March 16, 2019 Interviews
Transcending Time with the Fashion Designer in her Brooklyn home
With 10 years of fashion design under her belt, multidimensional designer Shanel Campbell continues to push boundaries while keeping it real, resilient and rooted. Respectfully emerging as a household name in her craft, she challenges the underrepresentation of Black women in fashion while sustaining an intentional commitment to joy. What keeps her focused on her journey? Not taking herself too seriously. Born and raised in Bronx, NYC, Shanel’s commitment to her authenticity, her culture, her community and her personal freedom is the key to her success - and she’s just getting started.
With Brittany Josephina
Photographed by Dee Williams
Who is Shanel Campbell, in your own words?
I'm a black fashion designer and artist that grew up amongst a Caribbean family in Bronx, New York. My work is inspired by my experiences and reflections of black culture and history throughout America. It’s also inspired by the places my family are from. I move through life questioning any and everything that I encounter. My work is a distillation of my analysis and re-imagination of systems, ideas, and norms.
Where does your love for fashion stem from?
My father has always had a particular interest in fashion. He always says that his favorite part of going to work was picking out what he was going to wear. I think growing up around this love for self-expression through clothing planted the seeds that eventually created the person that I am today.
This year marks 10 years since you embarked on your design journey. Can you speak to the importance of choosing yourself and believing in your vision first?
In a world with so many people, so many artists, so many fashion designers even, I decided that if I was going to express myself or put any work out there, I would do it my way. I don't go out of my way to try to be different; I go out of my way to keep it real. To keep it real to myself, to my family, to my friends, and to the community I care so much about. If I can't be myself, express myself, or work the way that I want to, then I am wasting my creative energy and talent.
As a professor at Parsons, you are actively shaping the voices and minds of the future. How inspiring has it been working with your students?
I have honest conversations with my students, since on average they’re usually about 5 years younger than me. I'm fascinated by the way they think and how they view the world. I also extend internship or mentorship opportunities to students who want to advance their skills outside of the courses I have with them.
In what ways has being a Caribbean-American woman from the Bronx influence your personal style and designs?
My cultural background influences everything I do in combination with my modern day interests and the media that I seek out and take in. My work tends to be a combinational reference to my past and present. I'm also heavily inspired by vintage silhouettes, details, and fabrics. I've made industrial references within my designs after seeing my dad do construction work to put himself through law school. I will never have one defining inspiration but rather a cohesive display of several.
We’ve seen your beautiful designs worn by Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, Ciara and Solange. Who’s your next dream client?
I have so many dream clients, I wouldn't be able to choose just one. I'm manifesting working with Missy Elliott, Kelsey Lu, Tierra Whack, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Rico Nasty, Frank Ocean, Beyonce and others.
It’s always fun to meet the artist behind the work. What are some fun facts about you that the general public doesn’t necessarily know?
I have 8 tattoos and I have 6 younger siblings. When I'm older I want buy a house and settle somewhere in the Southwest with my family and no one around for miles. I also want to eventually get into film. I've been heavily inspired by the short films of my favorite musical artists.
It’s so necessary that we give ourselves continued permission to visualize who we are and where we want to be. Let’s manifest. What is one vision you hold for yourself for the future?
Freedom- Financial freedom, creative freedom, cultural freedom, sexual freedom, intellectual freedom.
Your work is a love letter to Black women, what does Black Girl Magik mean to you?
Black Girl Magik means the ability to express yourself in whichever and whatever way you want. Black Girl Magik is not being held back by stereotypes and misconceptions about black femmes. Black Girl Magik means being seen, heard, recognized, and acknowledged in a substantial way.
is part of
a theme that the Black Girl Magik collective explored and invited the community to investigate with us through a practice of communal healing and coalition building.