“Women will be hidden no more. We will not remain hidden figures. We have names. … It was woman that gave you Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was woman that gave you Malcolm X. And according to the Bible, it was a woman that gave you Jesus. Don’t you ever forget it.”
|Dear Fashion Industry,
Last week, the text messages flooded in all at once. “Congrats!” “woah Saks is big time April!” “good look with the Walker Wear on Saks”…. Huh? I opened up my phone to see my namesake “WW” design on a “swaggy” white male mode. The price tag was astronomical. The vibe? Casual appropriation. The problem? It wasn’t my jacket…”
It was Off-White’s brand.
I’m sick of big fashion house creative looters that do drive-bys and steal derivative works and original designs from independent designers that actually birth originality. These big fashion brands “make and take” and appropriate these designers without credit, compensation, or permission, until they’re called out.
I surmise there are a few reasons that this viscous cycle has perpetuated itself since the beginning of time. It could be a lack of creativity, lazy genius syndrome, or a sense of entitlement. The fashion industry is a mirror reflection of America. It’s the spirit of elitism and “whiteness” is the strongest benefactor. These European Fashion Houses bank on the fact that most independent designers will be outgunned in legal proceedings so designers are often disregarded or considered invisible. They’re assumed a non-factor. Let’s add some colors and layers to this equation. Try being POC as a black or brown designer, and then add the wild card to it…gender and the inequality, where women are often trampled upon quietly.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me not be rude. My name is April Walker of Walker Wear. I’m the founder of one of the first fashion brands that helped to pave the way for the multi-billion dollar industry coined as streetwear today. I’ve been in this game for a little more than three decades now, and as the the first female designer to hold court and dominate in this streetwear lane, I’ve had my share of experiences and I don’t take them lightly. Gracefully, Walker Wear has remained agile and stayed rooted in our foundation…hip hop culture. We pride ourselves on creating timeless classics and staples with quality over quantity.
As makers and creators, Walker Wear recently experienced creative theft, and to add to the sting, it was on the heels of Black History Month. As we walked into Women’s History Month, I noticed in an Instagram ad that Off-White introduced a WW Letterman jacket that felt too close for comfort in the design. It was a classic design that we’ve been using for years. As these DM’s started rolling in, and the phone started ringing, there were many confused tribe members trying to figure out what was going on, was it a collab, some were infuriated and felt that the design was disrespectful to say the least.
There are so many layers to unpack here… the timing of it all, the WW’s on an Off-White Jacket, the similarity and likeness of my design, the fact that I’m a Blexican woman and it was done by Virgil Abloh. It felt intentional…like a strong and deliberate chess or jack move, maybe both.
As a founder and legend in this space, I’m flattered that some creatives have been inspired, but the best way to pay homage is to do just that, without duplicity and forgetting to give credit where credit is due. The problem that exists here is a lack of integrity, lack of respect for culture and a lack of appreciation for women. The irony is that without me and others that have created this streetwear lane, Virgil wouldn’t be here today. I keep wondering if this would have been done to one of our male fashion legends like Karl Kani or Dapper Dan, but I’m guessing that since I was a woman, there wasn’t a second thought.
Here’s the thing. There’s a new day dawning. Women will not be trampled over any longer. We will not be dismissed. We will not be exploited. Independent black and brown designers matter and are essential to creating a healthy eco-system. We are here for real change. We are here to empower and pave the way for the next generation of fashion game-changers and the only way to do that is to think about sustainability as “a people and planet”.
To be continued…