Brujas is a diverse and radical feminist youth skateboarding collective from New York’s Bronx and Lower East Side. It was founded three years ago by a group of young women to reclaim space from the white/male dominated skater culture that slighted them. (The name means Witches, in Spanish.) But at heart, the Brujas mission has always been empowerment, education, and community outreach.
“We’re trying to integrate a lot of different elements in the Brujas project,” says Ariana Gil, a musician and recent graduate of Oberlin College and one of the group’s founders. “We’re intellectuals, we love critical theory. We’re fashion-heads, we love streetwear. And then, you know, we’re also trying to build a participatory community model.”
Based in this cross-section of interests, last fall, the crew dropped their first capsule fashion collection. Called “1971,” it was inspired by, and focused on, issues of mass incarceration. Then, during Fashion Week, Brujas showed their second collection. Called “Each One Teach One,” it consists of bright pastel polos, slacks, skirts, shorts, hoodies, and jumpsuits inspired by school uniforms. Intriguingly, each piece comes with a syllabus, accessible online. Just as the separates accrue into an ensemble, the syllabi accrue into a self-led curriculum, a DIY take on deep learning.
“If you look at the logo on the shirts, there is a school burning on the top of it,” says Robin Giordani, a recent Cooper Union graduate and the group’s lead designer. “And underneath, there’s these two hands and the ‘Each One Teach One’ on the bottom. It’s about this exchange of knowledge through this very classic gesture, like a pound or a dap that you might give somebody in the street or passing by. That we can do the same thing with education and be able to take what we have and our own knowledge, and share it and have that come back two-fold.”
If it sounds heady, that’s because it very intentionally is. “We’re very influenced by the French philosopher Michel Foucault, who, in his text Discipline and Punish, draws connections between prison, the school, and the hospital,” says Gil. “So, just moving down the Foucauldian line is how we’ve been talking about it.”
Gil is quick to point out that the Brujas’ critique is not of education, but of the process of being “schooled,” and the notions of control contained within that. The course they’ve developed is aimed at deconstructing this kind of institutional power, and forging new ideas, and it has the lovely poetic title, “Burning Down and Dreaming Up.”
Giordani claims this diversity of intention as the collective’s unique proposition. “We are definitely not one in the same as a lot of the other things that happen in Fashion Week,” she says. “I think it’s a breath of fresh air to see a collection that is more focused on the community, on local projects, and engaging youth.”
The crew has developed quite a following, including Keanu Reeves and Venus X. This should only grow with their next collection, especially in this political environment. “I think in the spring we’ll do hospitals,” says Gil. “Which is going to be heavy.”