As cofounder of Los Angeles’s beloved menswear store Union, Beth Gibbs is the queen of cool California streetwear for guys. But her latest project centers around her decidedly feminist point of view. “I wanted to show women, especially black women, through the lens of a woman. Not the usual male gaze we have as a filter,” she says. It is the reason why Gibbs chose to release a collaboration between her own line, Bephie, and No Sesso, a local brand founded by Pierre Davis, and stage a joyful show at The Underground Museum to celebrate it last Sunday. “When I was growing up here, girls at the Slauson swap meet would match their hair curlers to their Nikes. And they looked so fly!” she says. “Fly without even trying. When women dress for themselves, that’s where creativity and originality really shows.” Davis shares Gibbs’s perspective: as a black transgender woman, she is equally passionate about redefining how women of color and the LGBTQ+ community are presented—and represented—in fashion. “Beth and I mapped this entire collection out in one day,” Davis says. “It was full-on excitement and full-on ideas.”
The presentation took place in the Purple Garden on what was an unseasonably chilly afternoon. A long line wrapped around the block, but the vibe was communal and the crowd impressively diverse: intergenerational and earnest, colorful and fashion-forward, and refreshingly free of pretension, even with guests like actor Jesse Williams, producer Mark Ronson, artist Arthur Jafa, and musician Kelsey Lu in attendance. A young man sketched as he chatted with friends, a girl crocheted to pass the time in line, a woman strutted around in a red pleather trench and matching flares. There were kilts and bubble jackets, green sequin dresses, and very futuristic eyewear. As guests waited for the presentation to begin, many took in the museum’s “Artists of Color” show, curated by the late painter and Underground cofounder Noah Davis. Just before sunset, DJ Alima Lee cued up the first in a set of ’70s and ’80s soul, house, and gospel songs, as the models entered the garden, walked its perimeter, and stepped onto wood crates positioned before a row of tall, thin pine trees.
The collection was decidedly avant-garde—one could imagine it being worn by art-school kids in Wakanda, the fictional African nation depicted in Black Panther. Many of the clothes featured a print, created by Pierre Davis, of several young black women with finger waves, oversize sunglasses, or door knocker earrings; these styles were reminiscent of the legendary Bronner Brothers International Beauty Show, held each year in Atlanta. Silhouettes were loose and sporty, and the shapes of many of the 20-some pieces in the collection could be cinched or transformed by manipulating zippers or belts made of boat rope. Others featured No Sesso’s trademark mix of fabrics and reconstructed materials: neon greens, oranges, reds, and yellows popped against navy blue ripstop nylon and cream cotton canvas. As day turned to night, the event ended with a joyful dance party, as many of the best celebrations of art tend to do. For Bephie and No Sesso, Black History Month came to a close with a beautiful new beginning. What could be better?