Visual arts curator and educator Erika Dalya Massaquoi brings us Fashiony, a collection of more than 300 images in all sizes and forms including contemporary art, garment sketches, and photographs culled from films, style blogs, fashion books, and magazines, with a special focus on Africana designs and Beijing street trends. Watch for Diana Ross hairdo throwbacks, psychedelic polka-dot-patterned stretch pants, feathered bibs, sparkly blue eye shadow, tubiform jewelry, shiny bowl cuts, dandies in pastels, giraffe-print leggings paired with giraffe-print platform heels, petals dipped in gold, towering rabbit-ear headpieces made from stiff black lace, paisley patterns swirling wildly around, and women wearing layers of delightfully clashy multi-flower print wraps while striding purposefully forward.
"Fashion dramatizes everything," Massaquoi says during our phone interview, "and that's what's so thrilling about it." This includes our moods, identities, messages, modern-ness, and even our most reasonable weather expectations, as evidenced by one of Nels Frye's Beijing street shots. In it, a woman captures a certain old-timey look in her cloche hat, scraped-back hair, silky long-sleeve button-front blouse and matching necktie, and vintage wool cape with a fur collar. "In Beijing, it gets hot as hell! Whatchyou doing with that fur on?" says Massaquoi, laughing. (The woman in the photograph does not respond.) Another Frye picture shows a young woman in a voluminous gray anorak with spotless white lace-ups and tights the color of Windex. Her dyed-gray mod-crop hairstyle recalls a fashionista Massaquoi spotted years ago in Tokyo—"She had beautiful feathered gray hair, and her skin was orange, fluorescent orange," she says. There's also a stunning lookbook image from SUNO—a high-end womenswear label with US and Kenyan influences—which shows a model addressing her viewer, surrounded by a pale pink light and decked in a gorgeously contradicting assortment of printed hats and a printed collared shirt. Her eyes are calm—she looks sublimely rad, and she knows it. Her apparel suggests a "deconstruction of motifs," Massaquoi explains. "Her shirt's pattern appears as splatter and graffiti, but the colorways are clearly a reference to traditional African wear." Meanwhile, layered over her head wrap, the model's textured woven cap becomes "a little crown."
Massaquoi also included around 50 stills from Zina Saro-Wiwa's 2010 short film Phyllis, set in Nigeria, about a young woman who spends her days alone in her apartment, viewing low-budget dramas and crying tears of blood. This work "communicates cultural mores in a more pop-cultural form," says Massaquoi. When evening comes, Phyllis takes to the streets, peddles the selection of synthetic wigs she displays on a tin dish stocked with beat-up mannequin heads, and steals the souls of her customers. In one image, Phyllis pairs a turquoise dress with bright pink hair, imparting an amped-up cotton-candy vibe. "It's a heavy film, but the fashions are great," says Massaquoi.
In reference to Andy Warhol and substance abuse and pillbox hats, Izzie Klingels's painting Just Like a Mattress Balances on a Bottle of Wine showcases socialite, heiress, and Factory superstar Edie Sedgwick—wearer of leotards, popper of pills, spender of fame, and frontwoman to countless and violently dull art films. Her portrait centers on a colorful arrangement of floating medicinal tablets and capsules. Splayed on her head is an old banana peel, dotted brown: "I think it's a riff on leopard spots. Edie would always be tricked out in animal prints," Massaquoi says.