Designer Spotlight: This Brand Works With Materials Integral To The Black Experience

DJ Chappel

Bobos have long been a pinnacle of the Black experience, and New York-based textile artist DJ Chappel has built a world of his own that celebrates the Black queer boys that constantly inspire the way he moves throughout the world. Centering his attention on dance, textiles, and art, Chapel’s designs for his brand Duality Junkie spark a certain fluidity and have a nostalgic tone to his pieces. The Bobo Bags come from a love of the beloved beauty supply store. In many of our experiences as Black kids growing up, much of our time was in the beauty supply store. Chappel also wanted to try his hand at working with materials that didn’t have to do with sewing, like his Boxer Skirts and extravagant Hats. His designs are truly couture, and he works with materials that make sense to those it is meant for. 

Coming from the world of dance, having studied at a dance conservatory in Pittsburgh, Chappel knows how to weave that medium into his design process as the Bobo Bags have a certain bounce to them as he walks down the New York streets. Chappel is also the founder and creative director behind the personas that also inspire his work called Dauan Jacari Dick Jockey. Those personas were created out of the duality that he was experiencing. “I started working at a costume shop while also being a dancer, I was able to balance these two interests of mine, running through the archive constantly and pulling things that were requested and just really touching the garments and turning them inside out, and figure out how they were made,” says the multihyphenate. “Then going right to the dance studio and like, hitting like a triple pirouette landing, arabesque squats, just extremely grand and luxurious, I feel like everything about my childhood was pretty grand, and luxurious, which I loved. Then it all kind of got different. I guess that’s when duality strikes. I found myself in Crown Heights with some roommates, and things were getting difficult and weren’t really working, but I was spending a lot of energy and interest in creating and exploring and expressing myself; spent a lot of nights at the nightclub dancing, and it was really fun.” 

Chappel views himself as a future ancestor for the Black queer boys that will come after him and searches for ways to heal through living authentically and hopefully passing that down, hence ancestor. In regards to his process now, he’s honed in more of his energy in his studio and archiving his pieces, spending time with them rather than selling them immediately. “I feel like a lot of my early creations that really pushed; I still had, but I was so fast to make some money that it’s all gone,” he tells ESSENCE. Speaking more on his process, “I’ve been really making an effort to archive and take time to like put things away and enjoy them with myself before sharing them with the world and getting more intimate with my process, a little bit hostile; I might even say so, and they might even be hostages sometimes, my clothes.” He suggests to all young designers of color to hold on to their creations a bit and to be mindful of stylists who want to pull because things often can go wrong with your creations that took so much time and emotion to develop. 

Photo Ryan Cardoso 

Other inspirations to the designer/artist are Kerry James Marshall and  Joyce J. Scott, who he is in constant conversation with as he reads and listens to what they have to say to feed the artist in him. “I feel like they are my friends. It’s this weird thing of, like, you don’t want to meet your idols or role models, but I feel like I have to because I feel like I already know them. I am them.”

As for the future, Chappel knows his trajectory is bright and full of many opportunities that he is creating for himself. “I am approaching what most people might say is success or whatever, or I’m having a moment of emerging into the industry.” Remember that he is an artist, so ideas are everflowing as he says he wants to make a film (a documentary on modern Black spirituality, currently in production in collaboration with artist Ryan Cardoso), a possible collection that is underway, and maybe even get into manufacturing as he’s been the one making everything by hand. “There’s definitely some leveling up that is happening, but just watch it, witness it.”

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