I had the pleasure of sitting down with the incomparable Vara Ayanna, founder/CEO and designer of Thriftqueened, Get Kinged and Maruaders. We talked fashion, art, systematic racism, getting in Formation, and Kanye West’s $53 million debt. Enjoy but also pay attention. The woman is incredible.
xoxo Robby Rob
Hello, love! What can we expect to see your with your new line Marauders?
The things you can expect from my new line Marauders worldwide is pure art. With this line, I will be making a fashion statement on how I feel as a person of color in America and how urgent it is to voice our opinions about what’s going on. Marauders is for the conscious creator, someone who wants to pillage through the inner psyche of our American society and be the ones who create a change. I believe that this collection is going to change the way a lot of people view African Americans in our country. I aim to bring awareness to our dying psyche– everything is so “White Washed.”
With Marauders I want to show the African American mind in an artistic way, I want people of color to feel like they have a voice through my clothing. Thriftqueened & Get Kinged are being completely revamped right now – we are focusing on making it more of a social fashion editorial platform for artists to connect. I am also releasing my new styling launch/website in the coming months to coincide with my new line. With my styling launch, pulling will be available with both clothing from Maruader’s & TQ.
When you’re creating, what are you inspired by?
When creating I am inspired heavily by my personal experiences. Music plays a heavy role in my inspiration process as well, art and the feat of being a black woman inspires me – I feel like our generation needs clothing that speaks with them and not for them. One of my favorite pieces from my line right now is a fitted cap, with “ripped” out eyeballs. The eyes are blue on this hat and it has embroidery that reads “All eyes on me” on the back of the hat. This hat represents me ripping a “blue eye’d devil’s” eyeballs out of their head for always being focused on me as a black woman, my mannerisms, the way I wear my hair, the way I talk. I constantly feel like im being watched. Things like that inspire me.
Describe your creative process in three phrases.
Smoke some green. Get discriminated against. Make some art.
What trend are you into this Spring?
Trends that are super relevant that I love this spring have to be the fitted cap or any variation of hat that is coming out to shade my eyes from the haters [laughs].
It seems fashion is always changing and reinventing. How do you stay innovative while also maintaining cohesiveness with your brand?
I feel as if my brand has changed a lot over the years, I started out with Thriftqueened / Get Kinged as my first fashion feat. I believe that it was a good experience and it got my feet off the ground and really helped me to find myself as a designer and artist. My new brand is really taking me out of my comfort zone as a designer, it’s making me think bigger and bolder about what I can bring to the fashion world. Keeping my brands cohesive while still being able to show the differences has been very important to me. I really want my art and fashion to resonate and I believe with my new brand I can really show that. I think for any artist it’s really important to release art that will somehow benefit our generation.
If you could take a “Master Class” with any of the greats, who would it be and why?
My dream mentor Master Class, would probably be Kanye West, Alexander McQueen and Nicki Minaj…and maybe, Mary Mcleod Bethune — she was the first black woman to own a school and become a billionaire).
Kanye, because no matter how much of an asshole the man is, he’s a creative genius and I believe his work to be some of the best to come out of our generation. Alexander McQueen because he was honestly one of the greatest fashion designers in the world. His creativity is admirable. I aim to channel my creativity like–as good as these greats. Nicki Minaj, because she’s an attractive black woman that has gotten a lot of flack about her appearance as well as her personal choices and I would love to gain some insight from her on how to handle certain things and people.
Let’s get real. What are your thoughts on the lack of diversity in the fashion industry?
I saw an article the other day, about ANOTHER black model dropping out of the industry because of the high level of racism she’s experienced. It’s sad honestly. European beauty standards flood our airwaves and TV’s. Its all over Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. White models. I see so many videos on twitter, like “White Girls Are Evolving” and it’ll be a video of a white girl twerking. Or something like, “We Need White Girls Like This” and it’ll be white girl with predominantly black features, like tanned skin, wannabe bubble ass, those butt underwear. It’s sad that black women are so looked down upon. Stereotypes have literally painted a picture of what we are supposed to be, and white women are constantly put on this pedestal because that the N O R M and thats not what people are seeing.
I can’t compete with systematic racism. What can we do? I can’t give up. I can’t honestly, theres no complaining. As a black fashion designer, it’s my duty to bring more diversity into the industry as much as I can and to show black women in a different real light. Contrary to popular belief not all black women are the same, black women are beautiful, black men are beautiful. People of color are beautiful and we can change the outlook if we as artists continue to fight for ourselves and create our own systems.
I want to talk a little bit about Beyonce’s Formation video. SNL did a great job at making fun of White America’s reaction but the sad truth is, it’s pretty close to what actually happened (and is still happening). What do you have to say to people who don’t get it and can’t understand when something might not be for them?
I will say this, this country has been so wired to believe that anyone who is not white — is a problem. Can this change an outlook of hundreds of years? No. In defense of white people, most of them are honestly so self-centered and so only interested in their white world that all they can spit out, when a predominant black artist releases something for herself and PEOPLE LIKE HER is that. “They don’t see color, and it’s a song it should be for everyone.” White people, black people, and POC who see nothing wrong with the systematic racism in our country are not going to be our allies. Formation is not for white people, it’s not for black people, to me Formation is a screaming ballad of our times. Bey wants EVERYONE to wake up. The ignorance and hate is real and people are choosing not to see it. Thanks queen Bey! We needed #Formation.
What do you think about Kanye West saying it’s ok to go in debt for your art/work?
Kanye’s a genius, and he’ll be out of debt soon I’m sure but maybe that’s his problem: I think you should die for your art, not go in debt for your art because that’s stupid. At least if you died for your art no one would remember you’re in debt [laughs].
What defines you as a creator?
“Unapologetically carefree, beautiful, understanding and free black girl for life.” To me, that means people are going to be screaming the opposite at me for the rest of my life. I can never apologize for following my dreams. In being a creator I’ve realized now it is more about the people who love your art, and not you as a creator. Who are you without the people who enjoy your existence and support your art? We all need to bring the world a piece of ourselves, and through fashion I believe I can change a few views.
Photos by Madeline Schaffner, Makeup by Drea Demolition, Styled by Tyler Jackson.