Preserving culture rests on the shoulders of artists. No matter the kind, whether orators, painters or designers, the stories that we tell create the culture that we embrace. It’s not created in department stores or on runways – it’s in our DNA, our hair, our skin, our homes and our places of worship. We have been and always will be the blueprint and Keama Garrett is reinforcing all of this through her artwork. As a designer of clothing, interiors, and accessories, to name a few, Garrett got her start by capturing her family’s traditions through clothing design.
Originally from Columbus, OH, Garrett’s first memory of exposure to the arts was through community involvement. Participating in church plays like Lavern Tate’s version of “The Chocolate Nutcracker”, traveling abroad to Japan as a young girl, attending family reunions and observing how everyone styled their hair and outfits: these are the moments that Garrett credits with fanning her passion for culture and creation.
Through time spent with her family, Garrett learned about accessorizing from her grandmothers and the impact of Hip Hop culture on media from her older cousins. “Our black family stories are our culture, our magic, our liquid gold. It’s our respectability to share this in the best light possible and to continue the narrative. That’s what people really want.” She grew to love sitcoms like “Moesha” and “The Parkers” that provided young, Black girls like her with representation.
Garrett carried these influences with her throughout her education at Fort Hayes and Kent universities from sharing moments in the classroom with her teachers Wendell Burton & Paula Dancie to admiring the work and drive of greats like Patrick Kelly, Willie Smith, Zelda Wynns, Robin Ruth & Artie. It was in those classrooms that she discovered the power of her talent after seeing the reactions of her professors and classmates. “For my sustainable fashion class, I used a plastic tablecloth to create a halter-style wedding dress using crushed plastics as the bedazzling. When everyone saw it, they gasped together at once and I thought, ‘imagine if this was actual fabric, ya know?’”
The 27-year-old, Jane of All Trades continues to push the envelope with designs that straddle feminine simplicity and classic edginess. She was most recently recognized by Fashion Bomb Daily & Shea Moisture for her latest project that was featured in Beyonce’s ‘Black Is King’. Garrett shared that the tulle, two-piece worn by Beyonce’ was inspired by a design that was featured in a small dance video that she shot two years ago. “It was an opportunity for my art to be seen in her art and that’s what it’s all about.” It’s often in these moments that we’re reminded of times when we wanted to give up, but continued to push forward.
To be embraced by such a major icon, as well as the public, Garrett can’t help but believe that she manifested the opportunity. “It reminded me of what I can do when I do my own thing.” She has been developing other collections including her ‘Nefertiti’ bag that comes in a variety of textures and colors. She was also the first from the fashion school at Kent State University to speak at Thomas Roth’s Visiting Artist Series in February 2021. Garrett has no plans of slowing down saying that she’s only getting started in creating her legacy. When it comes to that of her creations and her family, she said, “for me, style was passed down, fashion is what I create. Like many Black designers, Garrett has experienced her fair share of setbacks and inconvenience. Yet, she continues to look to the future and her environment to feel inspired.
“I believe that what God has for you, God has for you. It only takes one person to believe you deserve it and that one person has to be you first.”