’ capsule
Last summer, following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and global protests against Black Lives Matter, fashion brands and companies tried to delve into how they had perpetuated anti-black racism and what they would do to address it reconcile. The companies’ social media posts and mission statements on their websites were a sight to behold: After decades of appropriating black fashion and culture, the fashion industry has apparently recognized and recognized that important trends originated in the black community. Antoine Gregory, who runs the Black Fashion Fair platform, and Theophilio designer Edvin Thompson are well aware of this fact. With the publication of their newest joint capsule, family portrait II, they aim to separate anti-black trauma from fashion narration and invite a different method of storytelling through design and community.
Family Portrait II, out this month, will include limited editions of black and brown shirts priced at $ 178 each; Buyers have the option to submit their own family photos to display on a bespoke Theophilio t-shirt. And to celebrate the introduction, BFF and Theophilio will hold a celebration on June 10th for the “family reunion,” a holiday that observes slave emancipation in the United States.
Thompson and Gregory previously worked together on a first Family Portrait capsule in February 2021. The collection, which included six oversized shirts with Swarovski crystal embroidery labeled âTHEOPHILIOâ and an enlarged photo of the designer’s family, centered Black’s family life while emphasizing Thompson’s Jamaican roots . “What he did with his first Family Portrait t-shirt was really cool because it showed exactly where he was from,” said Gregory. “It was important for me to make the story he developed accessible to everyone.”
Family and Jamaican tradition are recurring themes in Theophilio’s collections. The brand, which received this year’s CFDA Fashion Fund Grant, often hints at Thompson’s upbringing – so including a portrait of his own family on a t-shirt seemed like a natural move. The photo used by Thompson is a fairly original studio photo, but its significance suggests the collaboration intent. “I remember this photo was taken a few months before my green card for the flight to America,” Thompson told me. “My father decided to take our last family photos with us before we all split up for seven years.”
Theophilio may not be a well-known brand for t-shirts, but this offering recognizes the graphic t-shirt as a style element in the black community. Graphic tees originate from the Black Panther movement of the 1960s – the style boomed with hip hop fashion pioneers in the 1980s The shirt kings. Described as “the first black clothing line straight off the street”, tailor-made t-shirt innovations became the cornerstones of street fashion at the time. These adjustments made it easier for the black community to access trends that would soon be sought after by mainstream shoppers. The idea of ââaccessibility (sometimes treated as “radical” in the high fashion world) is paramount to black creators looking to foster a sense of community in fashion, and Thompson is no different. âIf a customer doesn’t see themselves in pieces from my collection like corset tops or eyelet pants, but sees themselves in a graphic t-shirt and wants to support themselves, that’s important,â added Thompson.
Gregory said the thesis behind the second half of this project was “to rethink and reevaluate our own family photo collections to combat a legion of existing images that reinforce stereotypes inflicted and used against blacks”. This idea carries over to the discovery of black family life through photography, “since large institutions do not collect our images and those who have cataloged traces of black life, the portrayal is grim,” said Gregory. “This is an opportunity for us and the world to see another side of the blackness that is not rooted in trauma or pain, but in happiness, love and family celebrations.”
Black image recovery is a constant practice in the photography world, and BFF and Theophilio hope to expand this practice to include fashion.
“Black people have used images and fashion – especially the T-shirt and the idea of ââcustomizing it – to construct political, aesthetic and cultural representations of themselves in the world they live in, because no one else has done it.” said Gregory. âWhen you think of the Black Panthers’ Free Huey shirts, those were the only things we had access to. We didn’t get access to studios. We used bespoke t-shirts when someone died to honor their memory. We have always existed in this room. “
“If our artwork, our message, our posters weren’t allowed in the building, they would be on our bodies that would move with that message,” added Thompson. “In a way, it’s a form of protest.”