This is the second part of an interview with Fashion Designer Whitney Alix.
A: What are some ways that Rebel Citizen, as a brand, is giving back?
Whitney: One. Buying my resources and materials that come from Africa. And, also teaching art to underprivileged youth. And then there are things that I want to do in the future here in LA. I want to teach youth art classes. Because a lot of schools in LA Unified School District are not even teaching art at all because they don’t have the funds.
A: Once funds get cut the first thing to go are the arts.
Whitney: Yeah. And that’s really important to me. I went to public school but I went to school in Manhattan Beach. And they had the most amazing art programs. And I feel like if I did not have that I wouldn’t have known I was an artist. So being a kid in the LA unified school district and not having art classes. Oh my God, I would be lost. And it’s so important, it’s just as important as math and science and history. Art is so important and that’s something that I want to help out with in some way.
A: The way people make money getting jobs with careers in math and science, you do with art as well.
Whitney: Exactly. And just educating and informing people of that! I’m a perfect example. I went to art school, I got a BFA and I’ve worked for some pretty major companies. I went to Otis. And there are several majors from toy design, industrial design, fine art, fashion, illustration, graphic design and communication arts. I majored in graphic design and communication arts.
A: So talk a little bit about your experience in South Africa and what impact that had on you personally and artistically.
Whitney: There was a lot! I was only there for two weeks but it was life changing. I saw a lot. I met a lot of amazing artists. I actually, met artists before getting there on Instagram. I just started hashtagging South Africa and artists started talking to me. I was like yeah I’m coming there let’s meet...
A: And you really met them there?
Whitney: Yeah! It was nuts!
A: So Instagram is actually good for connecting people!
Whitney: It is internationally. And the beautiful thing is, you get to see this person’s life. It’s like a visual life mood board.
A: What made you go to South Africa?
Whitney: I went to South Africa originally because my of friend Sia who was adopted and legally brought here to the U.S by his brother years ago. So the orphanage that we visited was the...I don’t like to say orphanage, but children’s home that he grew up in. And because he doesn’t have much family here in the U.S his friends are his family. So he invited his closest friends to kind of launch this annual week of activities within the children’s home, to be really hands on.
A: So would you say South Africa was life changing? I mean that’s so cliche to say but...
Whitney: I mean it was! Every time you travel or you go somewhere you change a little bit. Your perspective of the world changes. And that changes you in one way or another. For me it was really humbling. It gave me a different perspective on myself in another country. My race, especially. Like, how they saw me. “You’re not black, you’re not white, you’re not colored, you’re just this new... I don’t know!”
A: We’re going to make a new category for you!
Whitney: I was like I”m black. And they were like, no you’re not. And then I’d have to explain why. It’s interesting, you’d think they know about the history of African Americans but...
A: I guess it’s like asking an African American about African history.
A: How do you see the brand evolving?
Whitney: I feel like I’m more focused. In the beginning I wasn’t as focused. I’d like to continue building the brand and getting it out to the world, you know doing trade shows and fashion videos and getting some sponsors and investors to really push the brand to the next level. And later, after I’ve established my identity as an artist collaborate with other artists.
A: And your job? -
Whitney: I’m still working! Full time. (laughs)
A: For those who want to pursue your passion you may still have to go to work.
Whitney: This is true. You have to fuel your passions.
A: I wish I would have talked to someone about that before I quit my job! So what was it about your upbringing that made you the person you are today and helped you to be more attuned to your artistic abilities? For me I didn’t grow up in an environment that cultivated my artistic capabilities. It was, “Go to school, go to school, go to school.” So I thought about a noble profession and picked one.
What was that like for you?
Whitney: I was very fortunate. I came from two parents that just really wanted us to be ourselves and pursue our passions. Also, we’re fortunate that they exposed us to so much so we could get a taste for everything. Like, I did ballet for 12-13 years. They had us in the arts. But really most importantly they appreciated the arts and felt like it was really important. I’m Ba’hai and in my religion art is really important. And science and religion all work together simultaneously in harmony. My parents also accepted that I wanted to do it for a living. when a lot of parents don’t.
A: So your parents are...
Whitney: Free spirited! The Ba’hai faith stresses your work. Everything you do affects others around you and humanity, so it’s got to be positive.
A: And that makes Rebel Citizen make so much more sense.