Black Panther Clothing
By Caitlin Donohue
December 17, 2009
It's possible that on December 3rd, 1969, when he was arrested for
alleged death threats against President Richard Nixon, Black Panther
Chief of Staff David Hilliard could not have predicted he'd have a
lasting fashion legacy. It was near the height of the Panthers'
international freedom fighting activities. The group was involved in
providing food, medical care and legal aid to underserved
African-American communities- but in a time of serious governmental
persecution, Hilliard was arrested on numerous occasions for
everything from possession of a weapon in a public place to his
participation in the Oakland police shoot out that killed his comrade
They were rebels, social leaders, badasses- and man, could they
dress. The "Panther look"- berets, traditional African textiles and
sharp leather jackets- were a hipper, sleeker activist chic than the
haphazard "hippie" look prevalent at the time. Although they didn't
set out to be style icons, "the greatest threat to the internal
security of the United States" (as J. Edgar Hoover memorably dubbed
them) definitely made their mark on the fashion scene.
It's a tricky business, commodifying a social movement, but in
preparation for creating a clothing line based on the Panthers'
innate vogue, fashion designer Andrea Lamadora had the unique chance
to learn from a key player in the movement- Hilliard himself. Her
friendship with the activist gave her "the privilege of seeing the
Black Panther Party archives, including never seen by the public
images and photos of actual Panther clothing from the '60s and '70s,"
Lamadora says. "I was immediately inspired to lend my creative style
to this very important historical, political and cultural
organization." After the jump, what she came up with.
The line that she wound up developing, Black Panther Clothing, relies
on the group's preferred color scheme- strong tones of red, black and
green with gold accents. Like the revolutionaries themselves,
Lamadora's pieces integrate tough-guy leather with softer cotton
swatches. Designs of party leader Huey Newton's face stare out from
many of the shirts, which start at $20.
A year after beginning work on the project, Lamadora will premiere
Black Panther Clothing at her recently opened boutique, Loft 1513
during "Wishlist," a fashion show that has Hilliard- now an
accomplished speaker and head of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation-
slated as a special guest.Price of admission is a donation of food or
a toy for "La Casa de Las Madres," a domestic violence shelter for
women and their children.
The show will also feature designs from House of Mamasan, Lamadora's
other line of urban-ethnic style. In the past, the Mamasan look has
hinged on dramatic shapes drawn from Asian cultures- traditional
textiles that have inspired the designer since the days of her
childhood when her mother would bring home bolts of cloth from trips
around the world. "[The looks are] powerful, respectable- yet hip and
stylish," says Lamadora. The clothes are attention getting but like
the Panther 'fits, look comfortable enough for today's freedom
fighter on the go.