Creating Black History in SA: Women explore African culture through fashion

‘African Americans and black people throughout the diaspora have a story to tell and using fashion is just one way to do it.’

SAN ANTONIO – Ryane Smith’s African-American fashion exhibit at the UTSA Institute Of Texan Cultures, Destined by Design, is her way of making sure people fuel their passion.

Smith said she doesn’t have any formal training in fashion but that she’s wanted to be a designer since she was a little girl.

Originally from Maryland, the military brought Smith to the Alamo City.

“I do love the culture of San Antonio, but I also want to see my culture present,” she said. “I wanted to make a difference because I see a lot of people that come here and they leave because they’re like, ‘Oh well, where’s the Black culture?’”

After getting out of the military, she was looking for fulfillment and way to feed her appetite for culture. She created Black Fashion Week, which happens across San Antonio in September. This Black History Month she curated a “first-of-its-kind” exhibit at the Institute for Texan Cultures in downtown.

“If I was someone trying to be a designer I would walk in here and be like ‘this is my time to shine.’” Antoinette Francois, one of the designers featured in the exhibit, also picked up fashion as a hobby. Like most of the designers, she uses African-inspired patterns in her pieces. She says, “having this says ‘We have a voice, we’re here, we’re talented. Join us.”

By chance, not choice, Smith says the designers are all women.

“I figured instead of trying to ask for a seat at the table, I wanted to create my own table and I wanted to welcome people who were supporting of black designers... whether they’re fashion designers, whether they’re shoe designers or the jewelry designers. I wanted people who ‘got it’ and who understood that we deserved to have a voice.”

The exhibit runs through March 1 at the Institute of Texan Cultures and is included with admission.

This is the third year of “Creating Black History in SA”, a segment for Black History Month that showcases people who are making a positive and lasting impact in the local black community. The episodes below, from 2018 and 2019, were created specifically for our KSAT TV streaming app on your smart device.

Episode 1: Meet the young men behind ‘Suit Up’, A woman caring for children who lost a parent to gun violence, ‘Sistas in Business’ who promote literacy, And SAAACAM.

Episode 2: Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and their ‘Fatherhood Initiative’. Alpha Tau Omega keeps black history alive. Jackie Washington: the face of ‘Rolling Readers’. Buffalo Soldiers teach about the history of African Americans in the military.

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