The creative industries are finally catching up to what we always knew: POCs are the indisputable trendsetters and changemakers of the world and, most importantly, blackness is not one size fits all. We have the ability to apply our cultural lens to whatever fits our interests and make it our own. Whether it’s skateboarding, being a diehard Nirvana stan, going to an elite school, hailing from the hood, or being brought up in a West Indian household, we express our blackness differently. At ESSENCE Fest we can come together in unity and not only embrace those differences but also highlight them so that the world can better understand what it means to be black sans stereotype.
“The 25th anniversary ESSENCE Festival represented a truly transformative global homecoming celebration for Black women and the Black community,” said ESSENCE Chief Executive Officer Michelle Ebanks. “This year’s extraordinary turnout reflects ESSENCE’s uniquely powerful engagement of Black women around personal empowerment, community, and culture as only ESSENCE can. With the debut of 10 new Festival experiences, activations at more than 40 venues across New Orleans, and engagement with more than 300 small businesses and local vendors, we have redefined the Festival as the largest and most impactful destination at the epicenter of Black culture.”Ebanks continued, “Lastly, in honor of us embodying all that Black excellence and culture represent – beyond entertainment and beauty, we were thrilled to reveal the Festival’s official rebrand to the ‘ESSENCE Festival of Culture,’ with a mission to inform, inspire and uplift Black women and provide a holistic approach to how we offer and deliver Black culture in every way.”
We experienced this first hand while working alongside Beyond 8, the production company responsible for launching the satellite activation ESSENCE Fashion House.
The stand-alone consumer experience was held at the historic Gallier Hall, a 21,780 ft² venue that once served as City Hall. Beyond 8 transformed the majestic building into a hub for a global and multiplatform experience showcasing Black influence on style.
The agenda featured runway shows, a retail marketplace, and groundbreaking panels and discussions on the future of fashion.
Respected trendsetters across all industries who participated on the panels included Iman, Joan Smalls, Dapper Dan, Rosario Dawson, Felisha Noel, Angela Rye, and Quincy Brown.
Part of the experience also included hosting a cocktail reception for Gucci Changemakers, a private dinner for Kering, as well a first look at Universal Studios highly anticipated film Queen & Slim.
Photo story by Noemie Marguerite