MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It began as a conversation about "threat perception" but evolved into something much more. Humanize My Hoodie became a campaign, mixing fashion with activism, and its designs were featured during New York's Fashion Week.
As Minnesota celebrates Black Fashion Week, St. Paul's Jason Sole and business partner Andre Wright are reflecting on the week that changed their lives, and how they hope their experiences help others turn dreams into something real.
"We want to be humanized and what's a better place to bring that message but New York? Fashion Week is a huge platform," Sole said.
Wright says what you see on stage is a movement to destigmatize fashion trends worn by people of color.
"We had a subject matter, we had a vision; a way to prove that vision was to use the Fashion Week as a platform to really express ourselves," Wright said.
Sole says the activism part is built on love and the hope that through conversation hearts and minds can change.
"I had the dream of making Humanize My Hoodie a brand that would actually make people feel it and make people create less harm and more love," Sole said. "When you have an idea and you believe in it, put all your energy into that versus all of the things that pull you away from your vision."
Each piece had its own formula, and the designs were meant to be impactful.
"We took 55-millimeter shells and 9-millimeter shells and we adorned those to the hoodie and we had a conversation around what it means about gun violence in this country," Wright said. "I spent a lot of days on my table putting each bullet on each hoodie, so I had to think about that everyday and I would call Jason like, 'Hey man, I'm in tears right now because I know what this does to the human body.'"
Sole and Wright say these hoodies were meant to shift paradigms and prevent future officer-involved shootings, taking the fear out of seeing a person of color in a hoodie.
The fashion activist duo says the big stage in New York is not their finale, they want to mentor others, and get more people inspired to create their own movement.
"This is the year of the giveback, so we are going to show people how you take an idea and turn it into a project and ultimately make it a movement," Wright said.
Sole wore a hoodie while teaching criminal justice classes as a professor at Hamline University. The idea was to help his students become more comfortable with black men in hoodies.
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