Need a holiday sweater that’ll look fantastic and also shut down your racist relatives during your Christmas family dinners? Look no further.
Olatiwa Karade is looking out for exasperated shoppers of color with her powerfully unapologetic apparel. Inspired by personal experiences and frustrations and an ever-turbulent political climate, the young New Jersey-based student has pushed the envelope in activist apparel that addresses issues from the romanticization of genocide in a Eurocentric educational system while also tackling the everyday microaggressions that marginalized groups – black women in particular – continuously trudge through. We were able to talk to her about her process, her inspiration, and what message she hopes her work will spread to the masses:
The Tempest: How did you come up with the idea and design of these sweaters?
Olatiwa Karade: After being heavily involved in the 2016 presidential elections, I walked away dismayed with both sides of the political ticket. The right had at this point become Nazi’s and Nazi sympathizers, openly admitting that they did not care for marginalized people or the conditions we must endure. Liberals seemed more concerned with singing “Kumbaya” and holding hands with eyes closed than acknowledging and dismantling systematic oppression against people of color. I was frustrated with being silenced, and exhausted of suppressing the anger. I printed my “angry” thoughts onto sweaters with glitter and flowers and realized our anger is more than justified, its human.
What message do you hope people who visit your store will take away and spread from your apparel?
I hope to normalize Pro-Black thoughts and ideas. Pro-Blackness is almost always labeled extreme or “radical.” I want people to acknowledge how relatable our messages are, and to remove the negative connotations and idea of “aggression” around wishing for the preservation and betterment of the lives of people of color.
How would you say activist apparel plays a role in the way youth can express themselves and get involved in social activism?
I would say activist apparel makes political statements accessible and attractive to youth. The way the world is, we’re kept so busy with working to survive and going to school, that we often don’t have time for political movements. It’s so much easier when you can throw on a sweater and make your stance known to the public.
Which sweater gave you the most satisfaction to see sell out?
“F*ck your Racist Grandma” is perhaps my boldest message. When that one sold out, I knew I wasn’t alone in my thoughts! We have to stop coddling people who have harmful and hateful beliefs, and I am glad other people recognize and support that.
Do you have any further designs planned?
Olatiwa Karade: Absolutely! Once we’re through the holiday rush, we plan to do some major expansions including tote bags and t-shirts!
Olatiwa’s shop, Splendid Rain Co. regularly re-stocks apparel and is the perfect gift for those looking to send a message beyond just jolly good cheer this holiday season.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.