For Dr. Kimberly McGlonn, style can’t be separated from activism.
Activists, she says, have at all times used fashion to speak their missions — whether or not it was the Black Panthers donning dashikis and traditional African designs or Civil Rights and Black cultural leaders embracing preppy aesthetics.
Examine Grant Blvd:
Her first enterprise, Grant Blvd, is a part of that legacy. McGlonn the sustainable clothes model and store on the concept that our garments mirror our values. Grant Blvd is an eco-conscious B Corp and a Fair Chance employer, which suggests she works with re-entry organizations to rent individuals who have been incarcerated. She additionally donates a portion of the enterprise’s proceeds to social justice-minded organizations, together with West Philly-based nonprofit Books Through Bars.
“It’s a curation that’s actually linked to a social political motion that’s at all times been on the coronary heart of my very own activism,” McGlonn says.
This 12 months, McGlonn is popping her consideration to classic style and its ties to social justice activism between 1954 and 1972. On February 3, 2023, she’ll open her second store, Blk Ivy, in Grant Blvd’s present West Philly residence at 3605 Lancaster Avenue. (Grant Blvd will relocate to a bigger house at 140 S. thirty fourth Avenue, nearer to Penn.)
With a spotlight solely on classic garments from the Civil Rights period, Blk Ivy affords a triple-shot of environmentalism, activism, and style.
Acutely aware — not quick — style
McGlonn has at all times beloved thrifting. Rising up in Milwaukee, she would get excited over the classic materials and items she’d discover in thrift retailers. She additionally appreciated the longevity of older garments — she’s had one orange and brown patterned costume that hails from the Fifties or 60s for 17 years — together with their smaller environmental footprint.
Each second 2,150 pieces of clothing are thrown away within the U.S., Bloomberg not too long ago reported. What’s extra, style — particularly quick style — is likely one of the world’s highest polluting industries. Textile manufacturing accounts for 10 % of worldwide carbon dioxide output and 20 % of worldwide wastewater. The trade consumes extra vitality than the aviation and delivery sectors mixed.
That’s why Grant Blvd’s designs, makes and sells garments made completely from lifeless inventory materials or repurposed thrift gadgets. They remodel textiles that will have ended up in a landfill to make use of by utilizing them to create revolutionary, leisurewear-inspired designs. McGlonn launched her line and the store in 2017 with secondhand t-shirts screen-printed with the phrases “Earth Bae,” “Actually Philly,” and “Finish Mass Incarceration.”
A Civil Rights style assertion
McGlonn needed Grant Blvd’s t-shirts to draw prospects who weren’t afraid to take a stand for what they imagine in. It labored. After which some.
The enterprise has grown past expectations, releasing a number of unique collections produced from 100% reclaimed textiles. Grant Blvd has additionally garnered consideration from large names. Final 12 months, Beyoncé gave them $10,000 grant by means of her basis BeyGood as a part of her dedication to supporting Black-owned businesses.
However whereas Grant Blvd typically breathes new life into secondhand gadgets and remnant materials, it’s not a classic store. Blk Ivy attracts on McGlonn’s ardour for curating garments from particular moments in historical past. The shop’s assortment focuses on garments from the Civil Rights motion, starting in 1954, the 12 months Brown v. Board of Schooling was determined, and ending in 1972, when Shirley Chisholm grew to become the primary lady — and first Black lady — to run for president.
“It’s a curation that’s actually linked to a social-political motion that’s at all times been on the coronary heart of my very own activism,” McGlonn says.
In addition to being a reputation that feels prefer it was plucked proper from the thoughts of Beyoncé, mum or dad of Blue Ivy, Blk Ivy has historic ties to the interval McGlonn desires to discover. The title and the thought for the brand new store got here from I Called Him Morgan, a documentary movie on Philadelphia-born jazz musician Lee Morgan.
A quick part of the movie explored Morgan’s style decisions and the connection to the Black Ivy fashion movement, by which Black cultural leaders from Amiri Baraka and Malcolm X to James Baldwin and Sidney Poitier adopted and subverted the preppy fashion frequent on Ivy League campuses. Oxford button-downs, smooth black turtlenecks, and hand-stitched loafers had been all a part of the development.
McGlonn traveled throughout the nation, searching by means of thrift retailers in locations as near residence as Bucks County and as far-off as Chicago and Arkansas. Hand-embroidered cardigans with silk linings, heavy wool sweaters in lots of shades of blue, tailor-made clothes, and males’s button-downs are simply among the items she’ll have on show when the shop opens its doorways.
She envisions the brand new retailer as half clothes retailer, half accessible museum. It’ll function posters from or impressed by the period, basic information, and early editions of James Baldwin’s works and Malcolm X’s autobiography. Classic clothes from McGlonn’s private holdings — together with the orange and brown patterned magnificence — will likely be on show. Used books and information will likely be up on the market.
“Blk Ivy goes to offer a Nineteen Sixties postmodern Studying Room vibe,” she says. E-book golf equipment centered on Black writers and voter registration occasions within the house are already within the works for the shop’s occasion programming. A portion of the proceeds from the shop will go to the New Pennsylvania Project, a nonprofit devoted to increasing the state’s citizens.
“I do know that if I see [Grant Blvd] in a room that that’s additionally an individual that shares my values: They care about individuals. They care in regards to the planet. They care about buying small. They care about supporting Black-owned companies. They care about dwelling wages.”
Fashioning — and carrying — her values
Blk Ivy’s launch isn’t all that’s taking place with McGlonn this 12 months. Grant Bvld’s new flagship location will open later in February. Its launch will coincide with the model’s growth into menswear. At the moment, McGlonn estimates solely about 10 to fifteen % of the model’s choices have catered to males or masculine-presenting individuals. When the store reopens, that quantity will likely be nearer to 30 %.
“We now have lots of people who need to help us who determine as males or preferring the style that’s deemed for males. And we undoubtedly need to be prepared to supply one thing for these of us as properly,” McGlonn says.
American-made denim — together with denim suiting — and clothes that transition seamlessly from day-to-night, or “day-to-play” as McGlonn likes to say, are deliberate as a part of Grant Blvd’s future collections. She desires the garments to really feel as snug as pajamas, however to look elegant sufficient for an evening out or a day within the workplace. An “accessible Gucci,” as she put it.
The model can also be increasing their residence and hospitality line for houses, lodges and restaurant teams. This department of the enterprise began when the W Philadelphia requested McGlonn to create about 100 clothes for his or her meals and beverage groups.
McGlonn declined to publicly share income figures, however she mentioned the enterprise is rising. They plan to double their eight-person workers this 12 months with the opening of the brand new location. To help their development, she’s launching a fundraising spherical aimed toward elevating simply over $3 million.
And for Grant Blvd, enterprise development means doubling down on the model’s activism. The enterprise grew to become a B Corp final 12 months. In addition they donated 1,303 books to the nonprofit Books through Bars — and two % of all gross sales to Philadelphia Youth Sentencing and Reentry in 2021. (2022 figures will likely be launched in February when the model’s newest Affect Report comes out).
They continue to be a good likelihood employer, doing pop-ups at Jap State Penitentiary, they usually pay all of their workers a dwelling wage. McGlonn proudly units the corporate’s wages utilizing MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, which says Philadelphians ought to make no less than $17.87 per hour. McGlonn nonetheless stays lively politically as a Jenkintown councilwoman, although she’s since resigned from educating highschool English and as a substitute holds a place as a school member at Drexel College’s Westphal School of Media Arts & Design.
Doubling down on her dedication to creating jobs, Grant Blvd is within the early levels of partnering with the Philly-based nonprofit Inexperienced Labor Lab to create an apprenticeship program for ladies experiencing homelessness or struggling to search out employment attributable to a felony document. The purpose, McGlonn says, is to create a car for dwelling wage jobs.
She anticipated that the enterprise will proceed to develop as customers grow to be extra conscious of how detrimental quick style manufacturers are to the surroundings.The moral style market is predicted to develop to $10.28 billion globally by 2026. Why shouldn’t Philly be on the helm of this motion? Native, environmentally acutely aware, sluggish style manufacturers like Lobo Mau, United by Blue and, after all, Grant Blvd exist already within the metropolis.
McGlonn says the very best ambition for her garments is that they grow to be a “visible enterprise card, the place you recognize that that look is from Grand Blvd.”
“And I do know that if I see it in a room that that’s additionally an individual that shares my values,” she says. “They care about individuals. They care in regards to the planet. They care about buying small. They care about supporting Black-owned companies. They care about dwelling wages.”
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Dr. Kimberly McGlonn on the new Blk Ivy classic clothes retailer. Photograph by Theo Wyss-Flamm