EXCLUSIVE: Interviewing Travon About AfroPunk Fest Atlanta Experience (with Contributor Ariel Gibson)
[Written By: Ariel Gibson]
I been knowing Travon for quite sometime. I was pleased to see him at AfroPunk Fest Atlanta and couldn't help to catch up with him. After the weekend of the festival, I called him up to do an interview with him and he decided to collaborate with ArtREV to publish the interview onto his website. Of course I said yes. Our conversation was so good and I just couldn't help to talk about his entire outfit and experience at AfroPunk.
Ariel: One of the many unique things about you is your style. When I saw you at AfroPunk, I was quite impressed with the look that you'd chosen for the festival's image. How'd you came up with the concept of your outfit?
Travon: Thank you so much. I am really glad you liked the outfit. The funny thing about that outfit was the fact I only had 24 hours to pick out my look. Throughout the week before I decided to go to AfroPunk, I was procrastinating about going because my agenda booked for a rally, fashion show, and 2 client appointments, alongside volunteering to work Saturday morning at my part-time job. So, I messaged my friend, Tiffany, who's a stylist here in Atlanta, and I told her that I need her help with coming up with a style for the festival as quickly as possible. We decided to just pull some garments from Nordstrom but first we looked up different items that were available at the local store. She co-styled my look although I already had an idea of what I wanted to wear. It was just in form of seeking what do I want to portray as. The concept wasn't hard because it relates to my style and to things I seek on the runway lately in fashion. But, if I must say, I didn't have a true concept, but naturally, the outfit itself had 70s vibes to it which came naturally because I seem to organically adapt to that era of clothing.
Ariel: I am going to ask this question real quick. You’re a stylist that has a stylist?
Travon: Well yes and no. (laughs) This is my first time working with a stylist for a look that I am wearing. Some stylists have their own stylist, but Tiffany wouldn’t be considered my permanent stylist. Sometimes, I like to call up some of my stylist friends and hear their advice. With Tiffany, I knew she would be able to work a style out with me because two heads are better than one. (laughs) It was all about collaborating at the end of the day. AfroPunk is special to me and I wanted to showcase a way for me to look depart at the festival and just like how we met up and we discuss to do this interview, I was trying to prepare myself to be in front of different medias at the festival to talk about the outfit that I wore. But, there’s no issue with a stylist working with another stylist for an outfit. I know lots of stylists that does this procedure.
Ariel: Collaborating is always a good thing. That opens my mind up a little bit more now.
Travon: Exactly. There’s nothing wrong with a stylist working with a stylist. I just felt like it was a collaboration.
Ariel: Agreed! The outfit does look like it was the 70s inspired. That's why I asked about the concept because you always have a concept whenever you are wearing something.
Travon: I do indeed. My style has always adapted to the 70s, 80s, and 90s for some odd reason. And it's an organic interest because I don't think about those eras when I am shopping for clothing. I just buy stuff that looks good to me, although I am very androgynous.
Ariel: That's what I love about you. You're such an organic creator.
Travon: Thank you. I try to be. (laughs)
Ariel: What were the labels you wore?
Travon: The shirt was Vineyard Vines, the pants were Joie, and the shoes were Johnston & Murphy. The cuff was mine from when I bought it last year at The Clothing Warehouse in Little 5 Points. The bow tie was a Nordstrom collective. And even the groom kit was from Nordstrom. The outfit all together cost around $600. I am thinking that I may have gone overboard with the look but people do go all out for AfroPunk. I am not about labels or expensive clothing. However, to get the look that I wanted, I needed to spend a lot.
Ariel: What about the color scheme of the outfit? How did that come about in the process of styling?
Travon: Originally, it was set to become an all-black outfit. I already had the pants on the list of things to try on from researching online with my co-stylist. Tiffany was like "We should just do those because it looks more comfortable and festival-like". The colors came to me as I was trying on different shirts. It has a jean-inspired visual texture look to it, but the textiles were cotton and linen. Then, I wanted comfortable shoes to wear, but I knew I wanted the shoes brown to go with the color scheme of the outfit. And that's how the grooming kit became part of the look because I needed a little clutch-like item to complete [the look].
Ariel: How would you decide the outfit? And how does the look relate to the theme of AfroPunk?
Travon: The look is a unisex, 70s-inspired outfit that gives personality, character, and culture. It was a hippy casual look. I love how the Vineyards Vines button-down shirt naturally had the sleeves rolled up. I like how the pants were dark blue, string-adjusted, and wide leg. I think it contributed to AfroPunk because AfroPunk is all about representation to a style of one's self-inspiration and personality. I wanted my outfit to showcase my character but had people talking. I would even wear this look to a fashion show if it boils down to it. It was very comfortable.
Ariel: What would you do differently to the outfit if you had a second chance of reliving the festival?
Travon: Nothing. I think I made a good choice.
Ariel: Most people who know you thought you were going to wear the dashiki and afro.
Travon: (laughs) Yeah. Um! (laughs) I didn't have any plans to wear a dashiki unless I was going there for a whole weekend. I always wear my afro and I didn't want that as my hairstyle. That's why I got my mother to do my hair in little afro ponytail puffs. I thought that was an Afrocentric look and I wanted to do something different than the usual. Sometimes, it's great to just step out of your usual creativity of style and try to wear something that you've never done. That's why I love that outfit so much. I don't even wear a lot of blue. And I am not a big fan of brown shoes. I stepped out of my comfort zone to wear this outfit for AfroPunk.
Ariel: Are you trying to step out of your usual comfort zone with your style nowadays?
Travon: I am. I am getting older and a lot of the stuff that I've worn throughout the years are starting to become boring and tired to me. I am trying to change my style once again though I will remain wearing dark colors like black or dark gray. I want my style to become more androgynous and bold. I want to convey art in my style. I also just want to wear different textures, patterns, and fabrics as well. Even my hair plays a part in my style. I still want to do so many things to my hair that's going to take time for me to present on my head. Overall, you are expected to try new and different styles of your wardrobe. Life is a challenge and I believe that we have to challenge ourselves, even through fashion.
Ariel: I loved your energy at the festival. You seem to have so much fun with everyone. How was experiencing the vibes of AfroPunk and being part of the creative team?
Travon: It was inspiring. I loved every bit of moment. I saw people I knew and I saw new faces that were beautiful to me. To know that there are individuals like myself who are "alternative urban" and comes together for this amazing event was truly an honor to me. One of the great things about AfroPunk was the simple fact that I was part of the creative process for the theme of the festival. But, I didn't think that it was going to turn out like that. I was in meetings and they were figuring out different venues, but nothing was coming our way. Then, they promoted AfroPunk Fest Atlanta four weeks in advance but no one on the creative team (at least I didn't know) knew where the venue was located. It was kinda kept a secret. And I like that it was kept a secret because it was the perfect venue to keep a secret about. It was very intimate. I have been part of AfroPunk now for 2 years, but I coordinated the first attempted AfroPunk, but of course, that didn't work out so well. But, I think we did a great job figuring out the creativity. Lots of people kept telling me that the venue was better than AfroPunk Fest Brooklyn because we were more intimate, artistic, and spaced out.
Ariel: Who did you come to the festival with and who did you see that you knew or recognized?
Travon: I went with my best friend, Khafre, his best friend, Darcel, and his other friend, Ryan. We sort of just met up with each other. I was planning to just meet [Khafre] there but I asked him for a ride and that's how we all ended up meeting with each other. From there, I met up with my old high school friend, Shanice, her sister, and a good friend of mines by the name of Sunni. So, I was going back and forth with both groups but then lost the group that I met up with and just stayed with my best friend and his friends afterward. I saw my old childhood friend, Myers, which she was super happy to see me. I saw my friend Vince. I saw fashion moguls De'Maryion and Askia Abdull. I saw my friend Darius, which we never officially met each other and he truly loves me. And I love him so much. And then I saw his best friend, JuNe, who was on the ad for AfroPunk Fest ATL. I saw my gay friends Chazzi and his boyfriend Que. They were part of the voguing performance. I also had a conversation with St. Beauty, Roman GianArthur, and Young Paris.
Ariel: What did you talk about with St. Beauty, Roman, and Young Paris? I bet that was incredible.
Travon: Those ladies at St. Beauty are amazing. We converse about their performance and how I got introduced to their music through Solange's cultural hub, Saint Heron. We talked about our love for Solange and I told them to keep inspiring and living their dreams and stay beautiful. Then we took a selfie. Roman and I took a selfie together, too and it was a brief conversation about how I love his voice and his music. Young Paris was super cool, too. I talk to him about how I discovered him through AfroPunk's curated event with Red Bull that happened earlier this year.
Ariel: What was your favorite moment at AfroPunk?
Travon: There's three. One was Darius' hugs. I still haven't recovered from that yet. (laughs) Another one was the art that was in the artist reception area in the stone house. The structures were so deep that I just couldn't imagine how no one would get it when you look at it. And the last one was Kelela's performance because I sang the shit out of those songs she’d performed. (laughs)
Ariel: Darius' hugs must really touched you deeply?
Travon: To know someone who hasn't really got to know me much but observes me and is really excited to see me in their presence is just truly humbling to me. I really like Darius for his character traits, his artistry, and just him as a person. I feel like he's a really good guy and I don't meet a lot of guys like him in the same-gender-loving setting. He's someone I've been watching for a long time. I plan to work with him in the near future. I just don't know what we can collaborate on just yet because I love his painting, his photography, and I respect his vision. I am an Artistic Director, so there are ways to work with him in the near future, but for now, I just appreciate his generosity for him. I actually used to have like the biggest crush on him at one point because his characteristic traits are identical to mines and that's what made me have a secretive crush on him. (pauses) Oh, my god (laughs), I can't believe I am saying this in this interview. (laughs) but yeah. I don't have a crush on him anymore. There's no reason why though. It was years ago.
Ariel: Aw. That's so sweet. Your personality is so lovable. I just loved how you connected with a lot of folk at the festival. Are you a people's person and if so, how do you want people to remember you?
Travon: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am humbled to hear those words from you and from others. You know, I am about love. Love is all that I can give because I was taught to love one another and give love to others. I have been that way since I was young. I never want to make enemies or fight people. I always want to return the favor of kindness and care for people who are part of or make an impact in my life. The thing that I appreciated about AfroPunk was that I saw nothing, but love. Everyone showed love towards each other. To be around folks that generate that feeling out of their hearts and implement it into others is truly inspiring to me. This random woman went to everyone around the festival telling everyone, “you're beautiful and stay beautiful.” I appreciate individuals like her because she was all about making someone feel comfortable and proud to be black and beautiful. That's what I was trying to do all along while I was there. Presenting love to a human mind is the most incredible feeling on earth. No one should feel down. No one deserves to feel like they aren't beautiful. That's what I want people to remember me by. The word ‘love'.
Ariel: Is that the main concept that you got out of AfroPunk?
Travon: One of them.
Ariel: What's the other one?
Travon: What I like about AfroPunk is their message. I like that they embrace the black punk community. We have a lot of flaws in our community because the outsiders don't appreciate us. There wasn't a platform for the alternative urban subgroup until in 2003 when AfroPunk first established. I feel like I am a different person since I left AfroPunk that night. This was literally the best festival I've ever been to. There are some festivals that were about the art or the concept itself. But, the people are what made AfroPunk Fest Atlanta the way that it was this year. It was the best inspiring, cultivating experience I have ever been part of. I felt free. I felt alive. I felt like I want to stay in this world that AfroPunk created for my people. That night, I was a proud black, gay man.
Ariel: Do you plan on going next year?
Travon: Hell yeah. Can't say no to that. (laughs)
Ariel: (laughs) I agree here. I had a tremendous time.
Travon: I loved your dashiki dress. I freaked out when I saw you in it. I was like “Wow. Yaaaas girl.”
Ariel: (laughs) Really? Thanks. My mother made it for me.
Travon: She's an amazing seamstress. You make sure you tell her that.
Ariel: Thank you. What do you think you would wear next year?
Travon: I want to collaborate with an independent fashion designer. That was my plan from the start when I planned to go to AfroPunk, but next year, I am not pulling clothes from Nordstrom. I am going to try to either do some serious shopping or get my garments made.
About The Contrubuting Author:
Ariel Gibson is an independent blogger and visual artist in Los Angeles. She has been part of AfroPunk for 3 years and has written for Ebony, HuffPost, New York Times, LA Times, and W Magazine.