Black Futures

AFROPUNK BLKTOPIA: Fashion Forward: Conversations on Sustainability

July 6, 2024

On day one of Afropunk’s first official day of ESSENCE Fest programming, audiences were welcomed to a futurist imagining of Black Utopia, affectionately known as the annual Blktopia experience. Throughout the weekend, the editorial and lifestyle brand facilitates activations imagining the journey of art, activism, and unapologetic self-expression within an idealized galaxy of Black empowerment. For Afropunk in particular, the weekend is an opportunity to amplify exemplars of the Black avant-garde, elevating themes in environmentalism, post-hegemony, and aesthetic Afrofuturism. There is no better place, then, to (re)introduce how African diasporic artists and entrepreneurs facilitate sustainable product development cycles for apparel and fashion goods. 

Afropunk’s July 5 panel, Fashion Forward: Conversations on Sustainability, brought together three Black pioneers of sustainable fashion retailing in a conversation moderated by Whitney McGuire, Associate Director of Sustainability at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York, and Lead Social Impact Strategist at her eponymous firm, The McGuire Consulting Group. McGuire has spent her career reclaiming Black eco-conscious practices through her simultaneous roles in law, art, and fashion. In a prior interview with Harlem’s historic Amsterdam News, McGuire discussed how preserving the narratives around these practices is linked to larger needs of Black artists to protect their intellectual property and collectively fight cultural appropriation. She founded the New York-based environmental education group, Sustainable Brooklyn, with fellow community advocate Dominique Drakeford to combat these convergences as they disproportionately disenfranchise marginalized Black and indigenous artisans. The urgency of these matters is even more urgent with the impending threats of climate change revealing themselves in real time.  

During the panel, McGuire spoke with Miko Underwood, Archel Bernard, and Abrima Erwiah. Underwood is a New York-based model and founder of Harlem-born sustainable apparel retailer, Oak & Acorn. Representing the Southern sustainability contingent is Archel Bernard (she/her/hers), a fashion designer, boutique owner of Bombchel store in Atlanta’s famous Ponce City Market shopping center, and an all-around Liberian-American entrepreneur. Finally, Abrima Erwiah is the Director of the Joseph and Gail Gromek Institute for Fashion Business at The New School, and founder of Studio One Eighty Nine, a sustainable market co-founded with actress Rosario Dawson. Operating as a hybrid fashion retailer and social enterprise, Studio One Eighty Nine promotes and curates African and African-inspired content through distribution, manufacturing, and an artisan-produced collection. The duo focuses their business model on empowerment, creating jobs, and supporting education/skills training across diaspora communities. 



Young Black Illustrators You Should Know


Climate Change Overwhelm And What It Means To Join The Fight

ActivismActivismBlack FuturesBlack FuturesBlack FuturesBreaking CultureCultureListsRaceRevolutionary

Are You Watching Enough Long Form Black YouTube?