“The excitement of the films came from their bold and dynamic characters, funky soundtracks and their departure from traditional Hollywood portrayals of African Americans.”
Blaxploitation is a landmark film genre. Not just in terms of the representations it gave us, but its impact on music, language and clothing is indelible.
As we get ready for what will be a jam-packed day of celebration of the genre, we will be adding events which takes in the fashion of the movies. To help us is artist and designer, Ebony Milestone.
On the evening of the event Ebony Milestone will host a trendy and culturally rich pop-up boutique that will celebrate the iconic style and attitude of the blaxploitation era.
This unique store will be an homage to the bold and influential fashion trends that emerged alongside the genre’s iconic films in the 1970s. Displaying & selling pre-loved items, African inspired prints, statement jewellery & an array of items that represent a sense of empowerment and cultural pride.
So, how did Ebony get started in the industry? The beginnings of Ebony Milestone the brand, began with Beverley Brown an entrepreneur with a deep love for Africa’s rich tapestry of traditions and styles. Inspired by her travels across the continent and a desire to bridge cultures, she embarked on a path to create Ebony Milestone the brand in 2018.
Originating in Leeds, the brand was created to offer unique African inspired fashion pieces that embrace traditional cultural style. The garments are all ethically sourced in West Africa. The products are produced and made in a collaborative and sustainable approach which is where the Ebony Milestone Brand excels.
Ebony took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about what we can expect for our upcoming event on Saturday 7th October and her own thoughts about the influential film genre.
What ignited your taste for fashion?
This stems from my childhood. In the 1960’s and 70’s my mother was a seamstress and I witnessed her forging her career in the realms of fashion and design. My infatuation with fashion stemmed as an inquisitive four year old child. In my early years my desire was to embark on a route in fashion merchandising display and to open a fashion boutique. I changed my career route after starting my family, and followed a different, none-related career path.
What career route did you take?
I forged a career in the built environment, the construction sector for the bulk of my professional working years. More recently in 2016 I initiated a burning ambition to revisit my aspiration to own a fashion boutique and to design signature fashion pieces. This came to a reality in 2018, whilst visiting the USA, then Ghana in 2019 and I started the Ebony Milestone fashion brand.
What excites you about the Blaxploitation genre?
The core themes that focus on empowerment and social justice. I also went to performing arts school for drama and dance. The excitement of the films came from their bold and dynamic characters, funky soundtracks and their departure from traditional Hollywood portrayals of African Americans. It challenged stereotypes, whilst addressing social issues, ultimately becoming a key aspect of black film history.
What impact do you think that the genre had on fashion and music?
Fashion; the genre allowed for distinctive clothing styles. Characterized by bold, flamboyant and extravagant clothing it embraced elements of African-inspired dashiki prints. Key was the hairstyles – large, natural afro hairstyles popular for both men and women. A true sense of identity and expression for black people.
Music; the genre was renowned for the iconic soundtracks. Funk, soul, R&B – key musicians are James Brown, Isaac Hayes, Roy Ayers etc. I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s hearing these artists’ music playing on a regular basis, plus I spent a considerable amount of my childhood and teenage years in Canada and America, and experienced it from a British & American perspective. Blaxploitation music was prominent in the genre’s identity. The legacy continues to inspire in the current black music industry.
How well do you think that the fashion suited the women of the Blaxploitation film genre?
The female characters were depicted as strong, powerful and self-reliant. Therefore it was imperative for their sense of style to reflect that. Bold, unique attire that was colourful, vibrant patterns and exaggerated. Complimented by the Afro hairstyles a symbol of pride and empowerment and statement accessories added glamour and confidence.
How would you describe the legacy of the Blaxploitation genre on fashion today?
It redefined and celebrated black fashion, created a departure from the more conservative style. It still exists in current black fashion trends, self-expression and embracing cultural identity, especially through the creativity of emerging black fashion designers and themes such as African inspired fashion.
On Saturday 7th October, we invite you to come along dressed in your Blaxploitation-inspired threads too! There’s a competition to be had for the best-dressed!
Don’t miss out, get your tickets now!