In anticipation of our launch of the PACTIMO x MAJOR TAYLOR IRON RIDERS collection, we sat down with the artists behind this rich design.
Every piece of art crafted is developed with purpose. Each element, cultivated with intent. Every color imbued with meaning. We want to enrich your experience of this collection and amplify the voice and vision of the artists behind. Come listen in to our conversation with Andrew Harris and Seitu Barnes and be inspired.
Pactimo: What inspired you?
Andrew: I drew inspiration from a few places. Firstly, I read Desire Discrimination Determination – Black Champions in Cycling by Marlon Moncrieffe cover to cover over over a weekend and was taken aback by the breath of narratives that were collected and presented in such a beautiful manner - the book is really a celebration of our contributions to cycling history. More so, though, I noticed the similarities in experiences of these individuals throughout history and in the present and across the world in different countries: all Black, all "othered" and often, alone. And we've all experienced that in some way, on AND off the bike. In the way Black Champions celebrated their narratives and histories, I wanted this kit to serve as a reminder that we aren't, never have been, and won't ever truly be alone because our collective experience IS our connection. Secondly, I wanted to build off our previous collaboration in 2020, a kit honoring the Black lives lost to police brutality and racial violence over the last several decades. The design of the kit provided a somber but necessary contribution for us as it gave our community a way to honor and show togetherness while riding. I really wanted this kit to be the inverse of that in both design and experience. This kit was always meant to be a celebration - of us, of Black culture and contribution, of the diaspora - of Black History.
Seitu: I was inspired about the celebration of Black History Month and wanted the kit to reflect our African heritage.
Pactimo: What do these words mean to you (Past, Present, Future)?
Andrew: "Past Present and Future" to me are grounding words. We've come from somewhere, we are here, and we're going someplace. The words also offer navigational comfort, as I have personally found strength from knowing my own history and knowing what we have gone through. From a design perspective, Past Present and Future are meant to be a clear and direct prompt. As part of the cycling community, we recognize and celebrate all of the contributions of past Black cyclists, we honor and acknowledge ourselves and our contributions in the present as active, and we work to make this a more welcoming and safe space for the future generation of Black cyclists - whether it be road, track, mtb, big flyers, or you just love getting on your bike and feeling free. We're a part of a broader tapestry and those words remind us.
Seitu: Our current pop culture, identifies super-hero’s like Micheal Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Nelson Vails etc. Major Taylor was a worldwide athlete that no one knows about but yet he won the national cycling championship in 1899. He competed under unheard of circumstances, never drank, nor smoke and never raced on Sundays’ just so he could worship God. He paved the way for the upcoming rock stars like Kevin Riza, Gregory Bauge, Justin Williams, Corey Williams, Rahsaan Bahati and not to forget Ayesha McGowan. I can’t forget the rising star out of Major Taylor Iron Riders, Josh Pro Hartman.
Pactimo: I saw you took inspiration from the Adinkra symbols and Kente fabrics of Ghana. Africa is such an incredible continent with so much diversity. What is the importance of these Ghanaian cultural elements for you?
Andrew: When we initially came together to discuss how we wanted to approach this kit, paying homage to the African diaspora was high on our list of priorities. For us, there couldn't be a recognition of Black history without recognizing the peoples and cultures of our ancestry and who also are active and present and make up our communities today. That's what brought us to the Kente fabrics - they were the first things that came to mind when we were thinking about easily identifiable and widely recognized Black cultural symbolizers. I'm not Ghanaian, I'm Black and Puerto Rican (interestingly, a recent DNA test my pops did revealed he is 50% Nigerian), but the significance of the pattern and the symbology "hits" all the same. These symbols and their significance resonate across cultures.
The incorporation of the Adinkra symbols was important to me because of what the symbols represent. I have a fascination with letters, words and the power that words can hold, and what better way to reinforce that notion than with the Adinkra symbols which represent words and concepts that are really central to our identities and our communities. Adinkra symbols tell a story with their name and meaning, and I felt it necessary to include this in some capacity in our design. We looked at like, 50 different Adinkra symbols and their meanings and selected the Fawohodie for incorporation on this kit, which means "independence, freedom, and emancipation" - words that are inextricable from and indicative of the Black experience in America and throughout the world. These words - independence, freedom, and emancipation" - are repeated on the body of our kit. We also see the use of Adinkra symbols often in fabrics, and since we're creating this kit we saw including it as a natural part of the homage.
Seitu: Because it’s BHM, I wanted it to be a true representation of Africa and the richness of its colors. The print designs we created did not originated from a specific region or country in Africa but yet it’s a print we created from a fabric piece that I had on hand. The three main colors, (turquoise, black and yellow) were the ones that we thought would look best on a many shades of hues in our communities.
Pactimo: The colors are strong and vibrant. Why did you pick these specific colors?
Andrew: The selection of the colors and of the patterns was intentional. We actually got the base pattern itself from Seitu's own closet! We were looking at a bunch of different fabrics and Kente cloths that he and Dereka had, as well as looking everywhere for patterns and inspiration, but we kept coming back to the striking simplicity, recognizability, and just general beauty of the Kente cloths. Seitu had this garment that turned out to be the perfect cornerstone for our design - it was just really well balanced.
The color palates were inspired by African architecture and interior design. I'm trained as an architect and I believe one of the gaps in our education is that African architecture, design, and its influences on Western architecture and design is largely absent. The palates selected in different ways embody the warmth, the vibrancy, and connections to earth that we see in our communities and cultures and are meant to conjure feelings of celebration.
Seitu: The black community has so much richness in culture, music, art and each one expresses vibrancy in beautiful, bold colors. The early stages of creating this collection, eye-popping colors lead the design process. There is so much history in our culture and narrowing ideas down to a few, was difficult. Even choosing one color was challenging, so we went with the three favorites.
Pactimo: What are your hopes for this design and those that wear it?
Andrew: I would love for this design to be largely embraced as a successful contribution to the many celebrations of Black History Month. As Black designers we're acutely aware that there is no singular "right" or "better" design when attempting this kind of project. What's significant for us personally is that this is another great example of something that is Black, celebrates Black, and designed by Black. Unification and togetherness was what we hoped to convey and I guess, achieve more of. And as always, we're interested in making a statement and designing something that people are proud to wear and feel empowered while wearing it - but also something that's just fire. These kits are fire.
Seitu: Quite naturally I want the collection to be accepted. However, I don’t want the buyers to be deterred because it’s an African print and it’s created by a black club. It’s my hope that everyone feels inclusive.
Pactimo: Any other thoughts you have and comments you want to share about the design?
Andrew: I'm equally excited for the current run of this design as for what we potentially got in the future iterations of this kit. We left some concepts and color ways on the cutting room floor and, hopefully, after the success of these kits we can go back and really bring everything we were thinking about to the community and continue the celebration. With us, the celebration of Black History and culture is year-round, and we really have enough to drop a new kit every month.
Seitu: I want the inspiration of the kits to be the reason for purchase and not to be overshadowed by the bright African inspired prints. The beauty of this collection is that for every African printed kit, there is a coordinating kit that is a simplified version.
Scroll down to see the kit or view the entire Black History Collection »