[dropcap letter=”O”]ver a month ago, People for Urban Progress (PUP) launched its latest line of fashion wears, The Ignitor Collection, which sets out to do more than make its wearer stand out in a crowd. Conceived in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, the Executive Director of PUP, Turae Dabney felt that it wasn’t time for PUP – a company focused on good design and civic sustainability – to be sitting on its hands.
“In true PUP fashion the team’s responses was, ‘Well, what we do?’” said Dabney.
Dabney felt that in her position at PUP, as well as being a black woman, she had a responsibility to contribute to the conversation. However, in the wake of such an event, swift and precise decision-making comes to bear.
“Here I am, an African-American female, sitting among people who do not look like me and I didn’t have a response,” said Dabney.
After some thought the team at PUP arrived at their solution, “We wanted to make sure that [our response] was true to who we are as an organization,” said Dabney. “To make sure that it was more than just a social media post, even though those are important. We wanted it to be more than talk. We wanted it to be systemic, meaningful and purposeful.”
Consisting of three pieces, the Ignitor Collection features an all-black backpack made in-house from repurposed pool covers and two T-shirts donning the design of Indianapolis’ own and co-founder of the Blacksheep Collective, Byron Elliot.
“We wanted to make sure we had pieces at different price points,” said Dabney, “for those who wanted to contribute and show support. We also wanted to put our money where our mouth is and secure an African-American designer to design a T-Shirt that would be [reflective] of what is going on in the community.”
Elliot was recognized by PUP as someone who understood the message they wanted to broadcast, “I think the consensus was I am the guy who makes art with a purpose, or a positive message, whatever the case may be. I think that’s a good reputation to have,” said Elliot. “People who are artistically inclined have the power to bring awareness to a subject matter and filter that through their eyes, through their hands, their paint brush, whatever it is at their disposal.”
Elliot wanted to design something in response to the racial injustice that we are bombarded with in high frequency in the last few months and realistically the last 400 years.
“I wanted to be able to say something, share something, create something that speaks to that conversation that the world is having,” Elliot continued. “I think when it comes to the conversation of racial-injustice, the conversation at the start of it is, ‘Hey, treat us as fairly as you treat others.’ This design reinforces that standpoint.”
The Ignitor Collection isn’t only about the here and now. A portion of the proceeds generated from the line will be allocated to supporting the soon-to-be launched PUP Fellowship; with more items set to be added to the line in Spring 2021.
“We can continue to discuss the problem, but we are not a think tank, we are a do tank,” said Dabney. “Now, how can we as an organization look at the lack of diversity in design and say this is what we are doing to help solve the issue? That’s what we’ve always done as an organization.”
The fellowship will focus on identifying and uplifting designers who may not have otherwise had financial backing for their projects. The chosen fellow will then be tasked with designing and implementing a project that impacts the Indianapolis community through the lens of repurpose and reuse.
Dabney concluded, “It’s one thing to be diverse around the table. But it’s something else to be included. Diversity says, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the dance.’ Inclusion is, ‘Hey, I want you to dance.’”
Visit PUP online here to learn more about the fellowship launching in 2021 and how you can support it through the “Ignitor Collection”. Also, check out the Blacksheep Collective online and on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook.