GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Two local fashion designers are weaving Black History into their work.
Delight Dzansi wants to celebrate her African heritage.
She started AlkeBULAN, LLC in 2019 after noticing that members of her community wanted to wear African prints more often -- but they could only access them in the U.S. for special occasions -- or with a months-long lead time.
She wanted to make the prints she grew up with in Ghana accessible for everyday wear.
“The need I'm hoping to fulfill is being able to create designs for Africans, African Americans. And anybody else who is interested in African culture, because culture is made to be shared," Dzansi said.
She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2020, and has already shared her designs on the runway at D.C. and New York fashion weeks.
She sources her fabrics -- and her team -- from Ghana.
“So partially grown in Ghana, or raised in Ghana," Dzansi said. "When I got to the U.S. …I learned that I wasn't Black…. You're not Black, you're African in the Black community. So a couple of identity crises later, I learned that, there are differences. There are differences. I am Black. I am African. I am Ghanaian.”
She says all that through her clothes, starting a conversation, like fellow DMV-based designer Doncel Brown hopes to do.
He founded Generation Typo in 2020 to spark dialogue across generations, especially about the topics where there's often a disconnect.
“Someone can look at what you're doing and think it's wrong, so they become that system, and they label you as a typo," Brown said. "But it's to take the power back and be proud of who you are.”
And he wants people who wear his clothes to feel empowered to talk about tough topics, as his "Let's Talk About It" slogan requests.
He designed one jacket in particular to confront police brutality visually.
"This was an emotional piece for me honestly, because as I was designing this, this was in the midst of everything with George Floyd, and it was just a conversation around police brutality and gun violence," Brown said. "So, I was designing and I put together this graphic first, and it says 'don’t shoot.'"
There are powerful messages sewn into the seams.
“I think about the conversations where people walk up to me and are like, 'Hey, I had your jacket on the other day, and I had a conversation with my mom that I never thought I would have,'" he said. "I got chills right now just thinking about it. Because that's the real success -- a message is doing something.”
Whether the message is to embrace the typos or to celebrate your heritage, both hope to inspire others to weave their own way.
Both designers have exciting plans coming up.
Dzansi is focusing on supplying African student organizations with outfits for shows at their universities.
Brown is preparing for D.C. Fashion Week on February 25, where he'll be presenting his latest collection.
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