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1971 by Brujasvia Kickstarter

NY skate witches Brujas take on prison reform with clothes

The feminist collective are pushing for social change with their new collection

The recent election of Donald Trump crushed a lot of hopes that had blossomed in recent years in the United States, with many who were hoping to advance the status quo on gender equality, prison reform and racial bias, rightly seeing Trump’s election as a step backwards. Now more than ever, the world needs political voices and activists to continue to address those subjects of inequality.

Enter Brujas: the feminist skate crew comprised of a group of native New Yorkers who put on creative programming events in NYC, throw killer parties and also produce clothing with strong political messages. We caught up with three members of the crew (Arianna Gil, Sheyla Grullón and designer Calvin Skinner) at a recent event celebrating skating, music and their new streetwear venture 1971. They discuss how their label addresses prison reform, how feminism influences their work and how to keep going in a post-Trump world.   

How did Brujas first come to be and how has it evolved over the years?

Arianna Gil: It started as a concept between two people skateboarding in the Bronx – that was Sheyla Grullon and me. It was summer and we were skating every day and inspired by the creative women around us. We decided to start our own events and overall organisation – we approached Brujas as a platform to do whatever we want. 

Over the last two years it’s turned into something way bigger than skateboarding, getting into more political issues such as the national prison strike that started this year on September 9. During the duration of the strike we had a fundraising project, which turned into our streetwear project 1971. 

“Rather than spend money on overpriced clothes we put it into our own projects, supporting each other and making our own clothes. We’re pooling all of our resources together to build these brands” – Calvin Skinner

What happened in 1971?

Arianna Gil: There was a prison uprising at a state facility in Attica, NY. After ceasing the prison for four days they were able to create a list of demands of which many were honored. Those demands addressed issues that to this day are relevant – imperialism by the US government, working conditions, conditions within prisons, and uncompensated labour in prison. The things they were talking about then are still so pertinent now. The prison population has soared since then – during the 70s it wasn’t as extreme but it’s accelerated since. We feel compelled into action because of this situation.

In what ways do you feel like you can uniquely express yourself through fashion?

Calvin Skinner: Rather than spend money on overpriced clothes we put it into our own projects, supporting each other and making our own clothes. We’re pooling all of our resources together to build these brands.

Arianna Gil: Most mainstream brands are apolitical and don’t have any messaging behind them. That’s why we started 1971, to have something we can relate to better. It’s also unisex – we’re about creating clothes for everybody. That’s another reason we need to make our own clothes because we don’t want to gender our clothes.

You debuted 1971 during Art Basel Miami Beach at an event with Future Archives. Why did you choose this location and timing to present the line?

Sheyla Grullón: Wearing and having a booth at the event at Art Basel was dope. It was an outlet to expand the collection to a broader audience who may never have heard of Brujas or 1971. It was really cool telling people what it meant and what the goal was and seeing that they were excited about it and intrigued.

Arianna Gil: Future Archives who put the event on are very progressive-minded people. It felt more like an event that would happen in New York, like a Harold Pener day, which is a day where all these kids go to the skate park and listen to music. Our event was intergenerational – it had super young, super old people, and everything in between. If someone would have asked us to showcase at a gallery that wouldn’t have made sense but this did. We also loved working with Venus X, who’s created this great intergenerational space. It was very unlike any other fancy event we attended in Miami. It was away from the beach, under a bridge – that’s Brujas.

How does feminism inspire your work?

Sheyla Grullón: Feminism inspires our work in many ways, we connect as sisters and form bonds to lift each other and make all these things possible.

Arianna Gil: Everything we do is designed and executed by women. We’re really aware of this, because all around us there’s this absence of women. We’re influenced by material feminism. Say if you go to a party – the lineup is always men, all these clothing brands are all owned by men. Understanding that, and that this is also linked to economic strategy is important. It’s awesome to see women find ways to be creative and step up to the plate.

“All around us there’s this absence of women... say if you go to a party, the lineup is always men, all these clothing brands are all owned by men” – Arianna Gil

How has the election of Donald Trump affected you?

Arianna Gil: Trump being an extreme xenophobe and racist makes me feel threatened and unhappy. At the same time, both candidates would have continued the war on poor people; both of their politics were violent to the underclass. It just means that we all need to go harder. We need to encourage people to go harder with the progress they are fighting for. We still have a lot of work to do when it comes to politics and activism. Right after Trump was elected we hosted an event at the New Museum called Scamming the Patriarchy. It felt like such a relief. There were so many people there who do influential work, and they are just going to continue doing what they are doing.   

Sheyla Grullón: The election affected me in ways that will only make me strive to want more as a woman, to succeed more, to empower more, and to educate more. I want to inspire young girls to want to break barriers and reach heights they probably never thought possible. It was a heartbreaking event for me but it will only make me fight harder.

Brujas' 1971 line is available now via their Kickstarter.