So. “Jungle Fever” is the name which the local print-tees-and-lackluster-plaids outfitter Brooklyn Industries has settled on for their 2012 Summer Collection. The new and newly emphasized shorts and cardigans are modeled by a white woman and an African-American man, looking all angsty, presumably because of society’s cruel censure of their taboo desire to miscegenate sweatily and repeatedly.
Does this collection’s “narrative” purport to explain why this particular provocation is actually progressive? The answer, as ever in the world of fashion, is a resounding “Yes!”
As a fashion brand, specifically a Brooklyn based brand, we are inspired by the world around us. Brooklyn continues to be our muse but this summer’s 2012 collection is more specifically guided by the movie Jungle Fever. For the Brooklyn Industries design team, the movie provided a starting point for the collection, a source of contextual visual cues for the designers to work with but that is not where it ended. Upon further examination, our initial artistic inspiration developed into a broad idea of the concrete jungle and what it means to be a part of a multicultural landscape. Our senses were awakened by the captivating aesthetics of the film and were further challenged when we began to talk about the race issues surrounding the movies characters. Despite Brooklyn’s reputation of being an oasis for diversity and acceptance, we began to question just how accepting Brooklyn was.
Like many New York residents, Brooklyn Industries Creative Director Vahap Avsar immigrated to the United States and was quickly taken aback by the racism and prejudice that was saturating the “melting pot.” While he experienced many refreshing moments of racial accord, he also saw neighborhoods still fundamentally segregated, deep-rooted anger and aggression among many of Brooklyn’s inhabitants, and racial inequality and prejudice that were still occurring in a place that prided itself on fostering diversity and acceptance. The topic of racism in the United States remained a thorn in his side throughout the years and for Brooklyn Industries Summer 2012 season, he was both inspired and driven to utilize the brand’s collection as a platform to spark a dialogue about the state of race relations in the United States and more specifically, Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Industries does not claim to be an authority on race relations or social issues in general. Our objective is not to tell the community how and what to think regarding race but as a brand that is deeply invested in the local community, we felt it imperative to continue the conversation on what many deem as a historical issue, one that no longer exists because of the progress that has been made since the days of slavery, internment camps and civil rights. While we do not discount the many accomplishments of those who have worked tirelessly to create equal opportunity, we do want to remind our community that diligence is needed and a desire to strive for progress is essential in creating a productive and truly blossoming community.
Though it was Spike Lee’s movie Jungle Fever that provoked our initial response, it is the ending in the movie School Daze and the opening credits of Do the Right Thing that serves as the strongest and most cohesive statement as to what Brooklyn Industries aims to accomplish. “Wake Up!” This is our rallying cry, our own call to action that implores our community to open its eyes to the issues within the borough. Wake up and breathe in the beauty that is Brooklyn, but don’t let that be the end. Pay attention, be a diligent participant in your community and educate yourself about the social injustices that are still occurring in 2012.
So… they’re concerned about gentrification and racial difference, and the role played therein by fashion, especially on-trend streetwear? That’s pretty admirable, obviously. I am unclear how the print dresses are helping, to say nothing of the jawdropping advertising. Maybe the marketing campaign for a summer collection isn’t the ideal forum for a serious dialogue about race and equality in the 21st-century American urban environment?
Also: the Wesley Snipes character in Jungle Fever is an architect, and dresses in striped button-downs, bowties and suspenders.
Anyway. The last paragraph is my favorite:
The Brooklyn Industries summer 2012 collection is more than just powerful prints and the perfect pant for the season, it is about sparking an internal revolution. A revolution in oneself that forces us to examine the state of the community that inspires us and delve deeper than what is visible at the surface. Despite the strides we’ve made within the community, it is our goal to continuously examine, discover and seek out positive change in the jungle we call Brooklyn.
For fall, the revolution continues as Brooklyn Industries unveils a line of empire-waist dresses and lacy high-collar blouses inspired by Catherine Deneuve’s outfits in the 1974 farce Don’t Touch the White Woman.