Antoine Gregory understands the significance of family photos. The Black Fashion Fair founder recalls his father constantly snapping and collecting pictures throughout his childhood, and was surprised to learn that many of his friends didn’t have the same experience.
“My father kept so many photos. So many photos. We have albums upon albums that he kept, as many photos as he could of us as kids,” Gregory told Complex. “And I have a lot of friends who just don’t have any photos from when they were kids. And that always really struck me as almost odd, because I’m like, ‘How don’t you have photos of you as a kid. How don’t you have photos of your third birthday party?’”
Gregory says it was at that time he started to realize there was a need “to reconsider the Black family image and to revalue the images that we do have.” It was a revelation that eventually lead to the Family Portrait II capsule, a new collaborative range between Black Fashion Fair and Edvin Thompson’s Theophilio brand. The drop comes just months after the two had joined forces on a collection of portrait tees that highlighted Thompson’s childhood and Jamaican roots. Gregory told Complex the tee designs, which featured Thompson’s family photos and “THEOPHILIO” spelled out with Swarovski crystal, was a major success, as many customers were drawn to Thompson’s story.
“Well, I think with Edvin, there’s something about him on a personal level that just … He just has it,” Gregory said. “I don’t know what it is, but he has it. He has such a unique point of view when it comes to fashion. And especially being from Jamaica and then being gay and that whole experience. It allows you to see the world kind of differently. And kind of like what I’ve also known from my own experience, you kind of have to create a world for yourself. And I think the world he’s creating for himself is brilliant and I love it. And I just want to be a part of it. I want to share it with other people.”
For the second installment of the Family Portrait capsule, Black Fashion Fair and Theophilio are giving shoppers the opportunity to tell their own stories through fashion. The brands are allowing customers to purchase the Theophilio Crystal Logo ‘Family Portrait II’ Tee and personalize it with a family photo of their choice. The idea was heavily inspired by a tweet Gregory posted in April, when he called on his followers to share their family photos. And the response was huge.
“I wasn’t surprised that people responded to the Tweet because I think with all that’s going on, it’s beautiful to have a moment of just joy,” Gregory said. “It’s like, ‘Here we can share these really, really happy moments. These really beautiful family images that tell the story of our lives.’ But it’s like, someone shared their father on his flight from Nigeria to America. And then he came here and created a life for him and his children. That’s a great image. That’s your story. We don’t have to always see images that are traumatic and triggering.”
The Family Portrait II tees are available for $178 at Black Fashion Fair. Shoppers can customize the piece by emailing their family photo and order number to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submitted images must be scanned at 600dpi or higher.
“We have always used the T-shirt to create identities of what we want it to look like,” Gregory said about the significance of tees in Black culture. “Whether it’s a customization, a RIP shirt, a protest. A family reunion T-shirt.”