“As Black people we’ve always been taught
that we have to work
five times as hard as the next person,”
says Bones Jones, dancer turned designer, event organizer, and founder of the lifestyle brand House°BONES (HoB). Today is supposed to be his day to unwind following the previous night’s grueling yet successful fashion presentation for his one-shot FWSS°21 (Fall Winter Spring Summer) collection. He is in his Harlem apartment, smoking a spliff by the window of a second small bedroom that he has converted into a studio space. This is where he designed and executed 45 pieces for his latest collection “5 Star Nightlife.” There is a time limit on our conversation though, because he has to speed off to a photoshoot in Jersey, where he is booked to style someone’s hair. Oh yes, he is a hair stylist as well.
“I can’t pay my rent, but creatively, I feel on top of the world right now,”
he says, staring out towards the uninspiring grey panorama just beyond the window sill. In the time when the New York Fashion Week is cancelled until further notice and designers are shitting themselves about the uncertain future of their fashion houses, Bones pulled off a 40-minute fashion presentation in the form of an immersive dance theater within a matter of one week. The presentation involved 17 performers of different races, shapes and sizes.
“When I hear that saying about us [Black people] having to work fivefold it blows my mind, because to me our natural state is what’s already sought after so hard. I feel like we just have a way of being that is so universally admired that a lot of other countries, other races and cultures try to emulate it– like braids or locks, big butts or full lips, and all these things are natural physical states of Black people.”
The spliff is still going and Bones adds to his previous statement,
“What I mean is, our actual state of existing is enough, but we’ve been taught that it’s not, that you have to do a bunch of extra shit. And so we get out there and we start thinking that we’re not enough and start doing all these things that other people do, when in reality you are already exactly where you need to be. And that goes for everybody, but specifically Black people have been taught not to believe that in this country.”
Bones’ life mission of challenging the routine is directly channeled through his brand HoB. HoB’s mission is to change the paradigm of luxury and social norms, and everything that Bones does in his everyday life rings true to that mission, whether he is consciously aware of it or not. It’s no secret that fashion is one of the biggest contributors to environmental destruction. Not only is the fashion industry responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, it is also the second largest user of the planet’s water supply. 85% of all clothing produced ends up in a landfill, while washing the $5 polyester shirt that you got at H&M, contributes to the microplastic pollution of our oceans. Questionable labour ethics of the fast fashion industry is an entire conversation of its own. Even though the truly green future of all fashion is considerable ways away, people’s awareness is growing and the niche for ethical and sustainable clothing is slowly but surely expanding (HERE are some sustainable clothing labels worth checking out.)
“This is the shit you can wear all year around, you can layer it, wear it this way or that, you can do whatever you want. I don’t like when things are ‘supposed’ to be only one way, it just doesn’t make sense.”
He tries to use the entirety of the fabric, even the selvage (the “self-finished” edge of a roll of fabric which keeps it from unraveling and fraying) as the garment’s trimming. This is a big no-no in the fashion industry and this part of the fabric usually gets trashed.
“Unfinished ends are unique to my brand, everything doesn’t have to have a perfect finish.”
The spliff is finally done and Bones is riding the high of last night’s success,
“I feel like even the brands with money couldn’t do what we did yesterday. McQueen was the last person who did something like this. When I am able to physically touch the money that McQueen was touching and be able to rent the venues and get the proper fabrics and not three dollar, five dollar fabrics, you best fucking believe that I’m going to be working in my natural state, but it’s not going to be five times harder.”
Five dollar fabrics, selvage, frayed ends or not, you can’t take away Bones’ self-taught technical ability to construct complex garments like a denim corset-cum-leotard that fit one of the model’s body like a glove, bulge and all.
“I don’t see anyone else doing what I am doing,”
“Nowadays I am not afraid to say that – before I would be afraid to assert myself, again because we’ve been conditioned that way and not just Black people but people in general, whoever is not in the top one percent. We have been taught not to assert ourselves and where you stand and who you are, it’s always ‘dumb yourself down’ for the higher person in the room. No, fuck you. What makes you higher than me? No one is brave enough to host a fashion show during a pandemic, even in a safe way. If we can go to restaurants and football games, yeah, I am going to do this.”
The “5 Star Dining” showcase was broken up into performance vignettes that had their own narrative. A few models who represented restaurant guests would walk into the “restaurant” which was represented by an awkward wooden table propped up in the middle of the performance space, and then a scene would unravel, whether through a choreographed group routine, a solo dance or a theatrical interaction. Phenomenally, every moving piece was set in its place within one three-hour day of rehearsal.
Bones makes it explicit that he didn’t choreograph the whole show by himself, but rather gave the talent through lines and possible intention, which they were free to interpret in their own way to create scenarios. There were people who helped with styling and hair, but the models were responsible for their own makeup. It was important for Bones to let the cast build their own narrative. It’s less about the control and more about collaboration. As with the audience, the goal was to give them something to think about.
Two “guests” enter the “restaurant,” their HoB attire is over-the-top lavish– tulle and pearls with a splash of boujee above-it-all attitude,
“That was hinting at this higher society that gets to operate during this time, because if you have money your life is normal. If you got money, you can do what the fuck you want to do, like the fucking Governor or mayor or whoever [Texas senator Ted Cruz]. The bitch ran to the heat while the people are freezing and that’s exactly what the fuck I’m talking about.”
When the above mentioned boujee “guests” settle at the table, one of the models pulls down their mask and smokes a joint lit up by their partner. Then something unspeakable happens… They share the j. *Insert Karen screaming.* The sharing of the joint represents hypocrisy in our society, aka the mask police who would turn around and then do something as unspeakable as sharing a smoke with their friends.
During another vignette, a stunning amazon of a drag queen and her cis-male presenting companion visit the “restaurant”. They sit on opposite sides of the clunky table and then an argument erupts. The cis-man-dude kicks his “chair” (an apple box) and exits the restaurant in fury.
“In this particular scene Viper and Sy were hinting at the trans women as sex workers and their relationships with men in public. This is what’s happening right now, people are going out to dinners, men are finding out that the girls are trans and then things transpire. The men might like it, but when the girls show up and do something different in public, the men might flip the script.”
Throughout the show the models show off the garments’ versatility by constantly changing the way they wear the pieces or exchanging them with each other– one “guest” comes in with a big denim jacket and puts it on another model as an oversized skirt. Bones says that his collection represents one full day in New York,
“Let’s say you are hanging out with your friends during the day and then you want to go to dinner and go out, but you don’t want to go back to the apartment to change your clothes. This collection is very much ‘throw something on and you already have what you need for any occasion.’ The clothes were meant to be able to transition from day to night to dinner to the club to the library if you will. You don’t have to choose, you can have this and that.”
“What has always interested me is who you are when you are alone and what you might be hiding. How do you feel right now?”
One of the models walks into the room and starts fixing the table. He advances towards a mirror, looks himself over for a moment and makes his way back to the table. Then overhead lights flicker, representing lightning, and then bathe the room in blue. The model turns his back towards the audience, and takes off his jacket. The next thing to come down are the pants, revealing a thong-vest-leotard, ass cheeks fully exposed. He does this a few times, then puts the entire outfit back on and exits the stage.
“I told Stanley, you come into this room and maybe you are a perfectionist so you start fixing the table. When you see the lightning, maybe settle in at home because you’re like, okay, I’m not going anywhere with this really crazy weather outside. So then you start looking at yourself in the mirror and you’re like ‘I like this person but I don’t like who I am at the same time.’ So then he turns around and takes his pants off a little bit, revealing that he has a thong-leotard-vest on. He’s just showing a little crack. So he’s thinking, ‘It’s okay, this feels good, but I want to show my whole ass’ and pulls his pants down all the way to the floor. Then he pulls it all back up, like ‘I have this character that I have to be in real life. I gotta fucking perform every fucking day.’ When we leave our privacy, we have to perform and put on this character who everybody fucking wants us to be, you know, like these are the conversations we have with ourselves. So that’s how we built the show.”
He goes on confidently,
”I say this without any cockiness, but at the same time with all the cockiness, people know where this brand is about to fucking go and it’s like, do you want to be a part of greatness? Because a part of me being great is a part of me feeling that my community is great as well.”
Anyone who knows Bones wouldn’t be surprised that most of his collection was executed in an oceanic palette. But what was surprising to learn is that the reasons behind his connection to the blue hues were as deep as the ocean floor itself,
“I see life as water. You have to surrender to the water, and I feel like it’s exactly where I’ve been because I’ve had to learn how to swim underwater. I wasn’t living in my truth. If you want to navigate this life, you need to learn to not only swim, but also soar above the water. There is a human form on land, there is a human form in water [mermaids] and there’s a human form in air, the Angels. Blue shades are present in the sky as well. Before all this social media craze, let’s say you are in your thirties and you have been making things happen, then Instagram came along and some 16 year old fucks your shit up because they’re doing some dance and it just completely washed away everything you were fighting for, so you now about to learn how to fly. This whole time you’ve just been walking on land and then the wave came and washed you out and if you don’t learn how to swim you’re gonna drown. And that’s the problems with humans– we try to fucking learn how to operate on some shit that we already do. We already walk this Earth. I am not worried about how to walk on this Earth anymore, I now think about how to fly and swim with infinite breath.”