On a mission to inspire Chicago youth, SkyART provides a safe and accessible space where young people on the South and West Sides can learn to unleash their creativity, communicate effectively, and create meaningful connections within their communities—all through a broad range of free visual art and art therapy programming. Beyond the home and the school, this “third space” serves as an opportunity to develop essential skills and creative thinking and have fun while doing it. Enter AKIRA. Partnering up with SkyART, the Chicago-based boutique has dropped a capsule collection designed by the program’s young artists. The limited edition clothing and accessories line features two-piece sets, dresses and scarves that bring vibrant colors, elaborate prints and the young artists’ vision to the forefront.
“To me art means expressing yourself, being vulnerable in your own space, comfortably,” says Reiki Loa, a seventeen-year-old whose work is inspired by “Mona Lisa.” Another piece features a humanoid version of a pencil sharpener. “I did it as an art assignment on Zoom,” she says smiling. Elsewhere, Theresa Garcia, nineteen, explains that her work came from a challenging place: “We were all in quarantine, there were a lot of riots going on and global warming was at its peak,” she says. “That’s when I thought of Our Lady of Sorrows,” she adds, holding up a bright-colored satin scarf featuring a graphic print of a bloody-teared woman with a dagger-pierced flaming heart and a third eye. “There are so many sorrows that she holds, but I hope that people who wear my scarves would feel reminded of all the obstacles we overcame.” As for ten-year-old Olivia Jefferson: “I was really into frogs,” she says about a blue-green hued painting turned into a sheer mesh two-piece set. “I hope people feel free when they wear my work as I was when I painted it,” she says.
Garcia, Jefferson and Loa are just a few of the artists who brought this collection to life. “We are so proud of the young artists whose work was selected, and we are grateful for AKIRA’s dedication to amplifying the extraordinary work of SkyART and the voices of our community,” says the SkyART team about the collaboration. Going beyond actually seeing their designs turn into wearable fashion, this life-changing opportunity provides the artists (ages five to twenty-four) with early, real-world professional experience, recognition and compensation from a major clothing brand.
“This collaboration is very strong as it’s mixing fashion and creative art,” as Garcia puts it. “I feel like it opens artists up to what art can be, what art can be made into. SkyART really showed me what I can do,” she says and her face brightens. “It helped me not to give up easily—it’s a place where I can be myself,” adds Jefferson. Loa agrees: “It made me more sociable and versatile with my work,” she says. “That’s really cool!”
Shop AKIRA x SkyART in store or online. The line is available in a size-inclusive range (small to 3XL). Fifteen-percent of proceeds from all sales of items with the SkyART designs will be donated to SkyART in support of their young artists.
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