I am excited to launch the next 30 years with a collab with a brand that is way more than just a brand to us. Noah is more like family to us, not just like family, they are family. Brendon and I have been good friends since 1996 and Estelle and Beth have been friends since around that time too. Fast forward several years and we have grown into one big happy family so naturally it was really important for Noah to be a part of this celebration. We are calling this collection: “Truth, Dare, Dream."
The reason we are calling it as such is because we are telling a story through three different characters: Alexandre Dumas, Ludwig van Beethoven and William Shakespeare. Each character represents a different narrative: one truth, one dare and one dream.
- Chris Gibbs, Union owner
The genesis of the creative around Union's 30-year anniversary Noah collaboration was an article we came across that asked the question, "Was Beethoven Black?". The theory is based in large part on his features, which his contemporaries and many others over the years agree resemble that of people of African descent. The theory goes on to speculate that his Flemish ancestors married “Black Moors” which would solidify his African ancestry. This got us to thinking about other possible historical figures who might have been people of color and other marginalized populations who, due to historical oppression, may have had to repress their true identities and hide who they really were in order to survive.
The Beethoven question sparked a curious debate, and as we had fun talking about the possibilities we recounted the old conspiracy theory around the real identity of Shakespeare -- the one that suggests that William Shakespeare was actually a woman. This led us to taking it a step further and imagining if William Shakespeare was a black woman. While we enjoyed diving into the possibilities, much like with the Beethoven theory, the one fact that couldn’t be denied across all the theories was that if she were a woman she would have had to hide her identity due to bigotry and prevailing misogyny of the times.
We decided to round off the designs, we would highlight a less controversial person of color, who despite all odds, was able to be successful despite the bigotry that surrounded them. For this we looked to Alexandre Dumas, the great author of such works as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, who is French but whose father was Haitian and mixed.
So much of our history has been proven to be propaganda with bias towards the victors so anything is possible. That is why the tagline of one of our t-shirts reads, “When the Lions Write History”. This refers to an African proverb that states until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter -- meaning dominant groups inscribe power through historical narrative. Through these t-shirt designs we wanted to poke fun but we also wanted to be able to do so while also reminding people of the marginalized histories of countless people we will never know because of their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation at the wrong place, during the wrong time.
As a part of the programing for this collection, we teamed up with Watts Conservatory of Music.
All of the models featured are students in the pilot program for WCoM who have taken music lessons for three summers in a row and are anxiously awaiting it's official opening. This organization is going above and beyond to provide access to the arts to communities and families in an environment that fosters creativity. A portion of sales from this collection will be donated to the Conservatory.
- Chris Gibbs, Union owner