Jamall Osterholm is a 22 year old emerging designer and recent graduate from RISD taking a distinctive look at Afrofuturism by designing genderless apparel for an all-black alien race. With an attempt at influencing the future of black masculinity, he is sculpting the black male body into a genderless construct. With Osterholm describing his collection with Afrofuturist terms and phrases, drawing these out provides a context within which to share his work.
Afrofuturism could be described as a therapy, a methodology, a school of thought, an imaginary, a lens and a tool for critique and reclamation. People of colour from the African diaspora (and the continent) have used it to make sense of their circumstances and reconstruct a past, present and future. Afrofuturist artists and writers use to figure of the alien as a discursive and creative tool with which to contextualize slavery and to imagine an alternative reality. While what it means to be black and the experiences associated with this differ, one of the main aspects of Afrofuturism is about taking ownership of a black identity. This is expressed through art, music and political activism.
Throughout history black identity or an understanding of blackness has been framed in relation to whiteness. Through this collection Osterholm makes a reflexive interrogation of blackness, removing it from a Eurocentric gaze and how it has been interpreted as the opposite of whiteness. The concept behind this collection presents a vision of people of colour with a reference to the future. Using the future as a reference extends from the understanding that the past, present as future can be occupied all at the same time.
Puffer jacket armour. Tailored dresses for the male form. This is the future that Jamall predicts. Jamall uses alien figures as a metaphor for slavery, and explains that he is taking a look at modern black culture as a descendant of slave culture. He follows this linage to ascertain what the future looks like for black culture.
Jamall defines the looks for his range as the “final form of blackness”. His range is intended to move black people into a changed space of liberation and the freedom of self-expression. His collection addresses stereotypes about black men as hyper-sexual, hyper-masculine and hyper-aggressive. Expressing that his desire to work in menswear came from a desire to create an opportunity for cis black males to express themselves in any way they would like to as he believes that currently this opportunity does not exist. Jamall takes staple collection designs such as the oversized hoodie and tweaks, and changes their silhouettes. He experiments with the cut and shape, which allows him to feminizes a garment shape that is often seen as hyper masculine. Not only can Jamall be regarded as a sculptor of clothing but his design have the ability to transform the human form into something genderless, alien and a work of art within itself.
Seldomly do we see a designer take on nearly every aspect of a project as Jamall has with his liberated black alien race. He photographed the visuals himself that pay tribute to understated and often times undervalued facets of the male physique. His male models, nude under their sheer body suits, are not eroticized or sexualized. Jamall regards his photography just as vital as designing his garments for his process.
With a sculptured vision for the changes he wishes to implement within the thinking and designing of menswear, Jamall has the drive to make these visions a reality. Perhaps we will find him transcend into another galaxy one day.