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It serves as yet another wake-up call to the Waar Ik Ook Heenga Edam Blijft Altijd Mijn Thuis Shirt But I will love this film and TV industries, which have faced a series of high-profile reckonings over the past few years due to widespread allegations of sexual harassment and abusive work environments, that in the end, all of this mistreatment will eventually come to light. It may be the end of the road for those who have been unwilling to embrace necessary change, but for most working within TV and film, it’s simply a new beginning—one that will, hopefully, lead to a fairer and more equitable industry.Thuso Mbedu is 29 but looks significantly younger. And yet, in her extraordinary performance as Cora, the central character in Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Underground Railroad, she manages to look older as well. Premiering on Amazon Prime Video this month, the limited series follows a young enslaved woman who escapes a Georgia plantation, making use of a subterranean train—a literal underground railroad—to travel north. The show marries a haunted magical realism with dark chapters of American history, and requires much of its heroine. “They say still waters run deep,” says Jenkins of his lead, “and that’s how I think of her. There are episodes where she looks 18, and then there are episodes where she looks 57. It was almost superhuman, what this woman did.”Mbedu grew up in the sleepy South African city of Pietermaritzburg. When she was four, her mother, a teacher, died, so it was her grandmother who raised her, and the family got by on the grandmother’s modest pension. “My life wasn’t as hard as others’, but it wasn’t easy,” says Mbedu, who is speaking to me from her home in Los Angeles. She suffered from skin allergies and resolved to become a dermatologist—an aspiration that pleased her grandmother since apartheid had prevented Mbedu’s mother from becoming a geologist. But in high school, Mbedu discovered drama: “I was like, This thing can be used to heal and help people.” When her grandmother learned of her intention to study performing arts in college, she didn’t speak to Mbedu for a month. After graduating, Mbedu landed the first part she auditioned for, and eventually she earned the lead role in the South African teen drama Is’Thunzi. Her grandmother, who made begrudging peace with her granddaughter’s aspirations, passed away just as Mbedu’s career was getting started.In 2018, she auditioned for The Underground Railroad, later traveling to L.A. to meet with Jenkins. “Thuso aced it,” the director says simply. Extensive research followed: slave narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project and audio files of formerly enslaved people. “We, as Africans, think that we know a lot about American history just from what we see in movies,” Mbedu says. Her research made her realize that enslaved people in America “were much closer to who we are as Africans than we think.” Mbedu has spent the months since the show wrapped hiking with friends (“Romantic involvement is a myth, a great legend in my life,” she says) and perfecting the art of falling: “It’s my dream to do my own stunts.”
She’s also been reading books like The Woman Who Would Be King, about a female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt, and Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey—stories rich in history, strength, and triumph.Streetwear is growing up. Once relegated to the Waar Ik Ook Heenga Edam Blijft Altijd Mijn Thuis Shirt But I will love this wardrobes of hypebeasts, new labels are using their graphic hoodies or jackets to grab your attention and to make a powerful statement about politics or culture. It’s a global movement, too. Mobilize, for instance, uses its drops to educate others about Indigenous life and traditions. There’s also a new streetwear label out of Pakistan who is also championing South Asian culture—and its pieces are just downright cool, too.Rastah was founded in 2018 by cousins Zain, Ismail, and Adnan Ahmad, who are based out of Lahore, Pakistan. Zain, the creative director of the label, grew up in London, Toronto, and Vancouver as well, but is consistently inspired by the city. “Lahore is an incredibly big city, and incredibly chaotic—it stimulates you a lot,” he says. “[As a result,] there’s a lot of noise and prints in the clothes.” The brand’s latest fall collection, titled ‘Volume V,’ represents what Zain describes as a mix of Eastern prints with Western silhouettes. The streetwear staples like hoodies and tees are rendered in colorful, graffiti-style prints and complex logos, all made with traditional Pakistani methods. A standout yellow silk suit, for example, is finished off with printed red roses, which were block-printed by hand by Rastah’s in-house printer, Aslam Mirza. “The woven fabrics for the jackets are made on a traditional Pakistani hand loom, which is sadly dying a slow death,” says Zain. “And most of the printing techniques are done using hand-carved wooden blocks. To revive these forms of artisanship, we have to reinterpret them.” Overall, he wanted the collection to pay tribute to Pakistan’s unique craftsmanship, but for it to have a cooler, more youthful feel too. “It’s something that really hasn’t been done before in this country,” he says. Some details are more obviously related to Pakistan, at least to those who see Rastah designs on the street. The “Notoriety” twill jacket, which Riz Ahmed just wore, features images of Zain in Lahore when he was just five-years-old, as well as photos of Pakistani icons, such as Imran Khan. “He was a cricket player, and is also the Prime Minister now,” says Ahmad. “In 1992, he won us the World Cup, so that was a big deal for the country.” On the back of the jacket, there is also an image of the Murree Brewery, the only brewery in the country. Other pieces make bigger political statements. On the “SSSS Collage” hoodie, for example, Ahmad drew from a personal issue that continues to impact many Pakistani people. On the back of the sweater is an image of a boarding pass with four “S” letters on it. “You basically get these four S’s when you go through ‘random’ secondary screening at the airport,” Ahmad says. “I began to realize that I was going through the secondary screening every time I would travel to the United States. I thought to myself, ‘how could it be random if I’m always getting randomly selected? And how could it be random if everybody getting randomly selected is from my part of the world?’” He says when he shared the design on his social media pages, many people from Pakistan reached out. “Lots of brown boys and girls who’ve been in that situation commented saying they loved it, and can relate to it,” he says. Going forward, Zain hopes to continue using his streetwear to champion and share aspects of his Pakistani culture. “I knew that I was a storyteller, and somehow, fashion is what I decided should be the medium through which I tell these stories,” he says. Zain also hopes to empower fellow creatives to continue making space for themselves in the industry (he often collaborates with other Pakistan-based artists). “This part of the world has so much to offer in terms of storytelling, artisanship, and technical craft, but on the brand level, we don’t get that recognition,” he says. “Through stuff like this, we can hopefully inspire artisans to get back on that horse, and to do what they love to do.