Wisdom ATL

End Rape Culture

“To thine own self be true” are not only words of wisdom, but also the foundation of the self-proclaimed “lifestyle fashion house,” Wisdom ATL. While Atlanta may not be the first to come to mind as a fashion city, Wisdom ATL may be the city’s secret weapon. Founded and designed by Atlanta native, Latif Rashad, Wisdom ATL is influenced by hip-hop and is guided by a mission as the brand forges its path.

Wisdom ATL’s main mission is plastered across some of their pieces and is a predominant theme on its social media: End Rape Culture. “End Rape Culture has become something more than a ‘statement,’” says Rashad. “It has rallied a timeless movement that we now envision as the heartbeat of who we are.” His designs are simple and straightforward. Most notable of the End Rape Culture (ERC) collection is the ERC Flight Suit, which features the slogan prominently on the chest. Spread across the back are the letters “ERC,” practically challenging someone to question its meaning. Alternatively, the ERC Tour Tee features the slogan across the front and a bold message on the back: “A fashion collection built to raise awareness about sexual assault. Our mission is to start the conversation around the world.” This message is cleverly spaced, subtly splitting up letters and sentences in unexpected ways, forcing the reader to stop and ponder the words. Most importantly, aside from raising awareness and creating a voice for victims, a portion of proceeds actually benefits sexual assault victims.

In addition to the End Rape Culture collection, Wisdom ATL has created a capsule collection with rapper 21 Savage; Wisdom ATL accessories, including a fanny pack and a bandana; and its own capsule collection, titled “Red Balloon.” Designer, Rashad, says that while he is inspired by hip-hop artists, he does not hunt for ideas. “My design process is very organic,” he explains. “I don’t search for inspiration. When you do that, things become forced.” So, ultimately, how does the artist create? “I allow inspiration to stem from whatever it is I’m experiencing at the moment. I like to base my collections from a hip-hop perspective of how artists release albums that resonate with their current mood or brand personality. Kanye West is a huge inspiration for me.”

This hip-hop, of-the-moment mantra is visibly reflected in all of Wisdom’s designs. Sweatshirts and tees in bold color combinations and with audacious branding slapped across the chests or the backs can be thrown on quickly and without thought, though never creating a last-minute, undressed look. Instead, these urban pieces act as punctuation to any ensemble. One could easily imagine Rashad’s muse, Kanye West, wearing the orange Wisdom ATL logo sweatshirt atop his Yeezy jeans, with his mogul wife supporting the Wisdom cause by wearing the ERC flight suit unbuttoned dangerously low with sky-high heels. But, both the sweatshirt and the flight suit could just as easily be seen on the streets, paired with some vans and distressed denim, getting roughed up on a skateboard.

To describe Wisdom ATL clothing without relaying the Wisdom experience would be remiss. “We don’t consider ourselves couture, high fashion or streetwear. Wisdom is a lifestyle fashion house, that serves as an oasis for like-minded creatives.” This is how Rashad presents the Wisdom experience, too. “When it comes to our design, we like to stray as far away as possible from traditional fashion; our goal is to create an experience at our fashion shows.” These experiences can be re-lived on the brand’s website, which includes a Wisdom TV feature. Here, you can view past fashion shows or promotional videos created by the Wisdom team. These videos truly are “experiences,” as the viewer is submersed in ambient music and made to feel as though he or she is there with the Wisdom team. “We use interactive installations at our shops to leave our audience with an experience.” The most profound of these experiences is the featured video of the most recent fashion show. The fashion show centers on a diminutive, young woman who arrives to the stage first and stands boldly in the center, staring out at the crowd. She dons the End Rape Culture tee, styled under a denim jacket. Slowly, one by one, more models join her on stage, each one brusquely bumping into her without a word or acknowledgement of the offense, as they continue on to stand behind her on stage. As models of all shapes and sizes finish filing in, she sheds her jean jacket, revealing her ERC tee. The careless way in which the other models brush past her is an obvious reflection of the negligent attitude toward misogyny that still dominates our modern culture.

Many a brand adopts a message or a cause, but few put their words into action. Wisdom ATL, on the other hand, has partnered with schools and nonprofits to encourage activism. “At the early building stages of Wisdom, we’ve partnered with Dekalb County Schools to engage young students in Wisdom’s message,” relays Rashad. “We’re a brand that stands behind bigger causes, and we want to take action instead of simply saying it. Although we understand that fashion can revolutionize culture and larger movements, we think it’s important to have a giveback system as well, so it comes full circle.”

Still exclusive, and only available directly on their website and at one small, local retailer (The Locals ATL), Wisdom ATL has big plans for the future. “You can expect Wisdom to be unpredictable, more experiential with traditional fashion shows,” discloses the designer. “You’ll see more unique, tailored style with our pieces, and expect an Atlanta flagship in the near future. If you live in Atlanta, we have something special for you in Summer 2019!” Until then, follow them on Instagram and check out their website to keep current with this exciting brand.

Text Leah Tassinari
Images Courtesy of Wisdom ATL