With The Chi touching on a variety of crucial topics relating to breaking societal norms and stereotypes for People of Color, one notable way the Showtime series does this is through fashion, most specifically streetwear. The show’s creator, Lena Waithe, has taken things a step further by uplifting the creative realms of The Chi through highlighting up-and-coming fashion designers.
Rather than featuring luxury, well-known brands for the characters’ wardrobe, Waithe has made it her mission to give others the opportunity to shine while working with wardrobe stylist Mercedes Cook (pictured above). In doing so, the fashion on the show lends itself to a much larger conversation. It’s not just about looking cool and fresh but also about subtle ways we can amplify POC, specifically Black creatives, in our communities through their talents. Hypebae spoke with three designers-slash-entrepreneurs — André Jones, Zhair Nixon and Willeen Capehart — about their experience having their designs and brands featured on Season 5 of the show and why this type of representation is so important in fashion and media.
Jones, who founded Rabbit 3, a brand with a visually futuristic aesthetic, elaborated on the important role Black creatives play in society, which hasn’t always been properly credited. “It’s about doing what’s right,” he says. “Black culture is the epicenter of pop culture; however, the Black community is rarely ever given the rightful recognition it deserves.”
Most importantly, focusing on actual talent rather than big names leaves room to inspire. “To see Lena selflessly reaching out to help us gain visibility instills hope,” adds Jones. “Hope that your ‘big break’ is attainable. Hope that despite making it to Hollywood, your people will come back for you. And hope that there are still good people in the world.”
On the other hand, Nixon, founder of BLVCK SHEEP, uses his designs to tell a story. “As an artist-slash-designer, I pride myself on being creative and original,” he says, adding that he likes to incorporate “meaningful messages and cultural knowledge within my clothing pieces.” For example, one of his designs featured on the show is a rise puffer coat he refers to as “The Sun Will Rise,” which provides warmth in more than one way. “Be thankful for waking up every day, we all go through different obstacles and experiences in life,” he explains. “Regardless of what we go through, ‘The Sun Will Rise.’ Therefore, we must cherish every moment, create memories with each other, stay healthy and do what makes us happy.”
Capehart, CEO of Phase, serves as an example of what’s often missing in fashion: women in streetwear, specifically Black female designers. As a woman, she brings a unique approach to her designs. “I tend to look at clothing from a gender-neutral perspective as we are seeing how it is losing its significance in both streetwear and luxury clothing,” she says. “We have seen brands, such as Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga, put skirts on their male models and we have seen artists, such as Teyana Taylor, often take a more masculine-presenting approach to her sense of style. As a black female designer, who is masculine-presenting and designs that style of clothes, opportunities like this are very scarce.”
Capehart reiterated on the initiatives Waithe is taking and how they can pave the way for others. “Lena gave me and several other black designers a foot in the door to have our pieces reach a larger platform,” she says. “Some up-and-coming brands don’t always have the funds for more marketing. Getting more eyes on your brand is one of the most difficult things to accomplish as a new brand and this opportunity significantly helped. Not only were the items featured on the episodes, but the brands were also tagged on several different occasions. This opportunity shows other Black and Brown designers that you don’t have to be a huge luxury brand to be given a chance.”
Check out Jones, Nixon and Capehart’s designs on Season 5 of The Chi, currently streaming on Showtime, as well as on the Instagram posts below.
These interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.