Courtesy of Breonna Marie Photography
For Destiny Wesley, clothes carry influence. So, she started The Ready Generation, a local clothing company that combines social justice and design to “expose injustice through love,” Wesley said.
Currently, The Ready Generation’s garment collection only consists of a variety of “I Vow” crewneck sweatshirts illustrated with the phrase, “I vow to never take my knee off hate,” a message Wesley wrote when processing the killing of George Floyd by police in May.
Wesley works alongside Juah Seyonia Washington, who is in charge of literature and correspondence, and Amreen Ahmed, the company’s main illustrator.
Wesley was moved to start the business after she spoke with several young Black women at Boys Hope Girls Hope of Illinois, a college and career preparation program for high schoolers where she works as a residential counselor. They told her they were experiencing racist bullying in the wake of the killings of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
“They were calling on me to find out how they should respond to these things,” Wesley said. “It showed that they trusted what I had to say.”
Wesley said was motivated to engage her community in justice-centered dialogues and eventually created The Ready Generation.
Incorporating fashion into TRG was easy, as Wesley has loved design her entire life, she said.
As a student at Benedictine University, Wesley led the annual fashion show hosted by the school’s Black Student Union with a specific focus on celebrating the “creativity” and “beauty” of Black men, she said..
Now, having created TRG’s “I Vow” crewneck sweatshirts, Wesley said she can share this social justice-focused fashion with the local community. “I have the ability to use my platform and make a statement,” she said.
Margaux Fournier, a model in TRG’s recent “Authentic, Together” photoshoot campaign, said she feels “pride” and “confidence” when wearing the TRG “I Vow” crewneck in public.
“When I go out with that statement on my chest, I want people to know what kind of person I am,” they said. “I’m not shy about what I believe in.”
Seyonia Washington said she thinks the clothing line’s message helps people better understand how to be effective allies to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Seyonia Washington said the “I Vow” statement encompasses the movement for racial justice beyond the fight against police brutality.
“TRG wants to arm people with a message that doesn’t keep you neutral,” she said.
The company also sells a TRG Decree, a wall print containing both prose written by Seyonia Washington and an illustration by Ahmed. According to the company’s website, 25 percent of the profits made from each purchase of a decree is invested back into the local community, helping to cover students’ books, residents’ groceries and other necessities for those in need. TRG is not working with a specific organization, but instead the founders are utilizing their personal networks to reach out to the community.
In addition to displaying the original “I Vow” statement, the decree also contains phrases such as “I am the oppressor’s challenge” and “I am the difference that history will remember.”
Wesley said it is powerful to sell the collection to people who are not used to confronting their beliefs about justice.
“For many people outside of the Black community, it can be uncomfortable, and I think that is okay,” Wesley said.
Wesley said she believes the power of the TRG Decree’s language enables people to continue the conversations about justice in their homes.
While starting a business during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, Seyonia Washington said she has felt supported by the community.
“Evanston, from what I’ve seen, is a bold and courageous community supporting one another in the fight against injustice,” she said.
Wesley said she is especially grateful for Lisa Degliantoni, the executive director of Evanston Made, a nonprofit working to connect artists with community members. Wesley said Degliantoni’s inclusion of TRG in Evanston Made events, such as the Maker’s Market on Oct. 18, has been instrumental in increasing brand awareness.
Wesley, Seyonia Washington and Ahmed are currently planning the spring and summer 2021 collection to include a statement reflected in both a new decree and new line of clothing. Nevertheless, TRG’s mission to promote justice will remain consistent.
“The only way to embrace unity is to be uncomfortable with the subject of injustice,” Wesley said.
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