Celebrating Juneteenth Through Fashion

Aimon founder of fashion talks introducing fashion show

Did you know that you can celebrate Juneteenth with fashion?

Fashion may not be a traditional avenue to consider, when celebrating a day as significant as Juneteenth. But Juneteenth is about celebrating life and freedom; What is a better expression of these two powerful themes than an art form?

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill officially transforming Juneteenth into a national holiday (although it has been celebrated by members of the Black community long before this “official” date).

“The U.S. government is catching up with Black people who have been commemorating the end of slavery in the United States for generations. . . ”

This year, on June 19, 2022, I had the privilege to properly celebrate Juneteenth – through fashion.

A good friend of mine is on the core team for Fashion Talks, a young and impressive enterprise founded by Canadian native, Aimon whose goal is to bring elevated and diverse events to her home in Cleveland, Ohio. Aimon is a fashion entrepreneur as well as an experienced Fashion Runway Show Producer, Stylist, and Creative Director and her mission behind The Fashion Talks is to build up small businesses, new designers, and a wide range of diverse artists.

What is unique to Fashion Talks, is that Aimon and her team strive to bring high fashion events through the collaboration of small businesses, up – and – coming creative mind and long established creatives, as well as diverse voices – redefining who, and should be, the demographic behind fashion. 

For their second Fashion Show here in Cleveland, Aimon and her team created a unique interpretation of Juneteenth, celebrating the legacy, and freedom of this critical day in United States History. Featuring 16 different designers including many BIPOC designers, refugee designers (some who arrived less than a year ago), and Kent State Students -it was not only a gala, and a celebration – but it was a bold statement to the world, led by voices that have been silenced for too long. 

What is Juneteenth?

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

Although the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery, had already been in effect for over 2 years, those in Galveston, Texas had still not received the news, which meant that several thousand individuals were continued to be forced into slavery because “no one got the memo.” Even when word spread, that “memo” was frequently ignored, with individuals who were legally free being forced to continue as slaves until local authorities put a stop to it.

Although some of this may be attributed to how news travelled at the time, it is directly correlated to how we continue to spread and place importance on news and social action in our world today and the attitude of “if it doesn’t benefit me, it’s not my problem.”

If you remember the surge of BLM protests during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a rallying cry of action against the continued injustices, abuses, and inequities towards Black Americans and other People of Color. But although the hype of the peak has died down, the issues have not been eradicated and unsurprisingly the news coverage, and prevalence in the lives of those who are not directly impacted (or who don’t realize they are directly impacted) seems to have gone almost silent. 

One moment of action or change, no matter how good it may be, needs to be maintained and promoted well after the initial declaration – words or laws do not self-maintain themselves. 

” ‘The way it was explained to me,’ ” one heir to the tradition is quoted in Hayes Turner’s essay, ” ‘the 19th of June wasn’t the exact day the Negro was freed. But that’s the day they told them that they was free …

What is Juneteenth?

My Evening at The Fashion Talks Show

The Fashion Talks Show was held at the Cleveland Museum of Art. In addition to the main event that showcased 16 different designers, there were also opportunities to shop from local small, black owned businesses, talk with the designers and models, and socialize with over 500 guests. (I even had my first experience of meeting a local influencer, @hannah_unlost, which if you know me, I love hyping up anyone who is doing really cool things, regardless of how many followers you may have.)

With so many designers, I am certain that each person in the crowd had their standout favorites. Two of my personal favorites were local refugee designers, Joseph Vuda and Duha Odeh. As someone who works full-time with the immigrant and refugee communities, they already had a special place in my heart, but I was genuinely blown away by their designs. The level of craftsmanship, unique design, and connection to their own cultures was on par with “big time” designers. (Although I do share photos below, I lament that I was not in a great seating position to really capture their full beauty. I encourage you to visit The Fashion Talks to see the complete collections in all of their glory.)

What Next?

If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my earlier posts featuring BIPOC individuals and their stories:

Pride Month is More than It Seems

Supporting Small Businesses: Unik Dazzels

Shoutout to Black Women Farmers

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