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Afropunk: Finding the fashion grooves in the festival crowd

Walter Kemp at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Walter Kemp at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

Afropunk has been marketed as an alternative two-day arts festival, but fashion increasingly has become a focal point for the event, which takes place in four cities, Johannesburg, Atlanta, Paris and New York, where it all began in 2005.

We wandered this summer’s Brooklyn festival in Commodore Barry Park in late August for this photo essay, and it turns out the most common looks we noticed were inspired by the cowgirl/cowboy trend, also seen on artists such as Solange, Lil Nas X and Megan Thee Stallion.

There were so many country-style hats in the crowd of 60,000 that we quickly lost count. If attendees weren’t “Yeehaw!” ready, they were sweet and celestial, drapped in flowy layers of tulle.

Also, the HBO show “Euphoria,” starring Zendaya, also appeared to inspire people to amp up their makeup looks with studs, gems and stickers you might find at a Michaels craft store. And of course, there were those signature Afropunk looks that appear year after year using flowers and traditional African prints.

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We stopped festival attendees to pose for photos and tell us about their fashion inspiration. Here’s a look at some of our favorite outfits from this year’s festival in Brooklyn.

Just for fun

Friends Ivore Rousell, from left, Troy Landry and Walter Kemp pose for photo on Aug. 24, 2019, at Afropunk at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, New York.
Friends Ivore Rousell, from left, Troy Landry and Walter Kemp, at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“I wanted to be more regal and romantic. I just wanted to have fun. This is the only weekend we can have fun [with our outfits].”

— Troy Landry of Louisiana

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A moving canvas

Brittany Johnson at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Brittany Johnson at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

"[Laolu Senbanjo’s] paintings are based on your story. He painted the gods Sango and Osun on me. He painted this skirt too, so the skirt just kind of continues [the art piece].”

— Brittany Johnson of New York, wearing body art by Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo

In bloom

Antoinette Henry at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Antoinette Henry at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

"[I wore this because] I’m in a growth phase of my life, [so] I tried to incorporate growth with flowers and plants from the ground up.”

— Antoinette Henry of New York

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The color of joy

Lawrence Wyman at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Lawrence Wyman at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“Orange represents the color of joy and unity, and I feel like Afropunk creates a black space for black people to be themselves. I feel like orange embodies that.”

— Lawrence Wyman of Washington, D.C.

Reclaiming the do-rag

From left, Errol Haase and Karl Sully at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Errol Haase, left, and Karl Sully at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“You’ve got the bright [colors], beauty and flowers. [This outfit says] you can’t hold us back. Our beauty shines through.”

— Errol Haase of New York (left)

“My boyfriend [Errol] made this for me. We hunted this fabric down and wanted the whole Rihanna look. There’s a stigma about black men who wear do-rags, but I’m an Ivy League student. I really wanted to make it a statement and say that it’s a part of our culture.”

— Karl Sully of New York

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A new classic

Shae Roberts at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Shae Roberts at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“It’s a mixture of, like, past classic beauty but kind of modern day. I feel like [this outfit] says that I’m just not afraid to step out of the box and be myself.”

— Shae Roberts of New York

Daytime glow

Jennifer Navarrete at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Jennifer Navarrete at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“When I think of Afropunk, I think of Afros and color, so I decided to put these together. The Afro completed the look.”

— Jennifer Navarrete of Ghana

Dreams from Atlanta

Dreamville Records rapper J.I.D at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Dreamville Records rapper J.I.D at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Dreamville Records rapper J.I.D, who’s from Atlanta. "[My outfit] is inspired by this little black girl on my shirt. It’s a girl version of Buckwheat [from ‘The Little Rascals’] that’s why she’s saying, ‘Otay.’ I found this at a thrift store in L.A.”

From left, EarthGang duo WowGr8 and Olu, also Dreamville artists, at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
From left, EarthGang duo WowGr8 and Olu, also Dreamville artists, at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

Asked if their outfits represented their day-to-day style in Atlanta, WowGr8, left, said before EarthGang’s Afropunk performance: “We don’t have an everyday style. Every day is a different style.”

“Actually, this is our job-interview style,” Olu said jokingly. “Afropunk to me is a place where people of color can get together and be themselves and explore their individuality.”

1990s grunge

Rapper Kari Faux at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Rapper Kari Faux at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

Afropunk performer Kari Faux, who was dressed by her stylist Karissa Mitchell, said she was inspired by the 1990s punk era and grunge.

Style tactics

Denis Haze at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Denis Haze at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

"[This outfit says that] I’m a strong black man and I stick to my culture, and I wear it on my sleeve all the time.”
— Denis Haze of New York

The new millennium

Alia Ssemakula at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Alia Ssemakula at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“This [look] is my personality for sure. I love the early 2000s style. I’m [also] very inspired by Rihanna. My friend owns a store called Three Pigs Collective, which is what I’m wearing [today].”

— Alia Ssemakula of New York

Brenton Williams at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Brenton Williams at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“My outfit [represents] body positivity, confidence and feeling good. This is a big moment for me because I will be DJing on the main stage.”

— Brenton Williams of New York

Tribal chic

Lamar Beane at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Lamar Beane at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

Asked what his look says about him, Lamar Beane of New York said, “Self-expression and freedom. This is all handmade by me.”

Earth, Wind & Fire inspiration

From left to right, friends Leshawn Bridgewater, Shy Base and Solange McKenzie at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Friends Leshawn Bridgewater, from left, Shy Base and Solange McKenzie at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“I’m a god/goddess [representing] both femininity and masculinity. ... [Together] we’re Earth, Wind & Fire.”

— Leshawn Bridgewater (left)

Wanderlust

Ladene Clark at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Ladene Clark at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“My look was inspired by Morocco. I just visited there about a month ago. The people, the warmth, humility, the beauty, the food and the fashion [all inspired me].”

— Ladene Clark

Festival friends

Jabari Dozier and Jewel Killikelly at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Jabari Dozier and Jewel Killikelly at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“At Afropunk, you have to stand out. I’m royal so that’s why I got the crown.”

— Jabari Dozier (left)

“I’ve always been Afrocentric. I’ve always been proud of my blackness, especially being a dark-skinned girl. I love culture, no matter where somebody is from; I like to have knowledge of different things because this separation thing doesn’t work.”

— Jewel Killikelly

Making it their own

From left to right, Rahma Ali, Koran Ali, Kawser Mohamed and Laila Farah at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Rahma Ali, from left, Koran Ali, Kawser Mohamed and Laila Farah at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

Asked if they coordinated their outfits, Laila Farah, of Amsterdam, right, said, “The only similarities are the head scarves, but I feel like we have very different styles. We always try to make our own choices and make it our own style.”

Embracing duality

Kelsey Ford at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Kelsey Ford at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“I wanted to do something monochrome and I wanted to a mix of light and feminine, and some tougher pieces like this chain. It highlights some of my duality.”

— Kelsey Ford of New Orleans

Sunny disposition

JaQuam Mitchell at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
JaQuam Mitchell at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“Last year was the year of water. This is the year of the sun.”

— JaQuam Mitchell of Louisiana

Wonderfully weird

From left to right, Kayla Farrell and Lashell Gibbs at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Kayla Farrell and Lashell Gibbs at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“This is my first Afropunk, and I love it. Everybody looks awesome. I’ve been wanting to come for a long time, but this was the year because I don’t know if I can make it after [my baby is born]. I’m seven-months pregnant.”

— Kayla Farrell of Connecticut (left)

“I own a clothing brand called How Bazaar and I come to [Afropunk to] wear my weirdest, craziest [stuff] I create.”

— Lashell Gibbs of Connecticut

Ethereal energy

From left to right, Jewell Jones and Kiara Simmons, at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Jewell Jones and Kiara Simmons, at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“To be honest, this is looking like fairy-godmother vibes. We always coordinate for Afropunk. She made her outfit, and I went to get this knowing that it would [match] what she had on.”

— Jewell Jones of New York (left)

“I just made the clothes. I drew it out and I knew I wanted to work with different materials, and I found this fishnet fabric.”

— Kiara Simmons of New York

Afrofuturism

Yaaserwaah Akuoku at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Yaaserwaah Akuoku at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

As a follow-up to her look last year, Yaaserwaah Akuoku of New York said she was inspired by Afrofuturism.

Noah Domond and Sharahya Carter at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Noah Domond and Sharahya Carter at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

Noah Domond, left, and Sharahaya Carter said they opted for comfort with an edge when constructing their Afropunk look.

Homegrown style

Sahara Habibi and Sasha Marie at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Sahara Habibi and Sasha Marie at Afropunk in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(Alejandra Contreras)

“This is my first time playing Afropunk,” said Sahar Habibi, left. “I wanted to be comfortable. My friend [Phero] from Chicago made me these pants, so I really wanted to show support.”

“This is my second time playing,” Sasha Marie said. “Dickies remind me of growing up. They’re old-school and I’m Mexican, and my dad wore these.”


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