Andre Wright Q&A

July 19, 2021
Andre Wright is a fashion activist and co-founder of Humanize My Hoodie.

“The root of this issue is that we don’t have resources to take care of ourselves and our people so let’s start a financial revolution to save the people that need the most help. Let’s display acts of kindness every day and show true community healing. When we can all think along the lines of really what is needed in all communities that’s the true equity and justice.”

Your company’s mission stems from Hamline Professor Jason Sole’s pledge to teach courses in a hoodie to challenge the perception of Black men in hoodies. You saw a Facebook post from him with the hashtag #HumanizeMyHoodie. Did the lightbulb go off immediately for you?

Yes, it went off immediately as I have been in the fashion industry for a number of years trailblazing a path for Black designers out of the Midwest or more specifically from Iowa. I had been doing shows and creating fashion pieces that talked about who we were as people and I saw how fashion has empowered the masses of people by performing in front of people. So when Jason made the post this was an opportunity to have the conversation of Black people  were treated in hooded sweatshirts not just in the classroom but across the world and we did it with three words: Humanize My Hoodie.

Trayvon Martin seems like the most galvanizing example of violence against a Black person for wearing a hoodie. How long have hoodies been part of police shootings?

Violence against Black bodies has happened since we stepped foot on American soil. The idea that a hoodie is something we wear to keep warm and as a shield of protection has been misunderstood since we were criminalized for wearing them and looked at as a threat. Before then the hoodie had a stigma and had always been viewed as a symbol of negativity dating back to ancient Greece and Rome.

A lot of entrepreneurs find scaling a challenge. How did you two manage your growth?

I think we manage the growth with growth we have been able to add people and meaningful partnerships that allow it not to be just Jason and I doing the heavy lifting. We make a lot more decisions and the longer you stay in your business you start to find shortcuts. These days we spend more days working on the business than working in the business and hiring the right people to execute the vision.

You got your start making screen-printed T-shirts in college. Did you long you wanted to pursue a career in fashion?

I always did art and was always creative. I knew I would always do something with drawing. I can’t say I was destined to do fashion although growing up I was a super-fly dude. I think the love of fashion came after I saw what I can do with my art and the pleasure of people actually wanting to wear my stuff that’s when I realized I was destined to do it. It took me some time to understand designing in a 3D space versus 2D on paper and making physical products. It’s been a fun journey.

You’ve branched out into coffee blends and mugs and other products. You also have produced documentaries and developed curriculum. Do you have plans for more outreach?

Absolutely, our partnerships help us tell stories about the lack there is of us in certain industries like graphic design, being a brewer of beer, having a coffee shop, owning a restaurant. These partnerships are strategic and give us a chance to show up as an ally in spaces and bring attention to important financial equality issues that are just as important as the criminalization of us in hooded sweatshirts.

In MN so many are still rocked by George Floyd, as well as Philando Castile and Daunte Wright and more. What is one thing you suggest for people who want to be allies?

Equity and justice need to come in the form of financial equality. The root of this issue is that we don’t have resources to take care of ourselves and our people so let’s start a financial revolution to save the people that need the most help. Let’s display acts of kindness every day and show true community healing. When we can all think along the lines of really what is needed in all communities that’s the true equity and justice.

You’ve said that hoodies have been around for 3,000 years, when you consider that the Greeks and Roman wore hooded robes. Have you always loved wearing them?

Absolutely. I have always worn hoodies to stay warm, look fashionable and somedays to block out my surroundings. They are my favorite item to wear and I am glad I am bringing emphasis of the importance of who and why we wear them instead of the false narratives that have been written about us in hoodies.

What’s next for Humanize My Hoodie?

Everything. True liberation for our people. We are creating fashion and abolition houses that will be economic driving forces for creatives and community healers. You can expect more of the same from our movement and a stronger voice moving into the future.

Photo by Jonah Terry