Black History Month Roundtable Discussion: 
Hosted by JeLisa Marshall

February 2021

Four creators in the Seattle fashion scene sit down to talk about the people who have inspired them, the experience of being black in the fashion industry, and what work they are doing for a brighter future. 


Watch the whole convo here: 

Or read the transcript below!

Meet the creators

Who has inspired you in regards to black history and your own life? 

JeLisa:
So we'll go ahead and just jump right into it. So as we both know, and we're all all three of us know, February is Black History Month. And a lot of times, it seems that we recognize the same few people over again. And you know, that's great for people who aren't very familiar with that history - but collectively, our culture is just so expansive. And we've contributed so much to the history of America and beyond that. So I just wanted to throw out the question of who has inspired you, personally, in regards to black history, and your own life?

Antonio:
For me, I know my father was really big on black history, just really giving me different books or whatever. Some of it, I didn't really necessarily read when I was younger. But now I'm kind of like, “oh, man, I'm kind of glad that I know, little hints of different things," go. So my father has been the biggest catalyst to like, learn more about my own history.

Mustapha:
Thank you for sharing that for me. Because I come from a faraway place, a different place, the motherland Africa. So my black history is like, mostly deep rooted from Africa. But moving to the US has really broadened my perspective and given me a deeper learning about the history of black people here in the US and connected me with my brothers and sisters here. And my black friends here in the US have been able to educate me in a lot of ways because I will say it is so important to be educated and be connected to the culture So being able to be connected that way and just respecting it, and see how best I can adapt and blend in is amazing.
your free time, learn how to grow an entire business.

Lashonya: 
I think that there's just a lot of influences from the Black Panther Party that nobody really wants to talk about, just because it wasn't “peaceful,” like everyone thought. So I'm going to say my answer is going to be Angela Davis. We should all know that story. You know, her story, I think, is so cool. Her connection with Tupac and his mother. So yeah, that's gonna be my answer there.

 "I think that there's just a lot of influences from the Black Panther Party that nobody really wants to talk about, just because it wasn't “peaceful,” like everyone thought. So I'm going to say my answer is going to be Angela Davis. We should all know that story."

@Style.In.PNW

On your journey, what challenges have you overcome or are still working through as a Black person in fashion? 

JeLisa:
So keeping all of that in mind, a lot of these people and what they fought for to get to become the cornerstones for us, and they had to fight a lot of battles, and many of them we are still fighting today. So on your journey, what is a challenge that you've either recently had to overcome, or something that you're still kind of working through as a black person in fashion?

Mustapha:
I can go ahead and touch base on that. I'm a fashion model. So I work with a lot of people, a lot of the people in the fashion industry that happen to be white. So it's not like a lot of people like me, especially knowing that I come from a different place. So whenever I go to casting or like having an opportunity to work with different models, most of the time, I'm the only one in the room with black skin. So it could be difficult that way. Also, trying to make sure that the clothes make sense to me. Because most of the time when we're trying to promote culture, and all of that other people may be educated on - some of the things may be not violent - but some of the things may be disrespectful to my culture and my people. So trying to make sure that people understand where you're coming from as a black person and all of that, it's going slowly, but can be challenging sometimes.

Antonio:
So I would say I would kind of echo what Mustapha said, like I think, you know, one of the challenges is really, you know, once you get to a certain type of level, there's really not that many people that look like us there. And, and also, just really kind of connecting with those people that are up there is kind of a challenge, you know, and I've been I've been trying to like over the years create, like a network, you know, really try to befriend like everybody, you know, be like, “Hey, yeah, let's just talk every now and then just to see what's going on? What are your ideas? What can I do for you? How can I help you and your family and create?” I think it's really important to create, like, a certain type of network or a wealth, you know, of knowledge, you know, that kind of spreads around. But basically, it's, there's not that many people up there at once you get to a certain level, you're just like, “oh, man, like, I'm the only person here.” So, you know, it is what it is.

JeLisa:
I definitely agree with you, Antonio, it is important to create the network and in spite of that just kind of keep the education flowing. So I think a lot of us have that kind of mindset because, you know, that's all we can do when we're trying to just bring our manifestations to pass.

Lashonya:
I know it's a lot, but I kind of have two pieces. First of all, I say I would say being black in the fashion industry, which is a tiny industry here in Seattle compared to LA or New York, trying to find my place in industry, while being black has definitely had its challenges.

But what's really been hitting hard for me lately is that there's this untold story about the gentrification of Seattle and I've been really digging in into my family history as well. And realizing that oh my god, I owned houses and I own land and some of the most profitable areas, property areas in the Seattle area. And that's just been kind of hard for me to swallow definitely.

So those are the two things. One is trying to find work as a Seattle fashion stylist being black and trying to afford housing in the Seattle market. Right now, when, you know, we've already owned so much of it.


What is your favorite designer or style to wear knowing that a lot of times we are not necessarily thought about when those designs are made? 

Antonio:
I try to not put myself in a box. I think that's what I usually do, you know. Basically you're asking, like, “how do I create a style, like my own.” And I think for the most part, like, I mean, I'm not saying I like experimenting with everything, but like, you know, most people know that I at least try to, mix things up in a certain type of way that maybe you don't see the next time or whatever. So I don't know, I just really tried to mix things up, I guess. I think that makes me feel like I'm pushing certain boundaries, then it feels like you know, I feel like an individual.

I am naturally a minimalist. So, you know, I try to stick to basics or whatever. But then I forced myself to explore other other possibilities, because I think it shows creativity. It shows imagination, you know, to make something work, and I love when like people do stuff, that they're blending certain things together, and you're like, "Nah, that shouldn't work, that shouldn't work," then all of a sudden, you're just like, "Oh, my God, how did that work? That's brilliant!"

So I think I'm trying to push myself a little bit more, but like I said, at heart, you know, my nature is like, minimalistic. Just really clean, you know, subtle. But it makes an impact. My style, I kind of quoted it to be like an effortless, kind of chic kind of thing, you know?

Mustapha: 
For me, Oh, god, this is hard. But I get inspired a lot by a lot of people like, it doesn't have to be a designer or stylist, I can look at my friend and just get inspired by their fashion style or what they wear. And if you want to. And you're like I said before, before we started recording, I saw your standard and got a bit inspired by that. So like I have my eyes everywhere, searching for new things, making sure that I'm able to be connected with what is happening in my community. Doesn't really have to be super big - but I have my eyes everywhere.

And styling Africa is really developing a lot. So seeing how I can blend American style with African just trying to blend in the theme, making sure that it's edgy and unique and people can relate to it. So like us with me, whatever style I try to pull up, I try to like make it as a medium of expression. Because I want to wear something people ask me like, “why are you wearing this? What is the story behind it?”

Even with my modeling work, I try to make sure that it's a story so that other people can be inspired and feel connected to the type of fashion style I bring forward to. But I will say in terms of a person who inspires my style is different. I'm a policy student as well a political science student and model. So Cory Booker in the Senate - I like his suit and how he dresses and just keeps very everything formal, but with fashion it’s a little bit different. Like I don't have one particular person but I get inspired everyday.

JeLisa:
Okay, Antonio, I want the juice! You have yet to spit out a person! I want to know.

Antonio:
I mean, I look at like, Yeezy of course I look at him, I look at Pharrel, I look at Jay Z, you know what I mean? I grew up on entertainers. So you know, all those kinds of people. So I mean, I'm like, Look, if they can do it, I can do it. You know what I mean? I'm really big into music. So a lot of those people that's that's kind of like what I look at and I'm just like, "Alright, that's cool. You know, I can rock that." So Yeah, those are some names just to name a few. You're not me, but I'm getting it from everywhere. Like Mustapha said, like, this is really cool stuff coming out of Africa right now, like a lot of prints, a lot of bright colors and stuff like that. I'm like, "oh, man, that's sick, you know?" And I'm loving that and I'm just I just like how, like, people just throw things in there. And, and it just works together. So I'm just really excited about it all. I'm trying to keep my eyes open to see, you know, you know, I don't want to close anything off, you know? Yeah.

"I love when like people do stuff, that they're blending certain things together, and you're like, "Nah, that shouldn't work, that shouldn't work," then all of a sudden, you're just like, "Oh, my God, how did that work? That's brilliant!"

- Antonio Smith 

JeLisa:
Yeah, for me, I love the 70s. I'm looking at like, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross. Okay, I mean, they're still alive. Right. But yeah, they used to wear bell bottoms, flares, and big hair. That's my jam.

Antonio:
I also like, you know, see, now you just open the box JeLisa Okay. So, you know, I actually like a lot of, like, stuff from like, the 50s and 60s. I think that's really cool. A lot of that, like, you know, just a lot of the cool, the cool looks like the beatnik looks and stuff like that. That's sick right there. So I mean, there's a lot of really clean stuff, like if you just go back in the past my fashion has evolved over the years to try to experiment with different things. And, and it's just all fun. You know, it's all about expression. It's all about, like, you know, expressing yourself and having fun with it and dressing like something that inspires you inside?

Lashonya: 
I'm just gonna say I'm just going to be true to myself. I think one of the coolest areas and something that I go back to for my personal style is the 90s. I'm a 90s baby and my influences were in the 90s. And it's just so cool. And I basically wear all black every day. Just because you know that street, I was so cool. And you know that you know they emerge and like mainstream, hip hop and rap coming into the main culture. I would have to say that's where I live.

JeLisa:
All right. What if you had to pick one person?
Who's the first person that comes to mind? Will Smith fresh air Fresh Prince of Bel Air?

Lashonya:
I don't know. It's hard. Okay, so one of the coolest brands, I think they were one of the first ones who really make extreme wear or like hip hop's fashion really cool. I'm gonna say Cross Colors and FuBu so can I just say, you know, like, that era and those designers go way back.

JeLisa:
Do you still own any?

Lashonya:
No, I don't.

Antonio:
I didn't know. I was about to give you so much props. If you're like, Yo, I got it right here.

Lashonya:
I wish but I have some dope pictures. I have some dope pictures of my mom when she was young. My dad when he was young. They were cool. They they aren't that cool now but they used to be in the 90s

JeLisa:
I might have some FuBu in my closet at my mom's house.
Okay, okay doesn't you know, serve the purpose for right now but right I might right.

Antonio:
That's legit. Yeah.


How did you get into thrifting? What are your thoughts on sustainable fashion?

JeLisa:
Agreed. So then my last question to kind of wrap everything up is, you know, since we're here through thrift collective, and we each have our own ways that we contribute to that effort, how did you get into thrifting? Like, what inspired you and what are your thoughts on sustainable fashion.

Mustapha:
With modeling, it could be a little bit different. Like, I know that a lot of people in our community want to be inspired into fashion, all of that. But there is a narrative that in order to get into fashion, you have to wear designer clothes, you have to wear super expensive stuff at the end of the day doesn't really connect to who you are, or the type of expression you want people to know about you. So I got into thrift collective because friends and I had someone reach out to me, John wanted me to connect with a lot of people in Seattle to see how best we can advocate for sustainable clothing. Because I think it's important, it's important to have a fashion trend where anybody can be part of and join in and just use it as a medium of expression and just share who they are and share that identity and connect and make a better world. But knowing that it's challenging with the high fashion trend and how expensive it gets at the end of the day, when you could go into a thrift store and get the same thing cheap. And because to me, fashion doesn't die, you can always resurrect fashion.

So that is part of sustainability as well, making sure that people are aware that there are a lot of options with thrifting and making sure that we raise awareness, we encourage and help people save money and just be themselves in a classic and simple way.

Antonio:
All right. All right. So yeah, I love that. What Mustapha said, I think that's, that's really important. I know me personally, I kind of got into, like, sustainability number one, because I think it's a fantastic idea. You know, I think it's, you know, it's cool. The fact that you can just like, you know, not make as much stuff and just like, you know, help the future, you know what I mean? But I also got into it, because, you know, being an influencer, I get all kinds of clothes all the time. And sometimes I run out of room for these clothes, you know what I mean? And if I'm like, if I'm only wearing it for like, maybe like one or two seasons, but they're really good stuff. Like, why would I keep it here? You know what I mean? Why not? Why not, you know, recycle it and, you know, sell it to somebody else or at a reduced price that's going to get it and also for I know for me personally, sometimes when I go into stores, my size is like right there in this like, almost kind of like popular size, you know what I mean? And so I'm not small but I'm not super large. I'm kind of in that middle area. So there's never any clothes out there for me. Okay, I'm always like, I always have a hard time like finding my size. So I like trendy stuff. You know what I mean? Not just like, for stuff that's like, you know, I think that's really Nice, you know, so I think I want to make an effort to provide things that fit me. And that look, look good on people that are around my size and, you know, have that accessible for people.

Lashonya: 
My story is a little bit different. I was kind of late to the thrifting movement but when I finally arrived, I was glad I was here. I got into it when I started learning about I was working as a stylist at the store called The Reset doing high end capsule wardrobes. And I started learning about capsule wardrobes and how to minimize your closet and basically started styling that way. And once I realized by decluttering everyone's closet how much crap we were throwing out. That's what it made my mind switch to. "We need less. We need so much less" and way higher quality and I think that is slow fashion. A lot of that stuff you can't buy at the store anymore. So thrifting is my way to get higher and quality fabrics and fashion that is slow that I love that is timeless. Without you know, like buying 10 different pieces that you know, are like $10 each and it's gonna wash five times and it's trash. So that's kind of how I got into it as an adult.

JeLisa:
Cool, I guess I can share my story. So I actually run my business part time and full time I work with a retailer making private label clothing. And so my shift into sustainable fashion happened just by natural, I don't know, evolution of seeing how garments are made and seeing how consumerism impacts our society and how disconnected people are with you know, you go into a store, and you look at a rack of things, and you pick it up, and you think it's cute and not knowing the story behind that. And so I wanted to bridge that gap, and got into thrifting, because as Mustapha said, like fashion doesn't really ever die. It's just this continual evolution. Like I said, I'm into stuff that was made in the 70s. And you can now buy those same things today in 2021. So yeah, just you know, keeping a closed loop is what's what I think is important. And you can do that through thrifting.

Yeah, huge fan of all of you. I think we're all collectively doing something. Awesome. And I'm glad that you could take the time out of your days to just share a little bit of that with the world and celebrate our beauty and our diversity and here's to staying connected and seeing where this takes us.