The Best Looks of Afropunk 2016
“It’s been a really weird half of a year, you know? There’s been a lot going on,” says Jennifer Williams, rocking a homemade crown handcrafted by a talented friend. “The tagline [of Afropunk] is no hate, no fatphobia, no homophobia, no ableism. It matters, and it matters to have a brown face on that. The expression of so many people just coming out and allowing themselves to be who they are, around amazing artists who share that same ethos is brilliant. It’s the best way to end the summer. It’s a different type of freedom. And it’s become a tradition.”
Foxxxy and Mecca
Friends Foxxxy, left, and Mecca, right, didn’t set out to do anything special wardrobe-wise for Afropunk. “We dress like this pretty much all the time,” Foxxxy says. Mecca handcrafted her colorful dreads herself, and chose to wear sky-high Steve Madden boots because she enjoys feeling tall. “It’s a powerful feeling,” she says. Meanwhile, Foxxxy snagged her dazzling dress for a cool seven bucks back in her old digs in Sandy Springs, Georgia, when she used to live in a predominantly Indian neighborhood.
Atlanta born-and-bred model Deng Deng traveled to New York for the one-two punch of Afropunk and Fashion Week. “I was trying to do an African-inspired look, but I thought I would keep it more modern,” he says of his look. “I got this from a vintage store in Los Angeles; this is my style.”
Miquel Whitfield and April Qualls
Miquel and April didn’t coordinate their radiant purple hair colors together specifically for Afropunk (though they could have fooled us). “It kind of happened that way,” laughs April. Miquel, a self-proclaimed “free spirit,” crafted much of his outfit himself. For the jacket, he repurposed a pattern he found at Jo-Ann Fabric and made inventive use of poster board for the shoulder portion. Has he worn it before? “I just finished it last night,” he admits.
Khadija found her fabulous blue velvet getup at a vintage thrift store, and says that it inspired her to go full blue with her makeup. “[Blue] is my favorite color and I’ve tried it a bunch of times… but I actually just got this yesterday at Sephora” she says. For Khadija, this year’s Afropunk marks the end of an era and the beginning of another, as she leaves New York for Puerto Rico. “I’m kind of floating, still figuring out my life,” she says. “It’s so hard to understand how your future self will feel about a situation.”
A tennis instructor based in Florida, Neferra opted for a top and necklace from Mali for this year’s Afropunk. This jaunt back up to the city isn’t just to join the festivities, though, especially since Neferra lived in New York for ten years. “Afropunk and the U.S. Open are at the same time, so I came back up here,” Neferra says. “I’m also working on my Ph.D. in political science so I have a lot of connections at Rutgers, where I got my masters… and a lot of friends who live here.”
Farrah, a Boston-based model and actress, wasn’t so much inspired by a singular movement, person or sensibility for her outfit: The festival itself was enough fodder for her creative impulses. “I was inspired by past Afropunk looks,” says Farrah, who also works as a stylist. She mixed and matched the pieces, including her chunky necklace, from the likes of H&M. The hat came from a Boston costume shop.
A born-and-raised Williamsburg dweller, Perry had a little help from his friends for his Afropunk look. “I know a couple of people who do cool things,” he says, grinning. “This ‘no pain no gain’ shirt was thrifted from a friend’s consignment shop. And the Kendrick [Lamar] tote was made by a friend in London. She actually paints portraits of artists and throws them on tote bags.”
Chloe lives in Harlem, and went around the neighborhood to cop special accessories for this weekend. Her headscarf is from a nearby Senegalese market, while her chic cutout summer dress is a fitted piece from Zara. “I had to get it adjusted because it was way too big to begin with,” she says — a testament to the transformative power of good tailoring.
Deshawn Watson is an Afropunk regular — this year marks his third time at the festival. A big Tyler, the Creator fan, Watson chose overalls and a hat from the rapper’s GOLF fashion line for the weekend. He gushes about the sets he’s seen from former and current Odd Future members including Earl Sweatshirt and The Internet, Syd Tha Kid’s band. As for his kicks? Those are a Reebok rarity. “I don’t think they’re on the shelf,” he says.
Instead of giving in to the temptation of high fashion, Kahh Spence had a more utilitarian approach while getting ready for Afropunk. He consciously wore dirty sneakers to pre-empt the dust kicked up by dancing feet. The smart and comfort-chic dresser, who went for a Metallica shirt under a jumpsuit, is also a talented hair stylist. He used the fest as an opportunity to unveil one of his custom wigs.
Akua is a Parsons student who runs a clothing business with her mother, Rebecca Henry, called House of Aama. Currently, the pair are gearing up to start “a new original collection of clothing inspired by the African impulse and ancestral memory set against the backdrop of duality and gender norms.” Yet for Afropunk, Akua chose something a little different: A cool vintage piece she found at L Train Vintage.