"I am not in the business of changing the 'black narrative,' nor do I want to be. I am simply adding to the conversation, chiming in with my two cents."
Style Dimension is OkayAfrica's seven-part series highlighting emerging designers from Africa and its diaspora. Along with giving you a glimpse of each designer's stunning work, this series is an introduction into their creative realm. In the seventh and last edition of the series, meet the mind behind Zaire Studio, Ayana Zaire.
While most people approach design primarily through an aesthetics standpoint, Ayana Zaire believes the core of style lies in researching and exploring the past to get a deeper understanding of the now. Born and raised in the DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia area), one of her biggest goals was to bring a unique creative energy to the city.
As the designer under her label Zaire Studio, she has done this through producing collections that focus on research on post-work societies and communication. Her original inspiration for the brand was wanting an experimental space and creative vessel to research, craft and publish her ideas seasonally. This led to her employer, who owned a shop in D.C. called Redeem, supporting her and allowing her to use the store as a launching pad to get people aware of her designs.
Her debut collection, Our Future, focused on workwear and its relationship with capitalism and the human condition. With Zaire's latest drop, her exploration of workwear continues though the POW-EROTICA collection that was inspired by the essay "Use of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power" by critically acclaimed poet, Audre Lorde. Using reconstructed menswear pieces like oxfords, suiting and outerwear; mixed with feminine staples like bodysuits and dancer uniforms, she seeks to create a harmony using both feminine and masculine styles.
I spoke with Ayana Zaire on her African-American heritage as inspiration and how she wants to shift the fashion landscape through her brand.