A fashion show this past weekend at the University of New Hampshire, part of the Black New England Conference, took an Afrofuturistic approach. Afrofuturism is an aesthetic and philosophy that combines elements of science fiction and African mythology to explore the future of Black identity. Terry Robinson is the creative director and co-organizer of the fashion show. He spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello on All Things Considered before the event.
(This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)
What does Afrofuturism mean to you in the context of this fashion show?
So Afrofuturism, there's a whole bunch of technical and probably academic terms, but for me personally Afrofuturism represents a hope for my culture and my heritage to kind of continue and live on, specially in the context that a lot of our culture, a lot of African-American and African culture and heritage has been suppressed. So this is kind of my inspiration and my idea, my concept of living beyond us.
This is a fashion show but let's focus on the word show because attendees will be seeing something like a story. What kind of story are you trying to tell?
So the name of the show is "3018," and in particular I created this storyline of a thousand years from now aliens come back and touch down because they can trace their lineage back to the plains of Africa. And the three guiding questions are: Why are they here? Are they here for peace? Are they here to conquer? So it is good to focus on the word show because this isn't just a fashion runway. To me it's a production. It's a moment in time that I'm giving you a glimpse of.
What are some of the visual aspects that people might expect to see in the show?
So me and my artistic director Kettia Fenestor, we created a lot of the accessories for the show and I also worked with another makeup artist. We created a lot of the makeup having to deal with gold flakes and silver accents, very ornate, very kingly, princely, royal in terms of everything that you'll see. So you'll see very big pieces on the head. You'll see crowns. You're going to see halos. You're going to see these masquerade masks. One thing that I'm really proud of, one of my designers is from Uganda and her name is Walu and I asked her before she came over here this week if you can find me four tribal masks from Africa, authentic tribal masks. We took that and we made them super futuristic. So that's the beginning of the show, you're going to see the heritage combined with the futuristic elements.
Why is it important to have a fashion show like this in a place like New Hampshire?
Where I used to work and where I came from, I came from New York Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week. I worked for a man named Virgil Abloh. He's now the artistic director for Louis Vuitton and he is the first Black artistic director to be at Louis Vuitton. That was super important for a lot of people in the culture because it shows a Black man can now be one of the heads of a major house. So for me to bring a show like this, I'm bringing a New York Fashion Week show to New Hampshire. So I'm taking the culture of the fashion world and I'm combining it with the culture of African-American heritage and then combining that with the culture of New Hampshire.
“3018 Back to the Future” at the Black New England Conference took place this past weekend.