Dominique Drakeford’s background is a 10-year exposure to youth development, cultural enrichment, and adventure-based outdoor education for targeted youth in the Bay Area. She is an environmental educator with a BA in Business Environmental Management and a master’s degree from NYU in Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Fashion. Currently, Dominique works at the intersections of sustainability and style to heal our relationship to the Earth and spark equitable change for economic well-being. She is bringing fairness to storytelling by championing the values of inclusive representation and informed responsibility through her digital platform MelaninASS (Melanin and Sustainable Style). This blog hones in on sustainable fashion, natural beauty, wellness, and land sovereignty efforts by BIPOC. As a social sustainability writer, she has been featured in Elle, Teen Vogue, WWD, BoF, The Cut, Fashionista, i-D, and others.

She has worked with a myriad of companies to further understand systems-based thinking for a regenerative future alongside ethically-based public relations and consulting. With recent indie and global partnerships, including Timberland, Airbnb, Vice Media, Buzzfeed, All Birds, Native Shoes, and Nature's Path, her fashion influencership focuses on elevating sustainability and agency. Additionally, Dominique is the co-creator of Sustainable Brooklyn, working to bridge the gap between the sustainability movement and targeted communities through resources and events. Throughout the entirety of her work, Dominique focuses on instilling regenerative solutions within local Black communities while re-engineering the sustainability movement to put Black and Brown Indigenous change agents at the forefront of the conversation and activation.

Follow Dominique on Instagram.

What role does clothing play in your life?

"Clothing at its base layer is a basic human necessity. So at a fundamental level, having a capsule wardrobe full of clothes first and foremost lets me know that I’m very privileged, and I don’t take that for granted.

However, once I put on clothing, that’s when it becomes fashion and style, which for me is an important part of my voice, my narrative. Clothing plays the biggest role in synchronizing with and displaying my heritage, my philosophies, my passion, my truth, and the legacy I want to leave behind in the future. It’s also how I represent community and collective consciousness. The minute I put on clothes, it’s political."

Dominique is wearing the Harper Jacket in Flax Midweight Linen size OS, the Parabola Dress in Flax Midweight Linen size M, the Clyde Work Pant in Clay Cotton Canvas (see a similar style) size 8-Regular, and the Asawa Tie Belt in Black Linen Gauze size OS.

How is clothing political to you?

"I think it’s important to start with a definition. Political is defined as relating to the government or the public affairs of a country. The birth of America was founded on a marriage between government/public policy and corporations and the exploitation of Black bodies (in tandem with the expropriation of Native land).

In 1605, King James charted the London Company (essentially an immigration agency) to establish colonial settlements in North America. This joint stock company gave land grants to European whites to come into this country to start a new government, setting them up with stolen land and clearance to bring in stolen Black engineers, farmers, scientists, craftsmen, inventors, artists, and more as labor. The basis of colonialism was justified policy that legalized racism. The Navigation Act, Slave Codes, Naturalization Law, Convict Leasing, Homestead Act, and hundreds more did just that. Laws and policy were inherently created for Black people (before any other ethnic group emerged in America) to become the non-compensated permanent labor supply without enjoying the fruits of their labor and without the right to own land, systemically prohibiting Black wealth sustainability while building wealth for white people and the infrastructures they control. Today not much has changed, hence the prison industrial complex and, on an economic level, the fact that Black people own less than 2% of the wealth in a country they built.

It’s imperative to understand that the birth of public policy was created to keep Black people inferior, and this creates a landscape for how clothing became political. Believe it or not: THIS is the foundation of the global fashion industry, and it’s political as fuck!

So for me, clothing most certainly is a cultural tool that speaks to identity politics. I think about the very deep history of denim, once called negro cloth, but at inception came from indigo, which was the hidden commodity of the slave trade. I think about how overalls were a pivotal article of clothing for sharecroppers because they needed all of the pockets to hold farming tools, and for college activists who carried flyers in those pockets for canvassing against racism. I think about clothing as it relates to economic equity, how the prolific Black faces in music used fashion to tell stories—authentic stories—of resilience. I think about all the fashion icons throughout history, amongst the diaspora, who don’t get the credit they deserve. I think about fashion before colonization and the symbolism of colors, textures, and drapery.

Clothing has always been my political expression. As someone who is a catalyst for change, I embody the spiritual fluidity of my African ancestors and their legacy of nature-based spirituality (ancestry). I also embody the struggle and breathtaking innovation of my elders and the vanguards of the Black freedom movements (history). And of course I embody layers of hip hop culture and modern activist struggles (current).

Clothing has always been used as both a mechanism for social solidarity as well as a tool for revolutionary freedom across Black communities, the creators of civilization and innovators of beautiful, regenerative sustainability BUT simultaneously the most exploited humans on this soil. Additionally, intertwined in all of this, fashion was also a form of true artistry, celebration, and cultural autonomy.

Continuing the legacies, I have the honor and privilege to align with my clothing as a political language for flowing, resisting, and celebrating—all of which are very political ideologies and activations, especially for me as a Black woman. Clothing shows how I connect with myself and my community. Clothing shows how I disrupt colonial climate systems."

As a person who lives within many intersections and within a politicized body, how do your clothes express these lived experiences?

"In terms of my personal activation...

There is HUGE power in understanding the collective politicized body. How I dress is inspired by the energy of the day. However, one thing I am very intentionally committed to is sustainability and, with that, wearing at least one piece of ethically-produced clothing/accessory by a Black or Brown Indigenous person—everyday! For me it’s a constant reminder to stay rooted and grounded in my truth. I can never forget that 1) BIPOC have created sustainable fashion, 2) our clothing is a celebration and a form of healing, and 3) clothing, especially for Black bodies, can be life or death while (literally) simultaneously appropriated and used to make millions within mainstream fashion spaces. Additionally, it’s important for me to work with mindful companies and organizations run by white women, who historically and systemically have controlled these narratives, as a form of cultural disruption and a means to economic equity that will be filtered back into the community. Regenerative.

Overall, my fashion sensibility is very high-low, multicultural, thrift, vintage, and indie, all working to share my sustainable style sensibility while at the same time building community and dismantling systems of oppression. Clothing is a very radical form of expression because its connection to the land is extremely important to me and my work. Soil is literally the source of spirituality, nourishment, life,...and fashion (LOL). There are so many forms of political resistance, and we sometimes forget that the divinity of agriculture, natural fibers, and supporting Indigenous farmers is equally if not a bigger part of political resistance. But overall, I directly use fashion as an adornment of joy and Black pride and regenerative resistance, challenging the narrative and just being present!"

Dominique is wearing the Harper Jacket in Flax Midweight Linen size OS, the Parabola Dress in Flax Midweight Linen size M, the Clyde Work Pant in Clay Cotton Canvas (see a similar style) size 8-Regular, and the Asawa Tie Belt in Black Linen Gauze size OS.

What is one step clothing consumers can take to move the industry needle towards inclusivity?

"Education leads to activated behavior shifts. Read a book by a Black person in the fashion/farming/fiber space as often as you read one by a non-Black person. That is a good start for everyone."

What is a political issue you are passionate about?

"Sustainability!!! It’s the most pressing political issue! We’ve boxed it into just being about the environment, but the global environmental crisis has everything to do with civil rights, Black and Brown Indigenous liberation, the medical industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, food apartheid, housing, wealth-building, and more. Sustainability is a very holistic political issue.

I’m passionate about redefining sustainability!

I’m sure I will massage this definition over time, but I currently define sustainability as 'an inherently Black and Brown Indigenous regenerative mechanism for living and engaging with nature. It's grounded in an ancestral relationship with the Earth, but has evolved into a resistance of colonial structures so we can all find well-being, joy, and empathy-based healing. Its philosophy is rooted in mechanisms of celebratory expression of resilience and rhythmic communal flow.'"

Dominique is wearing the Isadora Tie Jumpsuit in Olive Midweight Linen size M-Regular.

What is one concrete way you want people reading this to take action today?

"Indigo was the hidden commodity of the transatlantic slave trade. Before it became weaponized and one of the biggest catalysts in building the global fashion industry, in West Africa it was used in hair, skin, spiritual cleansing, contraception, various healing modalities, and, of course, the sacred practice of dyeing. Of course, colonists drove a global market in search of this 'Blue Gold,' and once they found it, indigo farms in the Caribbean and Americas made so much money. Indigo was the largest commodity sold and traded on the West African coast, with profits built on the principles and practices of the slave trade. So in 1849 during the California Gold Rush, Native Americans and free Blacks weren’t allowed to participate, which is when Levi’s essentially started its career—selling that indigo-dyed, slave labor denim in Cali and building that generational wealth to start their global fashion company.

This is NOT a call out to Levi’s; in fact, I’m wearing a comfy pair right now as I’m in a coffee shop writing this (LOL). But rather, it’s a call to action to understand that there are important historical contexts within the fabric of our cultural-fashion ecosystem.

Action today starts with education. Otherwise, we continue to blindly move forward without true equitable intent. When we’re not educated and let only white voices control conversation and activation, solutions only focus on the branches of the tree instead of the roots where the tree gets all of its nutrients!"

Learn more from Dominique's suggested readings:

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein
Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage by Dianne Glave
Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement by Monica White
Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Politics of Global Soul by Tanisha Ford
Black Labor, White Wealth: The Search for Power and Economic Justice by Claud Anderson