The 90’s produced an era of African American brands that revolutionized fashion and left a long lasting affect on Black culture. From Baby Phat to Karl Kani, creative expression through fashion was widely practiced and supported. Among the many brands to leave a dent in Black culture was Cross Colours. Not only was their bright color-blocking aesthetic fueled with political messaging, it was also everything we didn’t know we needed at the time.
Carl Jones and TJ Walker founded Cross Colours back in 1989. Their clothing line was a testament to the carefree feeling of the 90’s. Back then, women wore baggy clothes like the men so in some ways, they presented as gender neutral brand. It was a rebellious, fun, colorful way to express yourself and represent the culture, hence their tag line “Clothing without Prejudice”. Cross Colours aimed to have an open dialog on police brutality, drugs, and the educational gap by projecting the positive attributes of black and urban culture.
With such a rich history contributed to the urban community, it is great to see that Cross Colours now has an exhibition at The California African American Museum called, “Cross Colours: Black Fashion in the 20th Century.” The exhibit shows the history of brand from it’s birth in 1989 to current day trends.
In an interview with Vogue, Co-curator Tyree Boyd-Pates says the exhibition, “is organized as a visual roadmap of the African America social movements that inspired the brand, both thematically and historically.” He adds, “in particular, it shows how Cross Colours modeled Black pride, community responsibility, and solidarity in the early 1990s.”
The messaging of the brand is something that rings very true today. “I can’t believe that the slogan we printed on our T-shirts, ‘Clothing Without Prejudice,’ is something that still needs to be said today,” Jones says. “That was in the ’90s, and I think it’s as relevant today as it was then, maybe even more so.” This exhibition couldn’t have come at a better time. It is a great way of showcasing how fashion can make a statement beyond the clothes you wear.
There is a lack of Black designers producing affordable, urban street wear like there was in the 90’s. This exhibition in some ways pays homage to the innovators who used fabric as a way to unite an entire community of people.
Personally speaking, I’m jealous of the L.A. residents who get to witness the history of Cross Colors at the California African American Museum. From now until March 1, 2020, you can experience the Black Fashion in the 20th Century exhibit.