Photographed and Written by Natasha Magino
I first met Velvet of Afrovelvet at one of her model calls. I arrived an hour before she did, so I took the time to get acquainted with her models. Before her arrival, we exchanged conversation about zodiac signs, and I complimented each person's clothing and jewelry. Soon a quiet, seemingly shy woman with pigtails, whose presence instantly took over the room, sat next to me. Everyone rushed to greet her. A model leaned over and whispered with excitement in her voice, "That's Velvet!" Velvet describes herself as “an image psychologist” and “a connoisseur of image development and creation.” She's a graphic & clothing designer, stylist, photographer, and videographer. She is also into music composition and production. Is there anything she can't do?! “I enjoy design of every kind because you’re able to shape and mold something into exactly what you want it to look like, and the process is a challenge,” she said. Velvet has been into design for most of her life and is mostly self-taught. “My mom is the fashion queen,” she said. “She studied fashion in school but never got to finish. So in some way I feel like an extension of her.” As a DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) native, this creative finds inspiration in the nature and architecture in her surroundings, whether it is the Dumbarton Oaks park in Georgetown or the National Portrait Gallery atrium downtown. She especially loves bridges: "I love them. Being under them or on them. Expansive. Simple. Bridges everywhere." said Velvet as she thought back to previous work, and Home Depot - one of her favorite places, and not just for creative inspiration. While connected to her physical surroundings, Velvet also has a spiritual side. “When I’m designing, I’m channeling the Creator to produce something that others may or may not put on. They will feel the process and become part of the creation,” she explained. “I enjoy being a vessel for constant creation. That’s what I love most.” Velvet’s style is organic and unapologetically original. Her advice for aspiring designers is to remember that “creation should be the epitome of your essence oozing out. Some will love it. Some will relate. And some won’t. But it is your job to speak loud and clear with what you’ve been gifted.”
"creation should be the epitome of your essence oozing out. Some will love it. Some will relate. And some won’t. But it is your job to speak loud and clear with what you’ve been gifted."
AV - o l u t i o n 0.1
Velvet's latest clothing line is called AV - o l u t i o n 0.1. The collection, or “wearable art,” has an earthy yet futuristic style. Building on the principle that “nature is key to all evolutionary concepts,” Velvet hopes the line will “inspire individuality and the essence of creation–using things around you to build and become self sufficient". "There will never be two pieces that look the same,” Velvet said of AV-o l u t i o n 0.1. “Because no one person is the same. In that vein, Velvet is pushing away from trends. “I want to counter trends, because I believe them to be unhealthy. Yes they bring people together … but they also hinder individual evolution [in favor of] what is socially acceptable,” she said. “I want to encourage each person to evolve as naturally as possible.”
Behind the scenes
I arrived to the Minnesota Ave. train station platform to a scene filled with models in unique outfits ranging from hues of tan to dark green. Velvet stood with her Canon in one hand, announcing that the next scene was to be shot at the Stadium Armory train station. Gold makeup glittered on different models’ eyes, and letters shaved into some of their heads spelled out “AV - o l u t i o n 0.1.” Others’ hair was twisted into beautiful high buns or cornrowed in spirals. Excitement filled the air, even as the models shivered in 40 degree weather. Everywhere we walked, people turned their heads. Onlookers pulled out their phones to take snapshots of the stunning outfits and makeup as they all yelled in synchronization, "Please no pictures!" Velvet wanted to protect the line until she was ready to reveal AV - o l u t i o n 0.1 to the world. They spent the afternoon and evening recording her upcoming introduction video and getting shots of each scene. We traveled from the Stadium Armory to the Smithsonian train station, and our final stop was The Hirshhorn Museum. We arrived minutes before closing. Security guards blocked the entrance meaning to send us on our way. Velvet stepped forward with her charm and wit, convincing them to let us use the courtyard. "Ya'll have 5 minutes!" the guards yelled. Models assumed their positions in a straight line.
They waited as Velvet shed her sweat suit and changed into her AV - o l u t i o n 0.1 garb. She ran to the front of the line, and the cameramen were focused as they quickly caught footage of Velvet leading her models graciously around the Hirshhorn courtyard for the final scene of the video. Throughout the day, I saw that Velvet is a master of so many trades that you can't put her in one box. She said she likes to combine "visuals and sound to create theatrical experiences that engage the senses and provoke people to think differently about how and why we categorize things that weave into each other so naturally." Her use of conventional, local spaces in a video debuting a couture collection will definitely challenge some while making us realize that beauty and creativity are evolving around us. Velvet is a creative mind that we all need to be on the lookout for. If you don't know who she is yet, do yourself a favor and find out.