The Solidarity Index

The Most Beautiful Thing — with Christian Allaire

July 31, 2023 Season 1 Episode 5
The Solidarity Index
The Most Beautiful Thing — with Christian Allaire
Show Notes Transcript

"The hope was to inspire kids to be proud of where they're from and to rock it with their style."

Welcome to Episode 5 of The Solidarity Index! Join host Zahyr Lauren aka The Artist L. Haz as they talk with Christian Allaire about crossing borders, rejecting boxes, rocking culture wear, and making it a mission to redistribute the spotlight.

Christian is Senior Fashion and Style Writer at Vogue, and author of bestselling book The Power of Style which probes connections between fashion and history, culture, politics, and social justice. He grew up on the Nipissing First Nation reserve and is currently based in New York City. He's written for Elle, Hazlitt, Refinery 29 and more, and has covered Cannes, The Met Gala, Santa Fe Indian Market, and Fashion Weeks around the world. Keep up with Christian on Instagram: @chrisjallaire


Caitlin Marie-Lieb Keller
Jamie Okuma
Farrah Lewis
Yaamava’ Fashion Daze
Savage x Fenty

Ojibwe | Nipissing First Nation
San Manuel

American Indian Movement
Black Panther Party
Jay Treaty
Land Back

MUSIC: Money Menace by Justin Delorme - sourced via Nagamo Publishing. All Nations Rise by Lyla June.


Tune in to THE SOLIDARITY INDEX on your favorite podcast platform, and keep up with us on Instagram. Sign up for The Solidarity Index newsletter to receive new episodes direct to your inbox.

THE SOLIDARITY INDEX podcast is produced by State of Mind Media
Hosted by Zahyr Lauren aka The Artist L.Haz
Created and produced by Jen Bell, Shalva Wise, Stina Hamlin, and Zahyr Lauren Audio editing and production by Stina Hamlin
Audio mix by Matt Gundy
Logo and identity design by Marwan Kaabour
Art direction, website and additional design by Jen Bell at Studio Analogy

Until Everybody Is Free by Bella Cuts – featuring the voice of Maya Angelou
Released on Common Groove (2023)
All proceeds from download and streaming go to the Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation

The Most Beautiful Thing – with Christian Allaire

[Waves surging then crashing]

CHRISTIAN [00:00:09] 
I want to do a book that celebrates cultural fashion, because if that was something I had seen as a kid, I probably would have been more proud of my heritage and worn my cultural wear earlier on. So I really just wanted to do a book that celebrated not just indigenous fashion, but all sorts of different cultures and their design traditions. And the hope was to inspire kids to be proud of where they're from and to rock it with their style.

[MUSIC]  Until Everybody Is Free by Bella Cuts – featuring the voice of Maya Angelou  [00:00:36]
The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free. No one of us can be free – until everybody is free. Free… Free… Free.

ZAHYR [00:01:13]
Welcome to the Solidarity Index, a gathering place for trailblazing artists from around the world where we share experiences of solidarity and liberation through creative practice, and welcome each other into freedom struggles from Palestine to Brooklyn to Berlin and beyond. Zahyr Lauren here, aka the Artist l was super excited to be in conversation today with Christina Claire, senior fashion and style writer at Vogue, where he covers Indigenous Fashion, Celebrity Trends, award season and more. Christian is the author of The Power of Style, a book that probes connections between fashion and history, culture, politics and social justice. Currently based in New York City, Christian grew up on the Nipissing First Nation Reserve, where he cultivated awareness that style is not just the clothes on our backs – it is self-expression, representation, transformation. Thanks for joining as we talk crossing borders, rejecting boxes, rocking culture wear, and making it a mission to redistribute the spotlight.

[MUSIC]  Until Everybody Is Free by Bella Cuts – featuring the voice of Maya Angelou [00:02:21] 
Free, Free. Free. Free...  People have to develop courage. In your heart – you have to have courage... Courage.

ZAHYR [00:02:53] 
All right, cool here we go. My name is Zahyr. I am the host of The Solidarity Index. My pronouns are they/them. I am currently living on Duwamish land in Seattle, Washington. I'm a caramel complected, gender diverse individual. I wear glasses. I have a nose ring. And today for you, Christian, I wanted to wear this necklace – this necklace was made by my friend from the Omaha tribe, Caitlyn Keller. It is a tubular herringbone stitch. It's gold. It's black. It's my actual favorite necklace. So I'm honored to be wearing that today.

CHRISTIAN [00:03:30] 

ZAHYR [00:03:31] 
Thank you.

CHRISTIAN [00:03:32] 
Hello. My name is Christian Allaire. I'm an Indigenous fashion writer at Vogue. I'm Ojibwe from Nipissing First Nation. I am currently on Lenapehoking land in New York City slash Brooklyn. I am wearing a printed shirt from Jamie Okuma, an Indigenous designer and a beaded bolo tie made by my cousin Farrah Lewis, who is from my land, Nipissing First Nation.

ZAHYR [00:03:56] 
Christian I have been coveting Jamie's work for years. I'm just like – 

CHRISTIAN [00:04:02] 
She’s hard to get.

ZAHYR [00:04:02] 
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Beautiful. Beautiful. In your journey to get to Vogue, were there peaks and valleys or was this something, you know, you were in high school and you said, I'm gonna be a fashion writer at Vogue? Like, how did the how did you get there?

CHRISTIAN [00:04:26] 
Yeah, it was always my dream since I was like a kid. So I always had that at the back of my mind that I wanted to work there. But it really happened organically. I got my first job in New York through someone I interned for in Toronto. I was I worked at Footwear News, so I was a shoe editor actually for a few years. And then through someone I worked with there, they moved to Vogue, and it wasn't an immediate thing, but eventually they thought of me for a position. So I started freelancing there a bit and eventually I became full time. And I think it's been 3 or 4 years now, maybe five, maybe five years. Yeah.

ZAHYR [00:05:04] 
Wow. So it's based on connections.

CHRISTIAN [00:05:06]
It's based on – I think it's a mix. Like I think you obviously need to be good at what you do and hardworking. But but that alone, I don't know, would have gotten me there… I think it's also making connections, and authentic connections, and keeping in touch with people even if you, you know, don't think it'll get you anywhere. Just you never know when you meet someone where you'll cross paths again. So I always like to keep in touch. And I think it was that mix of like showing her what I can do and then keeping in touch that I got there. Yeah.

ZAHYR [00:05:41] 
Absolutely. Yeah. I always think of my law school experience as kind of organically coming from the connections that I had, because had it not been for someone I met in college, I call my village mom, she became an attorney first, right? So I was a human rights investigator. And then I was like, Oh, I want to go to law school. And she's like, okay, you want to use all the connections you have, I will write you the letter, I will – you know, all these different things that had it not been for her, I wouldn't have even known where to go in that journey. [CHRISTIAN: Right.] Yeah. And the only reason I was connected to her was because I went to this particular college. The only reason I was able to get to the college was because the entire village came together to help me get there. So for me, it's like these tentacles that all kind of come together to lift us into [CHRISTIAN: Yesss.] where we're going. So I studied my rear end off for the Lsat, right? I studied my rear end off to pass the New York bar. You know, you have to be ready and actually execute and then people help you get there.

CHRISTIAN [00:06:49] 
Yes. Well, the bar is not an easy thing to pass, so clearly you had to do some work.

ZAHYR [00:06:55] 
It was brutal. I'll never do it again. But, you know, to your point, so many things have to come together. You can't just know the people. You have to be someone people want to say, hey, this opportunity is open.

CHRISTIAN [00:07:07] 
Exactly. I get a lot of college students reach out to me for advice, and I think that's just my biggest advice is – it's a it's a mix of hard work and dedication. And sometimes you’ve got to do the menial tasks at first, but it's also a mix of connecting with people you're working with and staying in touch and networking. I think you do those two things, something will open up for you for sure.

[Waves surging then crashing]

ZAHYR [00:07:45]
One of our producers sent me your incredible book, The Power of Style. And I dug in there and learned a lot about a lot of different cultures. And I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit about why you wrote that book. Like, what in your gut propelled you to write The Power of Style?

CHRISTIAN [00:08:04]
That's a good question. So I knew from the start that I was doing sort of a young adult leaning book. I just kind of started with thinking about what I was into when I was sort of a pre-teen slash teen, and I was really into fashion, but I often felt like my Indigenous culture wasn't reflected in the fashion world at all, And that made me question whether Indigenous fashion was cool or hip. Not seeing that representation really kind of made me ashamed of it when I was a teen. And so I started thinking about that idea and I was like, I wanna do a book that celebrates cultural fashion, because if that was something I had seen as a kid, I probably would have been more proud of my heritage and worn my cultural wear earlier on. So I really just wanted to do a book that celebrated not just Indigenous fashion, but all sorts of different cultures and their design traditions. And the hope was to inspire kids to be proud of where they're from and to rock it with their style.

ZAHYR [00:09:04]
Right on. That's dope. So as you know, this is The Solidarity Index. And for me, your book, The Power of Style, is a nugget of the way folks can operate in solidarity with other cultures because you use your platform to be like, hey, this is how Black folks do braids. This is how our Muslim family members wear hijab and why, you know, and these things, as you said, especially for the young audience, especially now, Christian! What your book might be banned actually, now that I'm thinking about it! I'm like, it's huge right now.

CHRISTIAN [00:09:38]
Mhm. Well yeah, that was, that was the thing is, everyone profiled in the book comes from drastically different experiences and cultures. But in doing all my interviews and talking with everyone, we actually had a lot of shared stories and experiences. The main one being not seeing ourselves reflected in fashion or beauty spaces and that in turn making us feel ashamed or guilty about our culture or our traditions. And I wasn't really expecting that through-line in starting the book, but it came very clear to me that we've all experienced that in some way. And so, like you said, you know, if we're talking about solidarity, we really have all experienced these things and we can all go against that, push back and be proud of who we are and encourage each other to rock our culture wear I think it's the most beautiful thing.

ZAHYR [00:10:28]
Absolutely. I was reading your book and thinking about the braid styles and remembering in my teenage years how much I was made fun of for cornrows. Mm hmm. And I thought to myself, if I had seen this book then and known that a fashion writer from Vogue had included all this stuff in here, I would’ve been like, Oh this is – this is dope. I mean, for me, I was like I don't care what y'all say, my hair is poppin. But I did have that moment, Christian, of like hmm, do I look backwards or, you know what I'm sayin? Because of what the culture – American culture – puts on those cultures that it only sees it only sees valuable in consumption realm.

CHRISTIAN [00:11:11] 
Mhm… mhm. I think when you're a kid, like, you often just want to fit in and you just want your friends to think you're cool. And so you'll often sacrifice things about yourself in order to fit into that. That's exactly what I wanted kids not to do after reading this book. Even if someone's making fun of you or doubting your appearance or whatever, it's all noise. Like, just be yourself, be proud.

ZAHYR [00:11:35] 
Right? Yeah. And then you end up being the one copied and revered in your later years for being yourself.

CHRISTIAN [00:11:42] 
Exactly. Exactly.

ZAHYR [00:11:45] 
So I was digging into an article you wrote about how you and your friends have really started to buy back Indigenous clothing or First Nations clothing that you've seen sold here and there and kind of developing a collection. And so that level of cultural reclamation, why do you think that's important for the movement?

CHRISTIAN [00:12:14]
So I actually wrote about this for Vogue and actually kind of became a much discussed story. Some people agreed with my take, some people didn't. I do a lot of online shopping and just sourcing, and I'm always looking what's on the market. And I noticed that in a lot of vintage or resale sites, there's a lot of Indigenous appropriated pieces. So pieces, you know, a designer, they'll use Indigenous imagery and obviously be inspired by our culture, but they're not really involving us and they're just kind of appropriating it for their own measures. And so I noticed there's a lot of these pieces online. I feel like it's a dangerous thing for just anyone out there to buy it and wear it without knowing how offensive it is or what it's doing. And so I just started buying them just so nobody else can buy them, you know, like I just want to take them off the market. I don't intend on wearing them. I don't intend on selling them. I just want them like off the market. And the more I started thinking about it, I was like, this could actually be like a really interesting archive down the line. It shows a point of history in fashion where so many fashion houses were appropriating our culture, and I think it's changing now, but especially 90’s 2000’s, we saw a lot of that. So now I'm making that a mission to grow the archive and maybe it's something down the line, maybe it's not. But I just don't want, you know, a regular ol shopper to buy it and wear it because these pieces are so offensive and sometimes racist.

ZAHYR [00:13:41]
Yeah, that's real. Right on. You know, it makes me think of that context for First Nations folks as well as caricatures in sports, as well as Halloween costumes. I mean, there's all these different ways, again, where in this country culture is consumed without any respect, just no kind of acknowledgement. It's just an outfit for consumption that someone can buy. And so I think it's awesome that you're trying to get as much of that stuff off of the market as possible. And for me, when I think of Black and First Nations solidarity, you know, I think of the times in the human story of Black folks in which our caricatures were front and center at minstrel shows. You go to a shop and it's like hella old stuff, antiques where, you know, we're we're the lanterns, little statue lanterns in front of people's houses and there – people are just selling this stuff, piggy banks with a caricature of our faces on it. You know, all these different things. And again, to be consumed. [CHRISTIAN: Yeah.] Period. I always think about that similarity.

CHRISTIAN [00:14:53] 
Well, right. And it's like, what's what's the better alternative? Do you just leave it out there? Do you try to sell it back to someone who can do something with it? Do you keep it? I don't think there is a right answer. And that's the thing I'm learning. But I think for now, I'm just building out my personal archive and deciding what to do with it later because there's so much stuff out there and it's kind of scary to think about.

ZAHYR [00:15:17] 
Yeah, yeah. And just to offer my familial experience. My auntie used to do that. So she had in her home in the kitchen was ‘for coloreds’ signs and stuff like that. She collected all that stuff as well.

CHRISTIAN [00:15:31] 
Well, yeah, I think it's something kind of like powerful slash funny about taking things that are really offensive about the way people have been inspired by your culture and kind of not use the word reclaiming it. I don't know if it's necessarily reclaiming it, but it's, you know, it's kind of taking the power back a little bit, I think, because. I don't know. It's an interesting idea.

[MUSIC] Money Menace by Justin Delorme [00:15:58]

ZAHYR [00:16:11] 
As we know, you are incredible. You are in fashion. Your writing is brilliant. You write for Vogue. And so you've been all over the world. How do you see togetherness and this idea of what I call one blood, one love, one people? How do you see solidarity playing out in the fashion world and how do you feel like your work contributes to it?

CHRISTIAN [00:16:36]
Oh, that's a big question. I think for me it always starts the easiest and best way. If we're talking about the idea of togetherness, is to make space, because fashion has been very exclusionary to many different cultures and designers of different backgrounds. I think we're starting to see that change. But I think the easiest way in fashion to do that would be to in whatever – maybe it's a fashion show, maybe it's a collective, maybe it's an art show, I don't know, but whatever event you're putting to always think about, Is this the most well-rounded group of people that could be in this show, this event, this whatever? Because I think in fashion, we haven't seen that. You know, it hasn't been a broad view of all the different cultures and backgrounds. So if we're going to, like you said, go towards this one blood idea in fashion, we need to see more designers reflected of different backgrounds. For me, that's we're still not there in fashion at all. So that's what I would love to see grow. I think we're starting to see things change. Like, I think of, you know, this year's CFDA group – we have Jamie Okuma's in there, the first Indigenous person ever on that board. So things are changing, but it's like slowly and would like it to go a little bit faster.

ZAHYR [00:17:58]
Yeah. So can you share with the audience what that takes on the back end to do? Because I personally, I agree and I love everything you just said, but I have no idea what that actually means. Does that mean, you know, we're targeting folks in high school so they can come up the pipeline? Are we saying that those designers already exist? But the people who are in charge of actually selecting them aren't selecting them? So does there need to be pressure in that way? Like, how do we do that?

CHRISTIAN [00:18:35] 
Exactly that, like you said, the second point and you asked earlier, too, how I think my work contributes to that. So I'll give you an example, is, yes, I think the designers and the talent exists out there. You can find someone in fashion from any background you can think of. But the problem is, you know, if we're talking about someone like me, a writer or someone in media, people aren't just spotlighting everyone and they're not giving the mic to everyone. And so what I try to do with my work is just intentionally think about, let's say my month's stories. You know, am I doing an Indigenous, am I doing a Black designer, am I doing an Asian designer? You know, it sounds maybe a little like performative on paper to take that approach, like ticking a box. But I think that's really you really do have to think about being intentional about that. Otherwise you – you won't do it. And I think you need to, you know, always think about who you're not spotlighting enough, who you need to do more with. That's what I do with my work. And so, yeah, I just think more people need to intentionally think about making that a mission.

ZAHYR [00:19:41] 
Mm hmm mm hmm. And so in every aspect of exposure, the folks who are writing the articles, doing the videos, the movies, just including a broader collection of people intentionally.

CHRISTIAN [00:19:54] 
YES. And it also doesn't need to be a performative thing. Like I said, like I think of something like Hollywood, which is a whole other beast. Think about, let's say, casting an Indigenous person, but maybe it's not even an Indigenous role. They can just be the doctor, they can be the store clerk, like it's just including them.

ZAHYR [00:20:13] 
They can be human, Christian?? Like a regular –

CHRISTIAN [00:20:15] 
They can be a regular human!

ZAHYR [00:20:17]
Oh, okayyy. Word.

CHRISTIAN [00:20:19] 
What a concept.

ZAHYR [00:20:20] 
Right? Like what? Okay. Okay. I got you. I hear you as you were speaking like. Yeah, you know, there in in every profession, Hollywood fashion, I come from the legal profession, philanthropy, these type of things. And in every profession, there's always an argument made, Well, we just don't know these people. We don't we don't know enough of them. And that is always fascinating to me because I think people think it's an excuse. But really, you're just telling on yourself because you've done no actual work and you're too lazy to do that work.

CHRISTIAN [00:21:00] 
Yes, exactly. Like you said, lazy and not true. Because I feel like I've researched the most niche of things, like let's say a Native celloist or something, and I can always find a multitude of options. So I don't buy the talent doesn't exist. Excuse. I don't buy it.

ZAHYR [00:21:20] 
Right. Yeah. Same, same. It's interesting to hear your perspective from the fashion realm. So you spoke about making sure that Black folks and Indigenous folks are intertwined and kind of growing, you know, that landscape in the industry.

CHRISTIAN [00:21:36] 

ZAHYR [00:21:37] 
I think that there is a lot of human story between Black people and First Nations folks that has been disappeared. And I think we are very easily pitted against each other because of that, whether we're talking about who gets to be on the rolls or who looks this enough or that enough. I'm wondering if you can speak to how storytelling as Black people and as First Nations people can kind of bring the bonds together?

CHRISTIAN [00:22:14]
Mhm. I mean it's not even something I've done, so I can't even take credit for this. But I think more stories around our shared experiences, it would be more interesting to, like you said, illuminate how we actually are very similar in culture and experiences and struggles and we don't need to be in competition with each other. I think there's definitely a need for more stories like that. And the fact that I haven't really explored a story around that speaks volumes, that means we really need to do it. I can think of so many things we – our communities have in common. You said the idea of not looking native enough or like, you know, maybe you're too light skinned, maybe you're too dark skinned. These experiences exist in both Black culture and Indigenous cultures. So yeah, I would love to see more stories around that.

ZAHYR [00:22:59] 
Yeah, I'm like, I wanna see. The family members from. The American Indian Movement alongside our family members from the Black Panther Party. Together, I like to imagine what that would have looked like if we had a uniform that represented us as one blood, and if we had a place that was designed for us to share these stories, if we had a way for these stories to travel through generations because they existed, they didn't get passed down. And obviously we know a lot of reasons they didn't get passed down is because people were killed and imprisoned so they wouldn't get passed down. So…

CHRISTIAN [00:23:43] 
Period. That part. [Z: Yeah.] But can you imagine had those, you know, groups joined alliances that that's just like crazy to think of the power we would have had.

ZAHYR [00:23:54] 
Yeah. Yeah.And a lot of them did [CHRISTIAN: Oh yeah!] A lot of there's a lot of movements where folks were cross-pollinating, where people were flying around the world to different, you know, communities who were facing brutal oppression. If we saw that today, though, and in in a more intentional way, because, you know, it's a lot of love between communities even today. But I always think how powerful it would be if there is if there is some intention behind showing that to the world.

CHRISTIAN [00:24:23] 
I think we are seeing that in ways. Think of something like the Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and the marches that are constantly going on, I would say the biggest allies at those marches are people from the Black community, are people of color in general. They will show up for Indigenous issues and vice versa. So I think we are seeing those alliances really strongly today and I think that's only going to continue to get more powerful.

ZAHYR [00:24:53] 
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And so it's up to us as artists to elevate the visuals of that and the messaging of that. And that's part of what I try and do in my work. You know, if we saw a march with our cultures all together, hand in hand, intentionally, explicitly, that would be dope. And I'm sure it's probably happened – I just don't know about it.

CHRISTIAN [00:25:17] 
No, same I think I think it happens in I don't want to say subtle ways, but I think it's always happening at every march. But if we did like an intentional one like that, that would, I think, make the message loud and clear.

[Waves surging then crashing]

ZAHYR [00:25:39] 
I was reading last night an article that you wrote outlining your experience coming home from Milan in the airport, trying to get through, was it New York?

CHRISTIAN [00:25:51] 
Yes, JFK.

ZAHYR [00:25:54] 
Trying to get through JFK. And I'm wondering if you're comfortable sharing that experience, because I wanted to offer some similarities between the Black and Palestinian experience as well.

CHRISTIAN [00:26:07] 
Yeah, this is a few years back, but it's still actually an issue for me. I live in the US on my status card like I don't have dual citizenship, I don't have a green card. How I live and work here is with my Native status card. So every time I cross the border, that's the document I give to the Border Patrol agents. And so this instance, I handed over my status card and they thought it was a fake status card. They thought I was lying. And one of the first things they said to me was like, You don't look Native – we don't believe you. And so I was like, What are Native people supposed to look like? And they obviously didn't like that, so they threw me in a detainment room for, I think, five hours. And they literally thought I forged my document. They called my band office. They had to verify it. And just a lot along the whole experience, they were just saying the most racist things you could imagine, you know, like I don't even – it's like, traumatic. But they were like – the main takeaway was, you know, you cannot be native because you don't look native and we don't believe you. That experience illuminated – it illuminated how I think a lot of Native people experience, a lot of people face when crossing the border. Because I just imagine if this is happening to me, someone who is quote unquote white passing, I can only imagine the racism that my darker Native folks or Black people, like you said, like, I can't imagine what they experience at the border and at the airport, you know what I mean? So it was just a really illuminating thing. And even to this day, I still have troubles with my status card.

ZAHYR [00:27:49] 
That really struck me because here you are perfectly, quote unquote legal and everything you're doing right. And because of the ignorance of the domestic force that's in charge of determining in everyday situations what is legal, who's doing what's right, who's doing what's wrong, You have been detained for over five hours as if you've committed a crime. My understanding is that your ability with your status card to move in between the US and Canada is due to the Jay Treaty that was signed between the US and the British and which is, to me, even a bigger insult because here you have colonizers saying that you can do this on your own land and you also wrote about how First Nations people don't even believe in borders.

CHRISTIAN [00:28:48] 

ZAHYR [00:28:49] 
Right. And so there's so many layers.

CHRISTIAN [00:28:51]
Exactly.  For Indigenous people – Canada, US, it's all the same. It's one territory for us. And like. Yeah. And it's also a legal right. It's in the treaty. I have a legal right to cross the borders with that card. And even today, a lot of the most common thing I get is like, well, you need a green card. Like you can't just work. And I'm like, No, it's called the treaty. And then they have to look it up in their system and it's always a whole song and dance. It's a disrespect to a treaty that was formed like I forget what it was 1800s or something. Um, yeah.

ZAHYR [00:29:25] 
On your own people's land.

CHRISTIAN [00:29:27] 
On. Our. Land.

ZAHYR [00:29:29] 
So, you know, it's it's – that's intense. I appreciate you sharing that. And I wanted to just ask that because we aware of so many similarities with the First Nations people and the people of Palestine. I was reading about some Palestinian women who had come through the airport and were similarly detained, but also having horrible things done to them like strip searches and just being humiliated in front of their children, trying to get back home to Palestine. The levels of abuse that can happen there and that do happen are pretty, pretty astonishing. And then, you know, if we think about the Black experience in this country, body movement and travel based on skin color is always regulated. But I wanted to bring up banishments. Did you know that people are being banished from their neighborhoods, Christian?

CHRISTIAN [00:30:26] 
No, tell me more.

ZAHYR [00:30:29] 
So when I was in Atlanta, Georgia, I was a human rights investigator and I stumbled across this guy who was telling me his story and he was telling me that he had been banished from his neighborhood by the cops. And I was like so confused. Like, what?

CHRISTIAN [00:30:45] 
How does that happen?

ZAHYR [00:30:47] 
Right? So upon further research, I learned of the different ways that the police can banish a person from public parks. They can prohibit persons from certain geographic areas of a city as a condition of community release or supervision. So if you're on community release and you're tryin to go home and they said you're banished from that neighborhood, you can't go home. And so we know that there are so many cascading effects from these things. But in all three cases, First Nations, Palestinian, for Black folks, it is these elements of the state, these foot soldiers, that are allowed to essentially do what they want without a lot of accountability or consequence. And so that's something that we all share.

CHRISTIAN [00:31:35] 
That's frightening. But, you know, this is precisely why movements like Landback movement was born. It's terrifying to live in a time where, like you said, you can be banished from your own land for no reason. So that's it's terrifying. And it's also a sad reality that we all experience that in different forms.

ZAHYR [00:31:59] 
These are the things for me that solidarity grows from these kind of deep wounds that we're all carrying and this possibility of all coming together around this stuff, all being fly together, marching together, you know, it's just such it becomes so much more beautiful.

CHRISTIAN [00:32:16]
Yes. And that's that's why they say strength in numbers as well. I think that is the most beautiful thing is when you know, people of different backgrounds, stories, experiences can come together. And I think we also need to, if we're going to combat these really big systemic issues that are going to take years, decades, centuries to battle. [Z: Absolutely.]

[MUSIC] Money Menace by Justin Delorme [00:32:39]

ZAHYR [00:32:49] 
Yeah. So I was wondering, too, about your own personal fashion sense.

CHRISTIAN [00:32:55] 
Uh huh.

ZAHYR [00:32:56] 
In your book, I see you in this beautiful ribbon shirt you're wearing Jamie Akuma Currently, you know, you've got your beaded necklace on from your cousin. What are the ways that you step into your own fashion to feel as free as possible? Do you consider a gender binary? How do you come into the world?

CHRISTIAN [00:33:19] 
I think my style is really – I really nailed my style in the past five years, I would say.

ZAHYR [00:33:25] 
Nice – claim it, claim it!

CHRISTIAN [00:33:26] 
I've tried a lot of different looks and trends over the years because I've always loved fashion, right? But I think I've finally found what feels me. And for me that's obviously Indigenous made clothing, especially jewelry. I feel pretty much naked if I don't have some sort of beadwork, quillwork. Um, you know, it's I think that stems from me sort of rejecting Indigenous design for so long. Like I said, I really was kind of ashamed of it as a kid because, you know, when you're told you don't look Indigenous, which I did a lot as a kid, I started to believe that and I was like, Well, I don't have any right to wear Indigenous clothing, I'm not Native enough to wear that. Once I got over that and realized, yes, I am Indigenous, um, I really sort of went all in on that. And now it's probably my biggest fashion obsession is just Indigenous designers doing that in different ways. So I think I've really intentionally built out my wardrobe of that. And also, like you said, rejecting gender binaries is something kind of new to me. I've always been someone who shopped just in the menswear department, haven't thought about veering outside of that, but in the past few years, I'm like, why am I? Why? Like, why limit yourself? That's so boring. And so I've, you know, experimented with skirts or if I'm, you know, going vintage, I'll look at the women's section and it's just like fashion is there to be fun and for you to experiment yourself. So why put yourself in a box? Like, how boring.

ZAHYR [00:35:00] 
Facts. Facts. Yeah, I generally stick to menswear elements, but I have increasingly, Christian, maybe you can help me out with this... I just really want to wear some silk [CHRISTIAN: Ooo] and I feel like the women's wear side is where the silk is gonna be poppin.

CHRISTIAN [00:35:18] 
Yes, I would agree. There are some great like a silk top. Like, why is that? You know that anyone could wear that. And I have many women, silk tops.

ZAHYR [00:35:30] 
Yeah. I'm tryna get the silk joints going patterned out. I'm lucky enough to have two homies who are brilliant in creating garments, and so I'm looking to use my textiles that I create to develop some a silk line that is without a gender border.

CHRISTIAN [00:35:54]
Mmm yess. That would be amazing because we also in fashion, need more genderless lines. You think about genderless fashion, the one hurdle is making things that will fit everyone and anyone You know, sometimes I love a piece of women's clothing. It just doesn't fit me. So we need more brands that create like a larger size range of the same piece that will fit both men, women or anyone, because right now fashion is so still very much operating menswear womenswear. And then there's a few genderless lines, but we need more, I think, more options.

ZAHYR [00:36:36]
Is there a change you want to see in the fashion world? Is there something regular degular people like myself can do to advance that and to contribute to that vision?

CHRISTIAN [00:36:47] 
I would love to see fashion continue to be more inclusionary. I think it's something we're starting to see. I'm starting to see a lot of fashion weeks have a more diverse roster of designers showing. I'm starting to see smaller designers get bigger features and spotlights. So I think we're on the right track, I just would love to see in every realm of fashion just more cultural backgrounds and experiences reflected. And I think how people, regular – you know, people maybe outside of fashion can support that, is to buy from designers of all backgrounds. I think about something like Indigenous design. People are often scared to buy something from an Indigenous designer because they don't think it's for them or that they can't wear it. But I'll tell you right now, you know, a native designer is producing and selling something – they want you to buy it. Like they're not going to sell a sacred, you know, ceremonial piece that's only meant for a specific – No, because they would never sell that on their website. That would not be for sale. So, you know, for the most part, if you see, you know, a piece of clothing or jewelry from, you know, a native designer and you love it, you can wear it and they want you to buy it. I think people need to get over the fear of thinking any sort of cultural designer – that is not for them, and just support them and wear it if you love it. Because that in turn lets them create their art and continue their business.

ZAHYR [00:38:18] 
Yeah, personally, I appreciate that you said that because it is true. Sometimes I'll look at things and be like, I don't know, I don't wanna be out here doin too much and looking like an appropriator. Versus, you know, my dear friend who made this necklace. I know she's First Nations and I also know that she made this by hand. And so that gave me the courage to be like, yeah, I wanna – I wanna purchase that.

CHRISTIAN [00:38:45] 
Well, that's exactly it. Like, you're not appropriating if you know who made it, you know the story and think of the power of then wearing that and someone compliments you and you get to share who this designer is. You, you pull up their Instagram page, you show them. You're spreading their art out into the world. I think that's the complete opposite of appropriation. That's appreciation. You're doing the right thing. Appropriation would be buying some sort of beaded Dreamcatcher necklace on like eBay, not knowing where it's from. That's appropriation.

ZAHYR [00:39:20] 
So we talked about your fashion and the world of fashion that you're in. And I'm wondering, do you have a dream runway scenario?

CHRISTIAN [00:39:31] 
Ohh. Actually, I do. I just went to this show in California, the Yaamava’ Resort. It was hosted by the San Manuel tribe, and they did this really cool show. There was four Indigenous designers and mixed in with non-Indigenous designers, like designers from LA, designers from New York. And I loved that mix because don't get me wrong, I love an all Indigenous fashion show. I will always love that. But seeing a show with so many different backgrounds and aesthetics and styles in one I think is exactly where fashion needs to head, because that was one of the coolest shows I've seen in a while. Like I saw so many aesthetics, so many point of views in one show. So I think a dream show would be like that, plucking people from different cultures and combining them into one big show. It was really epic.

ZAHYR [00:40:23]
Yesss. Okay I love that. Yeah. So to me, Rihanna's Savage Fenty runway is that and I feel like after her first one, I feel like all the fashion houses started to copy. I feel like she – and I could be wrong, but she was the first person that I have ever seen combine people from everywhere, different body types from everywhere. And we're talkin a lot of lingerie, too. And, you know, a lot of folks, if I'm not a size zero with, you know, sunken in cheekbones, you're not gettin on the runway. Rihanna had every body. And it was incredible. The music was incredible, the performances, I mean, everything. So had you seen that type of show before her?

CHRISTIAN [00:41:20]
No, I think Rihanna was a big trailblazer in terms of model diversity, which is a whole other thing. Like like you said, she had plus size, drag queen, trans, actors, singers, athletes, Like she thought about who she's casting in that show to really reflect the beauty in all different shapes and sizes – ages, too. I think she really led that charge and I think she made a lot of people think about that. And you talk about dream fashion show that comes with that, too. I don't only want to see a range of designers, but models. I wanna see a range of models. And also if if we're really going big here, I wanna see the backstage crew be diverse, too. You know, the photographers, the stylists, the DJ, every realm of fashion there's room to improve and to make it bigger and better. So, yes, Rihanna is the queen of that.

ZAHYR [00:42:15]
Yeah, the queen. I was like, man, first time seeing that, I was like, that's brilliant. And you're talking about the backstage crew and the folks who are behind the curtain, something that I hope more people get really passionate about, which really just makes your production better.

CHRISTIAN [00:42:32] 
Yes, Yeah. So we're starting to see that and I think it's really inspiring.

[MUSIC] All Nations Rise by Lyla June [00:42:40] 
Indigenous people – shine your light we are equal. I remember the days when our prayers were illegal. I remember the days when being Indian was lethal. Yeah we had a rough past but get ready for the sequel. Get ready for the glorious comeback of our people. Oh, yeah. Rise up, all you warriors of love. All you answers to the prayers of our ancestors from above. I can feel it in my heart. Can you feel it in your blood? I can hear the seventh fire calling us to wake up. Wake up. All nations rise. Rise up cause now's your time. We don't have to hide anymore cause now's a time. All nations rise. Rise up cause now’s your time. We don't have to hide anymore cause now's the time.

ZAHYR [00:43:57] 
So Christian, my only disappointment at this point is that you have not created some sort of suitcase that I can fit in to come along with you. Thank you so much. It's been awesome. Just to get a chance to talk to you and like kick it for a little bit. I really appreciate it.

CHRISTIAN [00:44:15] 
No, thank you. These were such insightful questions. Really, this was great.

ZAHYR [00:44:19] 
Right on. Cool. Cool.

[MUSIC]  Until Everybody Is Free by Bella Cuts  [00:44:21]

ZAHYR [00:44:24] 
Thank you, Christian, for inspiring us to express and celebrate our cultural pride and to vision a more expansive and beautiful world of fashion. Y'all can check out Christian's wide range of work on his site, – and keep up with him on Instagram: @chrisjallaire. 

Also, check out our show notes for links and information on the people and topics we touched on in this episode. Thank you for listening to the Solidarity Index. If you'd like it, please share it and follow us wherever you catch your podcasts. 

This podcast is a production of State of Mind Media, created and produced by Jen Bell, Shalva Wise, Stina Hamlin and me – Zahyr Lauren. Audio editing and production by Stina Hamlin. Audio mix by Matt Gundy. Logo and identity design by Marwan Kaabour. Art direction, website and additional design by Jen Bell at Studio Analogy. 

Our theme song, Until Everybody Is Free by Bella Cuts is out everywhere you listen to music. All proceeds from streaming and downloads go to the Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation. Other Music. In this episode, All Nations Rise by Lyla June and Money Menace by Justin Dillon from Nagamo – and Indigenous Music Library. 

I'm your host, Zahyr Lauren, aka the Artist L. Haz. You can follow us on Instagram @TheSolidarityIndex and anywhere you find podcasts. For more information, head to our website at 

Preciate y’all for listening. Peace.

[MUSIC]  Until Everybody Is Free by Bella Cuts – featuring the voice of Maya Angelou [00:46:13]
The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free. No one of us can be free until everybody is free.

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