Sunday, June 1, 2014

The NeoBantu Awakening: A Beautiful Insight

Dallas-based African brand, NeoBantu is more than just bold and colorful prints, playful patterns and all things vibrant. It's a brand that encourages community and culture--and for me, it was an introduction and window to my roots.

Dallas Fashion Blogger Leah Frazier Beauty4Ashes NeoBantu

Bantu of the name "NeoBantu" is a tribe in Africa that lives by the motto "I am because we are."  There are so many powerful things about this statement in and of itself. When I was interviewing NeoBantu co-founder Tendai Tawonezvi for a write-up for DFW Style Daily (see the article here), she candidly described the Bantu culture--one that believes in community all the while celebrating individuality. I instantly became intrigued because it was as if I was attending a class to learn more about myself, my roots and where I am from.
Dallas Fashion Blogger Leah Frazier Beauty4Ashes NeoBantu

As Tendai was describing Africa, the Bantu culture, her adventures in researching current African fashion and trends, I kept mulling over the statement "I am because we are."  How often do we really attribute success and growth based on our connection to community or the fellowship with others?  To me, I immediately began to think of Ecclesiastes 4:12.  This revelation in scripture is how I know that NeoBantu will be an ultimate success.

"And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." ~Ecclesiastes 4:12~

The fact that the Bantu community recognizes strength in numbers and thrives off of the fact that we are not self-made by any means--we each deposit and take from each other, is so powerful to me and made me smile from the inside out. Community, culture and fellowship is the recipe for meaningful living and to a balanced life.

Dallas Fashion Blogger Leah Frazier Beauty4Ashes NeoBantu

After my brief history into the background of the brand, Tendai gave me a tour of the showroom. I immediately noticed that I was smiling from ear to ear.  I was instantly in a good mood as I browsed through the clothing, touched the fabrics and conversed with a woman that I genuinely felt was my sister. There's no other way to describe it.  I felt as if the clothes had reached into the depths of my soul, knocked on the door and said "Awaken Leah. Arise."

I looked over to Tendai and naively began to describe just how joyous the fabrics and clothing were making me feel. It was something natural within me that was drawn to them--I was opening the door to another part of myself. I went on to describe to Tendai how playful and vibrant prints can be intimidating to some and how recently I have just stepped outside of the box to mix prints on prints because it was "on trend."

Dallas Fashion Blogger Leah Frazier Beauty4Ashes NeoBantu

The look Tendai gave me was priceless...as if I had defied my African roots. She explained that bold prints, colorful patterns and mixing prints is all that she knows, especially since she is a Zimbabwe native.  So this is not something that is "trendy" or intimidating--this is purely African fashion and what embodies the culture. I immediately became embarrassed--to think that I have been raised culturally to fear prints, patterns, colors and the likes; to associate a negative connotation to something that is so beautiful; to dull my inner African roots to merge into American culture. Thus, the awakening began.

Dallas Fashion Blogger Leah Frazier Beauty4Ashes NeoBantu

I likened this experience to when I first went natural with my hair 3 years ago. We, as African-American females have been trained to dislike our natural hair--that straight is more beautiful, that long length defines beauty, etc. so we damage our hair with permanent relaxer treatments. When I first went natural and started transitioning from relaxed hair to my natural hair, I remember being embarrassed to go out into public with curly roots--again something that society has taught African-American females is negative and unattractive. I fought through these negative associations and immediately begin to re-train my thinking as to what is beautiful.  In doing this, I instantly became angry--to know that we have been trained to despise our hair--something that I have learned over time to be beautiful, unique and definitive. Another awakening.

Dallas Fashion Blogger Leah Frazier Beauty4Ashes NeoBantu

As I exited the NeoBantu showroom, I felt revived, excited. It was just another glimpse into me and why "my black is beautiful." In this moment, I couldn't be more proud of where I'm from and I can't wait to explore more. Everything about this brand is natural and I wish them nothing but eternal success. I thank NeoBantu for letting me test out their apparel, especially this colorful hi-low skirt for my photoshoot. I need to gradually merge into the prints on prints, but I subtly paired the NeoBantu skirt with an animal print belt and shoes to tap into my African side.  I'm a creature of comfort so I casually tucked a cotton tank into the skirt for a completed look.

Dallas Fashion Blogger Leah Frazier Beauty4Ashes NeoBantu

Want to see more from this emerging brand?  Visit their website here. How do you NeoBantu?

*All images by Thomas Garza Photography / Skirt: NeoBantu, Shoes: Nine West (old), Crossbody Handbag: Hobo Handbags, Wild Flower Tank: Flourish Girls, Necklace: Lia Sophia, Rose-Gold Watch: Caravelle New York*