FOR THE ELEPHANTS: an interview with Haus of Phantom
*all pronouns as he/she, they, Dante, Phantom (artist/ designer name) will be used
Dante is a designer from Washington Heights who focuses on creating clothing that does not define any gender; her clothes are for the elephants in the room — that black mother who had to pull through with all the kids, for that girl who fears her sexuality, and for the people who embrace their own confidence every single day. The elephant is also the lack of dark skin people running shit; the elephant is your own ego, and the fears you hold about yourself.
Haus of Phantom is the name of his clothing line, which references our ancestors from ancient kemet, of yoruba culture and present times in NYC. The elephant in the room is that you are all you need to move forward. Release.
Peace and blessings:
Our encounter started with yellow, As Dante gifted me with a beautiful bright yellow pure-colored bandeau piece … wow, its so hard for me to describe this color because all I can think about is how a spirit that I never met before gifted me a motherfucking yellow top named “OSHUN”. My heart fell out of my chest, which was enough for me to know that this spirit right here is Love. And the sweet mangoes that I got were the perfect match to this is gift — this was an offering to our ancestors.
OSHUN was with us, and others sat nicely with us on the grass as we burned some wood and talked about spirituality, love, fear and just doing the shit.
Setting: We decided to meet at the park on 168th with the rocks, next to the hospital. These rocks live in the memory of a lot of us. It’s a small park, triangle shaped and big enough for these rocks to sit on the center.
Dante proceeded to tell me about his stepmother, Ana Herrera, a Haitian/Dominican bruja. Through her, Dante learned how to tira cartas (throw cards aka tarot cards, as we know them). At some point, Dante stopped using tarot cards for the fear of his own spiritual powers. Even with having a tattoo of the first tarot card; The Fool. Dante says that he did not feel comfortable in their own spirituality until being introduced to Morena (@morenaespiritual). Through her, Dante was introduced to 1804: The Hidden History of Haiti, a documentary about the Haitian Revolution – the First Liberated Black Nation since the inception of colonialism. The documentary helped him learn about the power of Ayitism, the pride and joy, and the beauty of our history.
For this part of the conversation: we will enter into a journey of self-reflection where Dante outlines modes of depression, of going through the victories and conflicts; of realizing oneself and understanding how to love. Beyond it all, you will see the beautiful heart Dante embodies to push forward, to be that one who stands up and dedicates time to their craft.
BRING PEOPLE WITH YOU.
Check how I outline the conversation: S: Shannel | D: Dante | “italicized”: Dante’s direct words
Dante coordinates all her own projects from photography to creative direction to designer to social media manager to all things that entrepreneurs have to do!
***STAND UP, to all the people doing ya thing***
Listen to Phantom’s (Dante’s artist name) words: “Success is you, success is digging that hole, planting the seed and seeing it grow. Not dique wanting to see from the top – you can’t!”
“I want to work with people like me, people that can do their own thing. So I cast people with no experience so they can see their growth. And say, ‘I didn’t know I could do that’”
Let’s take this back . . . damn i wish this was a video and ya knew me a little more because Dante just said something so crucial to the development of not just self-determination but collective work.
She gives opportunities to people with no experiences! These interested humans can now experiment with their own talents, be a part of a culturally important project that moves forward our ideas of gender, of what sexuality looks like, and feel seen, heard and like they’ are not the only ones.
LOOK AT US, LOOK AT HOW COLORFUL AND BEAUTIFUL WE ARE. SHIT IS HAPPENING, WE ARE MOVING OUR CULTURE FORWARD
I said I love you. And they said they love me too: And I thanked her for giving us those opportunities, for allowing people to be in their own path. We must honor the people who partake in holding themselves accountable as pioneers, transformers, and active movers of our culture.
S: How did you learn how to make clothes?
D: “Mood Fabrics & mentor-ship from a Dominican man who made stripper outfits.”
S: How did that happen?
D: Dante tells me that a friend of hers did tattoos and got connected to a spot in Brooklyn where the Dominican man used to be at. The Dominican man wanted to share his gift, his skill with others who were serious about their work. So he taught Dante, free of charge!
“In school, they teach you chronological steps, pero con el, he told me to do everything fast and to not think too much about it.”
S: you know when you’re making clothes, do you have a mark to you?
D: She tells me that the pleats of the cloths are the signature// the pleats are used for curves and different bodies// the fit makes you feel and look sexier, more adventurous and daring with your style
“Like sometimes i know i feel a little uncomfortable to show my sexuality and i know others are too so why not make a piece where these things are heightened?”
S: How do you move from that?
D: “Just move forward, just go. It’s also God, things work in your favor because you’re here, the seed is in the ground and it’s supposed to be something the sun is already there”
S: So how you deal with the other bullshit, like living in alignment and reality (things outside your control) – tell me about your challenge, when outside of alignment
D: “These past 7 months because I wanted to leave for the past 2 years but I had a plan and I knew that” – they went to cali for a month and things didn’t work out. When he came back, they did a show but it didn’t work. It was their third show, and they were depressed about it.
“People would say omg that’s a big tree but no! Get to know the seed, get around it, give it some time. It was just a low point for me because I had to figure it out for me. You know, im here and every day there’s an opportunity for something new. Like today you don’t eat breakfast and the next day you want a good as breakfast. And that is the same. I have to work on what I already have because everything is here and nothing is gone.” like “damn I played myself – I played myself”
Then the opportunity for The Phluid Project came, and they couldn’t pass it. They were sad because they had to be alone for a bit. “Like let go of people who I thought were there for me, but when I was at my lowest the right questions were not asked.”
Haus of Phantom received the opportunity to share his clothes at the Phluid Project, a gender-free brand (androgynous, unisex, gender free) selling clothing, accessories, and beauty for the LGBTQIA+ community.
S: From you, or them?
D: “Them” … “Honestly, like it just helped me realize a lot of my trauma. Like where I’ve been, my mom, the things you learn from your family, even codependency — just people, I love you and I need this to be successful. I need to be there for you, above myself. Kinda like a woman, a woman is giving fucking birth, raising a nigga, and then gotta deal with him her whole fucking life; that’s the elephant in the room. To me, it’s just realizing that – we been dealing with so much, but why? Cause of this, this, this, this, this — NO MORE!!!”
“I think that would be my lowest point, and just to talk about it like that so people relate and see their way through their own shit”
Colorism is real
Dante and I get into a deeper conversation about who is the elephant in the room. And the Black Woman is, not just Black but dark skin tone women. The root always gotta be celebrated. The new gotta be celebrated, but the new should always be connected to the root. Dante had a prior conversation with a friend who is a light skin woman. She told him how she makes it her job to cast darker skin tones.
D: “Even having the conversation becomes a form of fear. Like, how would things be if i add dark skin people as a light skin artist, or how do I represent without misrepresenting my people?”
But at the end of the day, the elephant in the room cannot be discounted. It’s not about our feelings about it. Look at the facts, look at the media, understand psycho-purpose.
What do you think about fear: “I’m not the master at it, still trying to understand it myself, but i believe in God, so much. Everyday … we didnt create ourselves so we can’t rely solely upon ourselves. We use water for everything. And i didn’t realize that for myself until .. I’m boiling yuca, eggs, plantano … i shower, shit!”