April Walker | The Coco Chanel of Streetwear

April Walker–The Coco Chanel of Streetwear | In episode 66 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits sits down with designer and streetwear pioneer April Walker.

April Walker tells us about how she was there with Biggie Smalls, making the scene when Brooklyn was a scary place. And how after her super successful Walker Wear line launched, she became the rap world’s go-to stylist. She walked away from it all to pursue other ventures after her store was robbed at gunpoint. But years later, she’s back and still on her game. Walker has emerged as an elder stateswoman to a new generation as designer, mentor, life coach, consultant and all around inspiration.

Read Transcript

Q&A

David: [00:00:00] 

Artist and hip hop historian, Fab Five Fred Brathwaite has described April Walker as the Coco Chanel of streetwear. She deserves this accolade because she is without a doubt a founding member of the streetwear industry that blew up in the ’90s, and has continued to exert its influence on the global stage. Walker’s super power was, and probably still is, recognizing something new was happening in the culture and there was no representation of that in fashion. Hip hop was finding its place, its creators jumping from the streets into homes via Yo! MTV Raps. What they wore in the videos had to represent their sensibility and style in a way that would resonate with an audience that now included millions who wanted to be down with the scene. And if they saw one of their heroes wearing April Walker, just like they do today on social media, they wanted it too. So when her seminal Walker Wear designs were worn by the likes of Tupac, Biggie, and Snoop Dogg, her business took off and her name was enshrined as a pioneer. What happened next is what we’re gonna talk about today. This matters because the originators don’t always get the credit they deserve, and even less so if they’re BIPOC women. The rewards of launching an industry that generates billions and billions of dollars around the world are often left for others to reap, while the OGs get left behind. April Walker knows the story well, and she’s doing what she can to mentor, coach, teach, and lead the way into a fairer world, where everyone is treated equally, has the same opportunity to succeed, and get the recognition they deserve. So welcome, April Walker.

 

April: [00:01:55] 

Thank you for having me today. That was an awesome introduction. And I hope I can live up to it.

 

David: [00:02:08] 

On your Instagram, you call yourself the Sacagawea of urban fashion.

 

April: [00:02:16] 

Mhm.

 

David: [00:02:16] 

Why is that? She was the young girl who went with Lewis and Clark on their expedition, right?

 

April: [00:02:23] 

Right. She was an indigenous, young woman who led the way with the Lewis and Clark expedition, but you rarely know Sacagawea’s name. And in that way, me being the first female in a male-dominated industry of streetwear and trailblazing in the path, you know, many don’t know who I am today. So that comparison is an analogy to the fashion industry, and to life.

 

David: [00:03:00] 

We’re in a moment now in history where people are realizing that, more than ever. And there’s progress. The first step is recognizing you have a problem, right?

 

April: [00:03:14] 

Right.

 

David: [00:03:14] 

So we’ve got passed that. But what’s next? What do we do now? How do we move from that first step?

 

April: [00:03:21] 

I think communication is increasing awareness. You’re using your platform in such a way. I think a conversation, as many conversations as we can have, to increase communication and understand each other. Once we come to a point of understanding, we can begin to do the healing. But that’s gonna take work. And it’s gonna take willing participants to change. From the corporate environment, all the way down to the consumer environment. Just being more mindful and sensitive, and making changes that implement like you said, equality. Equity for everyone.

 

David: [00:04:07] 

Before we were here, we were there, in the past. A long time ago, I guess, it seems now. And there seems to be a huge appetite to know more about that time. They’ve heard of these people but they don’t really know, or can’t really imagine what it was like. For one thing, New York has changed so much. I’m sure the Brooklyn neighborhood where you grew up is very different from what it was. Tell us about it then and now if you’re still there. I don’t know where you live today.

 

April: [00:04:44] 

I am actually. It’s been full circle. We traveled a lot. But I’ve always stayed in Brooklyn. And Brooklyn in the ’80s is much different than Brooklyn 2020. When I came up in Brooklyn, it was literally during the crack era. That’s when I started Fashion In Effect, which was my first shop. And it was like a war zone. It was not safe on the streets here in Brooklyn. You had to watch over your back. You had to see your surroundings. You had to always be on point. For me, from an artistic point of view, I think it was much more organic, because people were in such a state of self-expression  because they had so much to say. So they were using art and graffiti, and music, this is how the culture was still shaping itself through… Being the CNN of the streets, in terms of all art forms, down to films. And we didn’t know what we were doing, but I think that it was literally taking everything that was inside and dumping it somewhere. And that somewhere for us became hip hop. And you could see it manifest itself on the streets. If you went to the playground and the parks, DJs would bring out their turntables, and you would be dancing in the park or in the gym, or strobe lights, or, you know, graffiti on the streets. That was very underground at that time. It wasn’t a commissioned mural like you see now. You would actually go to jail for doing art in the streets. Whereas now, it’s by popular demand. So a lot of things have changed. The streets have become very gentrified in my neighborhood. It’s very clean, it’s very polished. That grittiness of New York though, that’s gone. It has some great benefits as well with the amenities and, you know, organic food. And, a safer environment. But I also miss the artform and the beauty that came out of that period in tough times. If that makes any sense.

 

David: [00:07:13] 

That makes a lot of sense. You came from a creative family in the sense that your father, I believe, was in the music business.

 

April: [00:07:22] 

Yes.

 

David: [00:07:22] 

What kind of music, first of all, was he into, and how did he react to your interests then?

 

April: [00:07:31] 

My father is just so musical. He went from managing jazz artists. So he worked with McCoy Tyner, and Gary Bartz, and a lot of the legends in jazz at the time. You know, I grew up with Jackie McLean and Max Roach. And then when I became a teenager, he started getting into R&B, and he started managing a group called D Train. And D Train, you know, was really big. And that’s when I started going with him to the club scene. And that’s when I think I started really getting a visual perspective for fashion more, because the club scene in the ’80s was like no other. From Studio 54 to the Fever, to the Fun House, to the Latin Quarter, to Bond’s International on Broadway. Internationals and Zanzibar. They would play at all of these places. So I would get a sense of everything from, the Garage, which was house music, to Roxy’s which was very hip hop. So I really had a lens, a diverse lens of what that looked like. And then he started managing Jaz and Jay-Z and working with them in the beginning stages. 

 

And that’s how I got my introduction, started styling. He was onboard with it because he was always creative. So as a creative, he just was like, “Find your way.” Just make a way, you know? Don’t do what you think other people want you to do, but do what you really believe in. So I think he was the only one at that moment in time, that I can remember, that encouraged me. Because everyone else thought I was crazy. You have to remember it was the ’80s, and I just graduated from school and I was still in college. And, the right thing at that time, it seemed, was to get a great, secure a career. And, for me, I’d pass, I think, the corrections test, and the fire departments test. And here I am getting my first job. So people thought I was crazy.

 

David: [00:10:14] 

So when did you decide that it would be fashion? Were you already styling? Were you working the bands of-

 

April: [00:10:24] 

No.

 

David: [00:10:24] 

…that your dad was with? No?

 

April: [00:10:26] 

No. I started because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t want to work for someone else. And one day, I went to amateur night at the Apollo. And after, I went to visit Dapper Dan with my friends. One of them was getting something made. And when we went there, I just was like, a lightbulb went off. You know? There was nothing like that at the time that I’d ever seen. And I just was like, “This is what I want to do.” But represent Brooklyn, because Brooklyn was very different than Harlem. So I came home, and I just started figuring it out, you know. We got some machines. Your tribe will find you. So we were all in love with hip hop. My sisters, I had some college students that were graduating. Literally, my home became like a home studio. A little couture studio. And we just made a homemade cutting board, we made a cutting table, and we had a few Singer machines, and we just started figuring it out. We knew what the fashion industry was, so we started going and just experimenting with fabrics and making things. And once I saw like we had some traction here, and we were like, “Yeah. We really can do this. We got our first shop, which was about maybe six months later. And it was about, literally, five blocks from home. And it was in Clinton Hill on Greene Avenue. 212 Greene Avenue. And it was called Fashion In Effect. And I was a junior in college at that time.

 

David: [00:12:11] 

And what was like the Dapper Dan scene like, uptown? You went to the Apollo you said? What did you see? Do you remember what you saw there?

 

April: [00:12:18] 

I don’t. That was the ’80s. [laughter] But I remember there was a crew of us that night, and I remember I had on this long leather coat with fur around the collar, and some bangs. That’s what you were wearing. Like you look at pictures. And I had white stockings, you’d laugh now. But some plaid pants.

 

David: [00:12:44] 

I wouldn’t laugh now because that’s, well, it sounds very contemporary to me.

 

April: [00:12:48] 

That’s when one of my friends was getting something custom made. And we went over there, and it was like a Willy Wonka, for me. But it was fashion, you know? It was fashionable when I realized, “I love this.” Because I never owned it. I used to get best dressed in high school and stuff like that, but I never thought that’s what I would do. But I was always a hustler. From the time I was thirteen, I was teaching gymnastics, selling pots and pans, buying wholesale from the fashion district and going and selling silk suits and linen suits, and Payday to the women. So I always kept a side hustle going. So by this time, I was like, “I’m all in.” And that’s how I pretty much started. I knew that I loved hip hop. I loved the music. This is around Public Enemy time, right? So Don’t Believe The Hype. All of that music was really mainstream. A matter of fact, our first shop in Fashion In Effect, we put a big mural on the wall with the dog that had gold teeth that said, “FIE.” Standing for Fashion in Effect. But then around his neck he had a big clock, like Flava Flav that said, Don’t Believe The Hype. And when you came in, you would just tag your name on the wall. So our wall was filled with tags. And it was cool.

 

David: [00:14:20] 

I bet. I bet you wish you had that wall today. It would be worth something.

 

April: [00:14:23] 

Absolutely.

 

David: [00:14:25] 

So was Biggie in your neighborhood? Who were the stars of your neighborhood in those days?

 

April: [00:14:33] 

Yeah. Biggie was the star. He wasn’t at the time when he first started- when we first started rocking. But, you know, I met him- I knew of him, from the neighborhood. He was always on Fulton Street and Washington, and that side of it, he would hang on the corner, which was near this train station, the C Train. And it was the back end, for me. We’d have to come out that entrance at night, because the other side was locked. And that side was a little rougher. So you knew you had to come out with a screwed face, so to speak. And put your mean Brooklyn face on, and just walk fast and hope for the best. You know, this is the ’80s. So I would see him all the time out there. But one day, when I opened the shop, I had an Eric B and Rakim airbrushed shirt in the storefront, in the window. And he came in. He asked about it. And we struck a conversation. And that’s when I found out about his love for fashion, and that he was, you know, an aspiring artist at that time. And he just started representing, like buying stuff from Fashion In Effect. And we continued to build. And then when he got his deal with Bad Boys, he stayed really loyal. And that’s how I met Puffy and started working with Puffy, et cetera.

 

David: [00:15:59] 

What was he doing on the corner there? Was he dealing drugs, or just that was the spot?

 

April: [00:16:04] 

I was just a spot where they all hung out. You know, back in the day, you used to hang out in the streets. There were no phones. So, you know, you’d actually go outside and hang out. You know, there was more to do outside than there was…

 

David: [00:16:18] 

You’d hang out by the phone booth. [laughs]

 

April: [00:16:20] 

Yeah. You know it. So, yeah, he was hanging out. So it was just neighborhood kids. And, you know, I used to see all of them.

 

David: [00:16:29] 

And then he became one of your customers, and that kind of opened the door into the industry of the rappers themselves? Because that was a whole moment, you know, that I alluded to earlier. Where, of course, nobody knew what was gonna happen. That this was gonna blow up into the biggest thing of the decades or of the century, perhaps. And, it was definitely gonna take over the world in its visual, as well as musical, and all other aspects of the culture. So, when did you feel like there was something bigger here than just the neighborhood guy who wants to buy something? That this would become a bigger thing.

 

April: [00:17:19] 

Well, I think it was gradual. There were confirmations along the way. There were a few people that actually played a big part in the beginning stages. Biggie was one, but Brooklyn really was like a magnet by word of mouth. So I would say, Jaz and Jay-Z were also instrumental in telling people. I started styling them and working with them, and then they just started buying stuff and telling people, other artists. And then there was Audio Two who I give lots of credit to because they were the first group that came into my store at Fashion In Effect and said, “Can you do our cover for an album?” And that album was I Don’t Care. And- I actually styled the outfits and made the outfits on that cover with Shirt Kings, and that became iconic. And from that experience, they came back and said, “Can you style my video?” And I’d never done a video. But from that, they opened my eyes to the world of styling. And I started a styling division. We actually styled countless videos, and photoshoots, and album covers, and movies. And, you know, I would’ve never had that experience probably – so early on, at least – had I not been given the chance and the opportunity with Audio Two. And then there was Shinehead and Shaggy, which, you know in that moment, it was such a melting pot with rocker’s music, and reggae, and hip hop, and there was a convergence going on. And they told two friends, and I ended up styling Fishbone and all these other people that probably wouldn’t have come out of that moment- A matter of fact, the group, Living Colour, 

 

April: [00:19:15] 

Corey from Living Colour, he lived around the corner from the stores in the Ping Pong Building. So it was a very artistic neighborhood at that time. I remember Guru was my neighbor. He lived literally across the hall from me then. He had just moved here from Boston, and he was trying to get a deal, later on they moved two blocks down into Branford Marsalis’ own brownstone.

 

David: [00:19:41] 

Wow.

 

April: [00:19:42] 

And, you know, Wesley Snipes lived on that block. And Rosie Perez lived on the next block from me. So we were all figuring it out at that time in this neighborhood.

 

David: [00:19:54] 

Wow. That’s amazing. I had no idea that so many people who have gone on to become legends lived in that radius of that block.

 

April: [00:20:05] 

Right. In that neighborhood in Clinton Hill.

 

David: [00:20:08] 

Yeah. Fantastic. When the Yo! MTV hit and then everybody had to do the videos, like you were saying. Everyone needed clothes. And everyone had their big logos, right? So it was kind of obvious who had made what. And everybody wanted it. So I’m curious, also, like two things. One is just were you building a business at this time? In the sense of how you would today? So let’s say if you know what you know today, and you were back then, would you have had an office? Or maybe you did? Did you have assistant stylists and like the whole operation going? Or was it still, a one girl band?

 

April: [00:20:59] 

No. It was actually much bigger when I first started, because it was taking on a life of its own. Whereas, now, I’ve scaled down to scale up. And you don’t need as many people or as many things, cause you can have automatic apps and help, you know, QuickBooks and all these other things to help us, right? To be seamless. You still need to group up and have a team. But at that time, we needed a bigger team because we had our eyes on big, big dreams. And it was just shaping itself. We didn’t know what it was becoming. So when I had the tailor shop, Fashion In Effect it was seamstresses and people sewed, then we had pattern makers, and then we had a foreman to run to the shop, and then we had sales. And then air brushers.

 

April: [00:21:58] 

We did a lot of air brushing, and we had acrylic painters. So it really was a magnet for hip hop, and we grew organically. And the word of mouth spread so much that people would ask for the same things that they were seeing in videos. And Ralph McDaniels was the master at that time. But there was no Yo! MTV Raps. So you would have to watch Video Music Box.

 

David: [00:22:21] 

Right.

 

April: [00:22:23] 

And from that, I met Ralph McDaniels, and I started styling. We started working with Ralph on it, and that’s how I met Hype Williams. He was, at that time, interning and assisting, and that’s how he got his start. So from there, we went and we kept hearing the same things, “I want deeper pockets. I want bigger pockets. More room. I can’t fit my hands in my pockets. I want my jeans to fit in or out of my Timberland.” There were certain things we kept hearing over and over. So we started adjusting our patterns and specs to- to serve our tribe. And from that, that’s how we made our first suit. That was called the Rough and Rugged suit. And we were inspired by our actual customers that kept telling us the same things. To make this denim suit that we created. And that’s where we stepped out on a ledge with Walker Wear, and that’s how Walker Wear was birthed. It was in this transition of, um, coming out of Fashion In Effect and back to my home studio. Cause we got robbed really bad. Christmas Eve, a few years after I had the shop. And it was really traumatic for me. And that’s how I switched to, appointment only, and I had to know who it was and stuff.

 

David: [00:23:55] 

Oh shit. You mean, and you were in the store and people came in?

 

April: [00:23:58] 

I was the only one in the store. I came in really early. It was Christmas Eve, we had a lot of orders. I was in with one tailor, and he was from Harlem. And, you know, it was scary. They pulled out shotguns…

 

David: [00:24:15] 

Oh shit.

 

April: [00:24:16] 

And they cleaned out the store. They put me down the floor. They said, “Sit down.” You know, it was just like, I’m done. I’m not doing this anymore. You know, Brooklyn was rough.

 

David: [00:24:26] 

Mm. Yeah. For real. So what happened to Walker Wear? Cause I know you relaunched.

 

April: [00:24:31] 

Right.

 

David: [00:24:33] 

Was it 2013?

 

April: [00:24:35] 

Yeah. Around 2013, we relaunched and honestly, the first five- five years served as a testing ground for me. Because it was completely opposite of when I came up. We didn’t have any technology, we didn’t have the Internet. Our ‘viral’ was word of mouth and product. And so we sold to department stores and chain stores. We sold in Japan and in Europe, and overseas. And this time, I was completely like, “I wanna connect with people. And I want to be engaged with technology. I want to be creative.” I miss that. Because I was still an entrepreneur, but doing other things. And I realized from the consulting company that I had, how much I missed it. So I said I didn’t have the gumption to start something all over, but I knew I had a lot of equity value in Walker Wear. And I knew it would be great storytelling, in a way, to connect with other creatives and especially to engage and bridge the gap, so to speak, with our culture, in terms of storytelling, in a very cool way that wasn’t preachy. I think our stories and our history is so important, and it needs to be amplified through our own voices. So this was a way I could do it and still learn technology, still learn about what was going on, and really get in it to win it. And almost have reverse mentorship. That was the premise behind Walker Wear, and knowing that I would be able to use that as a spiderweb and continue other opportunities.

 

David: [00:26:28] 

Yeah. Yeah, but just what happened in between though? When did you decide to- to stop with-?

 

April: [00:26:34] 

Right. I stopped it around 2000. First, I went  and I worked for a year as the Vice President over at Phat Farm and I worked with Russel there. And then from there, I went to And-1 and I kickstarted the woman’s division for And-1. And then after that, I started my own pet shop called The Walker Pet Shop, and I got into real estate and some other things. 

 

David: [00:27:03] 

My, you are a hustler. [laughs]

 

April: [00:27:05] 

[laughs] Yeah. And then in 2006, I started A. Walker Group. And I started ghost writing and doing a lot of design and marketing for a lot of the fashion clients that I had. And it was everybody from Ron Artest and some other companies. And then we did electronics. We did iHip and worked with some MLB and some packaged consumer goods stuff. We did some stuff for Classic Media, Dreamworks, licensed products with fashion, like Magoo and all that stuff. We did some cool stuff. But for me, working with these clients, even Makaveli, shout out to, you know, Willie Esco and Tupac’s family, we worked together for a while. All of these clients were great, but it really ignited my appetite again to be creative in my own way.

 

David: [00:28:06] 

But were there any other reasons for stopping? 

 

April: [00:28:09] 

I got burnt out. I hated the energy.

 

David: [00:28:11] 

Oh.

 

April: [00:28:11] 

I left because I was like, “I’m done.” You know? It became a shit show, to me. To be honest. And it just became oversaturated, it became less about creativity, I know we all have to make money, but when you compromise the art form totally just for money – that’s what it became. And buyers became groupies, and I think that there’s so much real estate in a store, in a retail space. So if you’re not really guarding it and being a great vanguard, it’s gonna take a toll. And so it took a toll. And, I just got tired of it. I watched Magic become something that I hated. It became a circus. You know, when I first started Magic it was about writing orders and taking the business seriously, and then it became about going to get free clothes and looking at celebrities, and no one wrote paper but trying to get the biggest booth, and who could top who. And I just wasn’t with any of that. That’s not how I started. I’m not- Yeah, I am knocking that. Like- But that’s why I was out. I got burnt out from years and years of, also, being an entrepreneur. I really started when I was twenty-one, and I just was in a very superficial industry. The fashion industry is not rocket science, but I feel like a lot of us take it like we are scientists and then take it too seriously. So I think that if we’re gonna be in it, we just need to try to, make this world a better place and be nice to each other. So I think it’s gotten a lot better.

 

David: [00:29:48] 

Yeah. Well, I’m curious what you think about Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty fashion show. Because that’s sort of like the other end of everything that we’re talking about right now.

 

April: [00:29:58] 

Right. I’m all for it. I thought it was amazing. I think she’s creative. I love the way she’s spiderwebbed her whole brand. She’s being creative, she’s taking it seriously. Her products are dope. You know, it’s not like she’s just like, “Let me cash cow this and put out trash.” She’s putting the right people in place to work with, and she obviously has a hand in it because it’s an extension of herself. You can see it through the product. I like that she’s thinking about all sizes, all body shapes, and she is really pushing the envelope on fashion. Her makeup line, as well. It’s the same thing.

 

David: [00:30:50] 

Yeah. It’s really fantastic. And even the film that they made, it’s just a great way to display the fashion.

 

April: [00:30:57] 

Absolutely. She has been very innovative in every step of the way, and you can see it.

 

David: [00:31:03] 

Yeah. Cause if you compare it to the previous extravaganza, Victoria’s Secret, this is like miles above that.

 

April: [00:31:10] 

Absolutely.

 

David: [00:31:14] 

I noticed you wrote an essay, it’s called Fashion World Needs a Reset, Especially For Black Designers. What made you feel that it was the time to write that piece?

 

April: [00:31:32] 

I think now is the time to amplify our voices in every step of the way. In 2020, we’ve seen so much happen. And while we are rioting this Black Lives Matter, hopefully it will be here to stay and the world will change. I’m just not sure yet. I don’t want this to be a trend, I want it to be about real change. But while we have the podium, I want to try and effect as much change as possible. And I think our society has so much work to do. And fashion is just a microcosm of that, but it’s something that I’ve been directly affected by. And I have some influence in it, so I’m gonna use the voice I have to amplify what needs to be changed. So I just thought it was the right time, being that we have so much going on in the world and we’re paying attention to what those changes need to be.

 

David: [00:32:29] 

You’re addressing the gatekeepers in the fashion world, who still deny access, resources are still limited, obtaining capital and financial backing, it’s still difficult for black designers. Do you expect the fashion world to respond? I know there has been progress, which you address, as well, and recognize that. But what is it that can be done more than what’s already been done? It’s almost like throwing a bone to…

 

April: [00:33:04] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:33:06] 

You know, a photographer. “You could shoot this or you could be on the cover of that.” And..

 

April: [00:33:09] 

Right. Right. I agree. I think that there’s change being made, I just don’t think it’s fast enough. I think the change has to come from both ends. I think we have to keep pushing for change at the top, meaning like they need to color it up in the boardrooms. And I don’t just mean like a few token black people, I mean diverse. Women of all colors and men of all colors, you know. Spice it up, you know? That needs to be the boardrooms, because that’s the real world, right? Different people in it. And we need that reflected from the top, and then it trickles down from there because those ideas will trickle down. 

 

From the other end of it, we need to build our own tables. I said that in the article, as well. I don’t think we wait anymore and we keep knocking on doors. I think we build, and then we also support what we build by eating at the table, as well. And every other community has a community, and they have a community they support. But I feel like we have to do work. We have to do a lot of work. When we think about the dollars in our own communities, I think it’s six hours in our own community and it’s twenty to thirty days in other communities. So I think we have work to do there. And that’s gonna be a lot of work, because we’ve been oppressed for so long that I think that a lot of people are brainwashed. And so it’s just gonna take work from all ends to create this everlasting change. But I never would give up hope on that. That’s why I do some of the programs I do with young people, because the younger you can reach people to create change and to believe in themselves, the more that you can actually inspire and birth that. 

 

David: [00:35:07] 

Did you ever consider helping to organize or organizing a group, an influence group or a lobbyist, or some kind of an association with representation that’s run and led by you and others? You know, Kirby Jean-Raymond. There’s Marcus Samuelsson, people that I can think of off the top of my head in New York. That are all agreeing-

 

April: [00:35:37] 

On that. Yep.

 

David: [00:35:44]

Angelo Baque from, Awake. Everybody seems to be saying the same thing, but, if people are working individually, it’s going to be a lot harder than if you get a group together to do something.

 

April: [00:35:57] 

I know Brandice is also doing a lot. Brandice Daniel from Harlem’s Fashion Row. I’ve considered it. In the ’90s, I started something called Alliance of Minority Designers. We did a few meetings at Magic and in New York, as well. I think we were too young, and everyone was blowing up, so to speak. So that was a perfect storm to be ADD. But I think now is the right time for that. And I have been praying on it, to be honest, and I have been meditating on it. And I am working on a few things that would actually be movement forward in a big way to help the next generation. So I’m brewing on those things, and I want to really firm them up in terms of the initial plan, and then present those. And like you said, create a board, et cetera.

 

David: [00:36:56] 

You have Virgil who has an enormous job, Kirby just got one.

 

April: [00:37:07] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:37:07] 

What is it? Adidas or…?

 

April: [00:37:09] 

Reebok.

 

David: [00:37:10] 

Oh, Reebok? Sorry. Reebok Creative Director. Now people are actually being elevated individually, Bethann Hardison, you know, for many years, had the Black Models Coalition.

 

April: [00:37:31] 

Mhm.

 

David: [00:37:31] 

I don’t really know where that is, but it seems like that made a difference.

 

April: [00:37:35] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:37:36] 

That’s what I’m hoping could come out of this. Because as I see so many different important people saying the same thing. They should all be together, and they should be the artists and the musicians. Not just the fashion world. It should be like a coalition from all of the different creative industries that want to address this subject. With that platform, potentially you can get a lot more attention. You get more media and it becomes much easier to get the story out.

 

April: [00:38:14] 

Right.

 

David: [00:38:18] 

So that’s [laughs] I know you don’t need me to tell you what to do. But I’m sorry- ‘cause the more people I talk to and I hear them saying the same thing, I just feel like, “Well, this seems like there’s something here that people should organize around.” 

 

So there just seems to be a movement in general, of people starting to recognize, “Yeah, we have a problem, but if we got together we could, make some progress.”

 

April: [00:38:52] 

Yes. Absolutely.

 

David: [00:38:54] 

In your article, you make a case for global contribution of black fashion, which I think is something we addressed lightly in the Zoom thing that we did, how so many of the people who actually helped create the culture that we’re in today don’t get the recognition of having done that. Because somebody else comes and kind of tops them. And it could be an industry, it could be a corporation, it could just be anybody. And then the people who did it get left behind.

 

April: [00:39:32] 

Right. There’s a lot of creative looting that is in the fashion industry. And the people that don’t have the financing to put their ideas out there, the underserved community, or black designers that don’t have that capital and need that access. You know, the people that have the access and capital will come in and basically come in their lowriders and check out what’s going on, and then take it back to the boardrooms, and then it becomes mainstream. And then it becomes, they birthed something. that’s been a trend that’s been going on since the beginning of time. You think of coal miners and the rags they used to wear on their head, and what makes that different than a three hundred dollar Chanel scarf, you know, on the head? You know? That’s where the scarves come from. It’s always been. I think that we have to find a way to be more collective now in ownership, versus it being one person in an intellectual property. That’s a whole other conversation.

 

David: [00:41:55] 

You alluded to the Purchase Black dot com movement. Where, so little of the money that’s actually spent in a community stays there or gets used within the community. So are there any resources there that people can, if they want to be a part of the movement, to support black business, that they can do? Marcus Samuelsson, I spoke with, he has a book coming out about black chefs and black cooking, cuisine.

 

David: [00:42:33] 

And he was saying that part of, uh, he included in the book was a resource of addresses and phone numbers for people if they go to a particular city, and they don’t know, you know, where to eat, and I want to go support a black chef. He has a listing. So if there are any in that neighborhood or city, they can go there. So is there any such listing or, uh, ways that people can find this out?

 

April: [00:42:59] 

Actually there is. I can follow up with you and give you the names, cause I don’t remember them offhand. But I just did a panel with Pratt Institute. And one of the women on the panel was creating an up to date Green Book, for what you just said. Like all places around the country where you can actually shop black. And I know Beyonce just started a platform for fashion. For, brands that are of color, where you can go to shop. You can shop at Harlem’s Fashion Row. They have a list of black designers that they represent, and that you can actually purchase on. So there are places and things. So I’ll make sure to get you that information as well in links.

 

David: [00:43:51] 

Thank you. And you mentioned the Green Book, for our- people who aren’t familiar with that, can you say what that is?

 

April: [00:43:56] 

Sure. So the original Green Book was during a time when it wasn’t safe for black people to travel, and they couldn’t stay in hotels and other places because they weren’t welcomed a lot. So there was a book that actually embraced where you could go if you were black to eat, to- to, um, for gas stations. You would buy them sometimes at gas stations, the Green Books. But they would actually tell you where you could eat, where you could lodge, where you could shop. All of these places and safe spaces.

 

David: [00:44:36] 

So it was a guide book, like basically a travel book.

 

April: [00:44:38] 

Right. 

 

David: [00:44:40] 

For the United States only, I suppose?

 

April: [00:44:42] 

That was only in the United States.

 

David: [00:44:44] 

I’d love to see one. Have you ever seen one, the originals?

 

April: [00:44:46] 

I haven’t seen the whole book. But I Googled it. I had to look at it. And it was very old school. See if I can pull it up and show you now, because I was like, “Wow.” Okay. Hold on. It was in 1947, so it was called the- The Negro Motorists Green Book.

 

David: [00:45:14] 

Wow. And who put it together?

 

April: [00:45:16] 

I don’t know. Somebody that was brilliant, and just was like, “I’m fed up.” And they started it. So… It’s cool. Google it.

 

David: [00:45:35] 

I’ll research it a little bit. Well, thank you so much, April Walker for sharing some of your stories and inspiration for all of us to continue, and keep working and never give up, right?

 

April: [00:45:51] 

Absolutely. Never give up. 

 

April: [00:45:55] 

One time, someone sent me a note and it- when I was first starting out, and it always stayed with me, and it was like, “April, you know, good luck. Yada yada. Don’t take shit from anybody.” And that would be what I would tell everybody. Don’t take shit and follow your dreams. Swing with aim. Hustle with muscle. And always, always have faith over fear.

 

David: [00:46:18] 

Amen. Thank you, April Walker.

 

April: [00:46:20] 

Thank you. Thank you so much.

 

Subscribe

* indicates required
Interests