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Culture, Art & Creativity at the 96th Annual Academy Awards

The Oscars ceremony this year sparked a nuanced conversation about the intersection of fashion, sustainability, and culture.

One standout moment was Angelina Jolie’s fashion label, Atelier Jolie, creating a custom dress for writer and artist Suleika Jaouad. The gown featured an illustration by the exceptional artist Chaz Guest, depicting Jon Batiste conducting an orchestra using sumi-e, a Japanese technique that combines black ink and painting.

Sumi-e, a traditional Japanese art form, has a rich history dating back to ancient East Asian cultures. The term “sumi” translates to “black ink,” and “e” means “painting” in Japanese. Sumi-e is known for its minimalist approach and emphasis on capturing the essence of the subject with a few brush strokes. This technique involves using a brush loaded with black ink to create expressive and dynamic brushstrokes on paper or other surfaces. Chaz Guest’s use of sumi-e in this piece adds a visually striking element to the gown and brings cultural richness to the intersection of fashion and art at the Oscars.

Bobi Wine and his wife, Barbie Kyagulanyi, made a statement on the Oscars carpet by wearing clothing designed and made by Seguya Alawi and Anita Beryl Asasira from Kampala. This not only showcased the talent emerging from Uganda’s fashion industry but also challenged perceptions of Africa as a mere dumping ground for fast fashion.

This bold fashion choice highlighted the burgeoning talent within Uganda’s fashion industry and challenged stereotypes that perceive Africa as a passive recipient of fast fashion trends. By choosing creations from local designers, Bobi Wine and Barbie Kyagulanyi contributed to reshaping the global perception of African fashion, demonstrating that the continent is a vibrant hub of creativity and originality.

Uganda’s fashion industry, as referenced by 23-year-old designer Seguya Alawi, is experiencing rapid growth and holds promise for the future. The passion and hard work of young, dedicated individuals are steering the industry towards newfound heights, dispelling outdated notions and stereotypes that have overshadowed Africa’s role in the global fashion landscape.

In choosing Ugandan designers for such a prestigious occasion, Bobi Wine and Barbie Kyagulanyi effectively utilized their platform to shed light on the wealth of talent emerging from the African continent. This act goes beyond the realm of fashion; it becomes a beacon for cultural pride, fostering a renewed appreciation for the authenticity, craftsmanship, and creativity that thrive within Africa’s fashion scene.

Representing the Emirati brand OTT, Maggie Baird highlighted the importance of slow fashion and cultural diversity. OTT, a made-to-order brand founded by two Emirati friends, emphasizes valuing the hands that create garments, collaborating with craftsmen, and supporting local manufacturers to minimize textile waste.

Eugene Lee Yang proudly represented Latino designers by wearing a custom piece from LA-based designer Walter Mendez. These collaborations underscored the significance of spotlighting brands from diverse communities, fostering cultural sustainability, and creating space for a broader conversation about creativity.


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Lily Gladstone, Best Actress nominee for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” graced the red carpet in a midnight-blue Gucci gown representing Indigenous designers. Crafted by Joe Big Mountain of Ironhorse Quillwork, the gown featured traditional porcupine quill-work and sterling silver beads.

Indigenous design concepts, like the ‘Seventh Generations Principle,’ offer practical insights into sustainability. This principle emphasizes a responsibility that goes beyond the present, urging individuals and communities to make decisions with the well-being of the next seven generations in mind. It advocates for a considerate and intentional approach to actions, focusing on the lasting effects choices may have on the environment, society, and culture.

These moments at the Oscars go beyond fashion statements; they reflect an alternative conversation that touches on representation, sustainability, and the acknowledgment of diverse creative voices. As the global stage continues to provide high visibility and opportunities for growth, these collaborations serve as a reminder that fashion is a powerful tool for storytelling, cultural preservation, and intergenerational responsibility.

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