Columbus artist April Sunami designs T-shirt for Lane Bryant collection


Ken Gordon

| The Columbus dispatch

For more than a decade, Columbus artist April Sunami’s message to empower black women has been featured in galleries and on murals.

But soon thanks to New Albany fashion retailers Lane Bryantone of Sunami’s works will be wearable.

The April Sunami Affirmations Artist Tee, a white shirt with a Sunami illustration of a black woman with words in her hair, will go on sale on Thursday . It’s part of a series of shirts Lane Bryant is releasing in honor of Black History Month in February.

“It’s a strange thing because I’ve never made goods,” said Sunami, 40, an East Side resident. “But the cool thing is that I’m really interested in work that is accessible to everyone. Art is for everyone, it’s not a high, elitist thing. “

The project came out of nowhere for Sunamiwho received a message on her Instagram page (@ajsunami) last summer from Heather McGarry, associate vice president of marketing, public relations and social media at Lane Bryant.

McGarry said the idea of ​​creating a line of shirts to honor black women came from the 2020 social unrest that began after May 25, when George Floyd died after being struck by a Minneapolis police officer Floyd’s neck was pinned to the floor.

“We thought,” What can we do as a fashion company? “McGarry said.” We often get feedback that we shouldn’t be playing in politics, but we’re a women’s brand so we want to be able to empower our demographic – everyone, not just some. “

She said several Lane Bryant officials saw Sunami’s murals near Columbus – her latest is on Mount Vernon Avenue – so McGarry held out his hand.

“I was just telling her that it should have something to do with affirmation and that it should mean something to her,” said McGarry. “But I didn’t want to lead them beyond that.”

What Sunami came up with was a black woman with 12 words in her long hair: brilliant, nurse, beautiful, sister, survivor, protector, daughter, warrior, beloved, powerful, blessed and daughter.

“I started thinking about women who mean a lot to me: my mother, my sisters, my mother-in-law, my friends, and then I thought about different words,” said Sunami. “I thought it might be something that resonates with people because I’m certainly not the only one with a mother who is powerful.”

McGarry loved it and called it her favorite of the eight shirts in the series. (The others mark messages more than graphics). It’s also the only one, she said, designed by an independent artist rather than one of Lane Bryant’s designers.

“It gives art an authenticity,” she said.

McGarry said the early customer response has been good – Lane Bryant shared it on a “sneak peek” to select customers – and she hopes the promotion will help promote Sunami nationally.

Sunami said she was “super excited” to have carried out the project. For one, it enabled her to stretch as an artist. But mostly the fact that Lane Bryant was calling her mattered, she said.

“They know my job and they know it’s about women with color and hair,” she said. “The fact that they wanted to show that is a good thing.”

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