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The DIOP Circle V.1

June 23rd, 2019


Blane Asrat

Blane Asrat was our 310th customer and is a Senior in Industrial Design at the Academy of Art University of San Francisco.

We'll let her take it from here...

What do you think of when you think of professionalism?

Chances are you imagine oxfords, a button up, and a suit. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?

It's no coincidence that our understanding of professionalism is rooted in Western European design language. This semester, in my Introduction to Footwear class, I challenged this narrative by designing a shoe to empower, to educate, and to challenge.



The Brief

How might we redefine the professional aesthetic by applying a Pan-African design language?

I chose to model my shoe after the Oakland based streetwear brand Madow Futur. Creative Director Senay Alkebu-Ian provided me with important feedback and insight throughout the project.


The Methodology

First, I went into the field and interviewed people around San Francisco to understand the way they perceive professionalism. I also talked to members of Hip Hop for change to better understand the black experience in a work environment.

I learned that Black folks often have to negotiate their identity for the sake of professionalism and are often told that African aesthetics (prints, hairstyles, jewelry) are not appropriate for the workplace.

Next, I delved into the historical background of both the dress shoe and white colonialism in Africa. I learned about how many African peoples were forced to change how they dressed in very specific ways. I also learned how marginalized groups have used fashion choices as a form of revolution throughout history.

I learned that Black folks often have to negotiate their identity for the sake of professionalism and are often told that African aesthetics (prints, hairstyles, jewelry) are not appropriate for the workplace.

Finally, I chose a select few aesthetic elements from each cardinal direction of Sub-Saharan Africa, which reflected professionalism in an African context. I used these elements to construct my shoe.

Here, I learned how to define professionalism in a context divorced from culture - subtle, clean, and fresh.


The Elements

Silhouette

The height and toe spring are inspired by the high jumping Adumu dance of the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania.

Upper

Asymmetry in draping is a common motif in African fashion. The swazi people of Eswatini and South Africa use draped, tied layers, as a symbol of resistance to British colonization. The "X" shape is found in shoes across Africa made from two straps and a slice of rubber tire.

Features

The magnetic fastener is inspired by the features of a Bwoom mask from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the rings from Adinkra symbol for leadership and charisma, originating in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire.

Graphics

The body painting of the Surma people in soutwestern Ethiopia inspire the graphical patterns.

Outsole

The outsole is made from rubber, like a gumboot. This is a nod to South African gumboot dancing. Gumboot Dancing started as a secret mode of communication for Black people working in the mines.

The outsole has four cuts, to represent the four consecutive jumps back and forth across a row of bulls in Hamar society, also from Ethiopia.

- Blane Asrat


To learn more, visit blane.design and

throw Blane a follow on IG @art_blane



The DIOP Circle V.1

June 23rd, 2019


Blane Asrat

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

Blane Asrat was our 310th customer and is a Senior in Industrial Design at the Academy of Art University of San Francisco.

We'll let her take it from here...

What do you think of when you think of professionalism?

Chances are you imagine oxfords, a button up, and a suit. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?

It's no coincidence that our understanding of professionalism is rooted in Western European design language. This semester, in my Introduction to Footwear class, I challenged this narrative by designing a shoe to empower, to educate, and to challenge.

The Brief

How might we redefine the professional aesthetic by applying a Pan-African design language?


I chose to model my shoe after the Oakland based streetwear brand Madow Futur. Creative Director Senay Alkebu-Ian provided me with important feedback and insight throughout the project.

The Methodology

Deconstruct professional footwear today, and reconstruct it with stories of Pan-African ceremony and resilience.


First, I went into the field and interviewed people around San Francisco to understand the way they perceive professionalism. I also talked to members of Hip Hop for change to better understand the black experience in a work environment.

I learned that Black folks often have to negotiate their identity for the sake of professionalism and are often told that African aesthetics (prints, hairstyles, jewelry) are not appropriate for the workplace.

Next, I delved into the historical background of both the dress shoe and white colonialism in Africa. I learned about how many African peoples were forced to change how they dressed in very specific ways. I also learned how marginalized groups have used fashion choices as a form of revolution throughout history.

I learned that Black folks often have to negotiate their identity for the sake of professionalism and are often told that African aesthetics (prints, hairstyles, jewelry) are not appropriate for the workplace.

Finally, I chose a select few aesthetic elements from each cardinal direction of Sub-Saharan Africa, which reflected professionalism in an African context. I used these elements to construct my shoe.

Here, I learned how to define professionalism in a context divorced from culture - subtle, clean, and fresh.

The Elements

Silhouette

The height and toe spring are inspired by the high jumping Adumu dance of the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania.

Upper

Asymmetry in draping is a common motif in African fashion. The swazi people of Eswatini and South Africa use draped, tied layers, as a symbol of resistance to British colonization. The "X" shape is found in shoes across Africa made from two straps and a slice of rubber tire.

Features

The magnetic fastener is inspired by the features of a Bwoom mask from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the rings from Adinkra symbol for leadership and charisma, originating in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire.

Graphics

The body painting of the Surma people in soutwestern Ethiopia inspire the graphical patterns.

Outsole

The outsole is made from rubber, like a gumboot. This is a nod to South African gumboot dancing. Gumboot Dancing started as a secret mode of communication for Black people working in the mines.

The outsole has four cuts, to represent the four consecutive jumps back and forth across a row of bulls in Hamar society, also from Ethiopia.


By Blane Asrat

To learn more, visit blane.design and throw Blane a follow on IG @art_blane

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.