We caught up with models and fashion influencers TK WONDER & CIPRIANA QUANN our former cover stars to talk about a new collaboration with APERÇU Sunglasses and caught up about life in lockdown, how they stay inspired, dealing with racism, and their lives as sisters and stars who are taking the world by storm.
Irk: For the most part, there are not a lot of AA Women designers in the sunglass industry, how did that affect your approach when collaborating with Apercu?
TK: It is a factor we are aware of, however, it didn’t affect our approach when collaborating with Aperçu. I think it is imperative to point out that oftentimes rates are much lower for partnerships featuring Black creatives than for partnerships featuring White creatives. We appreciate that was not the case with Aperçu as when brands talk about being more diverse and inclusive they also must recognize that means equal pay amongst talent and staff in the same positions regardless of the color of their skin as well as paying creatives for their talent and content. Designing these sunglasses with a company that sees the worth in creatives and pays accordingly no matter the skin color is what is necessary for the industry. A brand showing they are more diverse and not paying Black talent the same rates they would their White counterparts is a juxtaposition that is hypocritical in its very nature as paying Black talent for their worth and work, just as you would White talent, is what it truly means to be diverse and inclusive in this industry. Virtue signaling does nothing to effectively enhance the strides and create opportunities for talent of color within the fashion industry. Doing it for the sake of saying, “Hey look at us. We’re diverse,” doesn’t mean anything when you pay White creatives and don’t pay or offer significantly lower rates to Black creatives. Brands like Aperçu that recognize that factor is what pushes the industry forward in the right direction for talent of color.
Irk: You are not only twins, but also BFF's, and it shows- how does your style play off each other?
TK: Cipriana and I are extremely close and I couldn’t be luckier in the incredible sister department! I’m truly blessed to have Cipriana as a sister and the bond we share. We also work very well together as she is a dream business partner so many times we’ll have the chance to be Creative Directors like we were for this feature. I think our styles play off each other when we have creative control for shoots/projects and we style ourselves. I chose these dresses by Demestik and Alice + Olivia for this editorial spread and we accessorized the dress we wore. Personally, our styles can be as different as night and day. Many times we’ll love the same shoes or item of clothing, but we’d style the items drastically different. It can be a bit of a conundrum at times when we do style shoots together because I’m trying to style us in bold, colorful prints and Cipriana prefers earthy tones. So I think I found a great middle-ground for our style preferences by pairing these dresses together as they are bold prints with bright colors and earthy tones.
Irk: The sunglasses are incredibly high quality and I always see sunglasses as a final touch and investment into any wardrobe, tell us what sunglasses have always meant for both of you?
TK: Thank you so much! Aperçu really surpassed our expectations in executing our designs with incredible quality and craftsmanship. We’ve always viewed sunglasses as a wonderful accessory for any attire as our very stylish and beautiful, Mom was always wearing sunglasses growing up. Sunglasses are a staple accessory for any wardrobe and there are definitely options that are timeless which is what we kept in mind when designing these sunglasses. We wanted to create a timeless design which is what staple accessories mean to us. We wanted to create sunglasses that people would want to hold onto and cherish which is why we love this partnership with Aperçu and the brand recognizing our passion.
Irk: Racism and all of its ugliness has reared itself in the US and worldwide, how do you stay sane? and also inspired?
TK: Racism has unfortunately always existed and reared its ugly head in the U.S. and worldwide. This country was built on racism and created with genocide and enslavement as one only has to look at our vast history and the racism and systemic racism that has been at the forefront. First acknowledging the past to see how atrocities are being perpetrated in our present is what is necessary for many dire changes pertaining to legislative, educational, redlining/residential, policing, equal pay, and mass incarceration to name a few. We live in a world that enhances and provides lifelines to systemic racism. The George Floyd Justice In Policing Act has still not passed in Congress yet Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Bill was passed. As a country we should stand against all racism so the bill banning hate crimes towards Asians is essential, however, so is the police reform bill and hate towards Black people. We only have to look at the dichotomy in which these two bills were treated in Congress to acknowledge there is a colossal problem and recognize these are ugly truths that co-exist in many different forms for Black people. I hope to inspire by continuing to bring these issues to the forefront. I am one voice, but that is true for everyone. Collectively everyone’s one voice is many voices united and keeping that same energy for many years is a necessity because racism and its ugly evolutions won’t be eradicated in my lifetime or the next so this isn’t a fight that needs a few months energy. It is a lifelong commitment.
Irk: Favorite song right now?
TK: Colors by Black Puma and I’ll throw in one of my favorite books I’m rereading as well titled: "Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria" by Beverly Daniel Tatum.
Irk: What inspiration do you hope to give young black girls? designers and influencers?
TK: I hope the inspiration I provide is walking the walk and not just talking the talk. Being the representation in the fashion industry that Cipriana and I did not see growing up. Being the type of representation that doesn’t just merely represent because we are Black women, but because we are Black women bringing these issues on diversity and inclusivity to the forefront, supporting causes and initiatives, to pave the way and cause a direct catalyst for more opportunities for other talents of color. We hope by continuing our advocacy work dealing with inequality we are an inspiration for Black women, girls, designers, and influencers. These issues on diversity/discrimination and the fashion industry are not mutually exclusive, but rather the opposite.
Cipriana’s question to TK:
Personally, you have been one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring, and fearless individuals I have known in my lifetime. Yet as we both know, we had a horrific childhood, saturated in fear and deep moments of despair. What do fear and despair mean to you and how do you combat it?
Thank you so very much my beautiful and inspiring sister! How to rise above fear and despair is always challenging especially when you don’t have a positive support system. I always had that in you and our Mom so combatting those roadblocks wasn’t as challenging as I imagine for those that do not have positive reinforcements in their lives. I think for a long time I trivialized the trauma we experienced. “Oh, that is something we went through as children.” I now look at that as a deflection mechanism to avoid the pain and despair I felt as an adult over our childhood. We experienced nearly 13 years of horrific abuse and trivializing us surviving that trauma and how we survived it together shouldn’t be something I trivialize and minimize as an adult. It should be something I’m proud of —how we overcame it. Acknowledging and recognizing one’s fear, despair and depression is the first step and the next step is seeking help. Now help to combat these issues can mean something different for everyone whether it is therapy, talking to a close friend, removing yourself from a negative environment, meditation, the list goes on. What is essential is one remembers that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Taking positives steps to do what you can do to heal and live in love is what helps you through fear and despair. Also fear and despair are a part of life so learning how to get through those difficult moments with healthy decisions for your mind, body, and soul so you move forward feeling inspired and determined will make you all the better because we should be constantly learning and evolving. Also learning how to get through fear and despair in positive ways and not merely just living through fear and despair as that is a detriment to your growth.
IRK: Wow- these sunnies are great and they truly represent your style! Tell us how this collab started? Cipriana: Thank you so much, we put our heart and soul into this collection. The collection was a little over a year in the making from the initial discussions, the design process to the final launch. We always have aligned ourselves with brands that believe in our vision and voice. Though we are in the fashion and beauty industry we have always believed you can discuss, educate, and intertwine social, cultural, and political issues. When APERÇU approached us about a possible collaboration one of the reasons why we aligned was the respect we had for each other in our respective creative processes and the opportunity to have 100% creative control as creative directors, designers, stylists, and writers regarding the language surrounding this campaign. As Black women in the fashion industry, we have always been vocal on diversity, inclusivity, and social justice issues. We knew we wanted our first design project to reflect who we are and the changes we advocate for. Another reason was quality over quantity regarding this collaboration. TK and I value our virtual family aka followers and APERÇU values their customers and their products. In a world of “fast fashion” quality, many times is lost in translation. Just as we want to produce quality and meaningful content that will leave an impactful impression, APERÇU does the same. Every frame is etched in gold with its own unique edition number and 100% UVA/UVB protection CR-39 lenses. Also important to point out that this is not fast fashion, all 8 color-way options are handmade from Italian crystal acetate as well.
At IRK we love diversity and inclusivity, and that is one of your platforms for this collab! how do the sales on these glasses give back? (i.e what is LOVELAND, provide a link, their handle, and any previous work you have done w them) Cipriana: The Loveland Foundation was created by an incredible writer, social entrepreneur, and philanthropic innovator- Rachel Cargle. An incredible organization; The Loveland Foundation helps to bring opportunities and healing to communities of color, especially to black women and girls. There is a focus on providing therapy and collaborative healing experiences for Black women and girls —removing the stigma of therapy within Black communities as therapy can be extremely beneficial in the healing process. We know that there is nothing wrong or weak about seeking help. In fact, it takes a lot of strength to know when you need help and ask for assistance to protect your well-being. There is courage in following through with the necessary steps to lead you on a journey of healing. We experienced an insufferable amount of violence, throughout most of our childhood and understand that consistent integration of healing practices is an essential part of recovering from trauma, which is why this organization resonates with us. Irk: The styles are reminiscent of the 70's fashion and flair with a modern take, how did you arrive with these styles? And the ones you are wearing totally represent each of you! (do you have a pic of your mom in sunglasses?) Cipriana: We both know we wanted something classic that would translate for a lifetime. As sisters we are heavily inspired by the seventies, especially influenced by our Mother during those times who has impeccable style! TK’s face shape is oval/round while my face shape is oval. We wanted an inclusive shape that would be flattering for everyone. We envisioned intermixing vintage timeless colors while TK conceptualized a classic square shape that would be best for our collection. Then together with founder/creative director Kristen Aronsson we fined tuned the frontal shape. While I designed the shape of the arms and TK included a unisex shape frame as well. I conceptualized the nail and hammer representing our advocacy for social justice issues. Our Father worked part-time from home as a mechanic and engineer and was constantly surrounded by tools so I came up with this idea of the nail and hammer drawing from those past memories. Our parents taught us self-belief in one's abilities and never letting anyone tell us otherwise. If we envisioned doing something we had to put the work in and do it ourselves like picking up a hammer and nail and putting in the work. After the conceptualization of the nail and hammer accouterment, TK came up with the meaning behind the nail and hammer by using the word ‘build’ in a figurative sense: to build more hope, acceptance, and kindness for a better world as she knew social issues on racial justice inequality has always been important to us, while I wanted to create a physical symbolization of taking ownership and doing your own part through your own unique creative process, as we are both inspired by Nina Simone’s words “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”
Irk: You are not only twins, but also BFFs, and it shows- how does your style play off each other?
Cipriana: Well having an automatic best friend since the womb we have always been supportive and encouraging in all factors of our life and that includes style. So many factors dictate an individual’s style and having the freedom to experiment without judgment from those you love and respect the most helps tremendously. TK has always been more adventurous and daring when it comes to her style while I admittedly can declare I am much more conservative in comparison. In retrospect, there are styles I will absolutely not wear while TK is a renaissance woman of style. She can and will wear almost any style and put her own flair onto it. That unwavering attitude of not caring how her outer appearance may be judged by others inspired me then in my youth and still today as an adult. Our support and encouragement of each other whether we agreed or not in all facets of our lives helped to define our own individual styles.
Irk: How do we rise above? Cipriana: We rise above by taking ownership of wrongdoings, physical acts of compassion, forgiveness, a willingness to listen, learn, grow and love. As a woman of color, specifically, a Black woman taking up space in America, compassion, and forgiveness were difficult acts for me to integrate into my daily routine. One of the first memories I can recall is hearing the KKK spew vile words of hate and throw bricks through the windows of our new home as my family moved into a mostly white neighborhood while finding no protection from those whose job is to protect and serve. In fact, when our family asked for help from the police precinct in our area, they protected those who so adamantly despised us simply for the color of our skin. Unfortunately, this is just one of the countless encounters we faced throughout our lifetime. We were very aware at a young age of what racism meant and how it shaped our life. To grow up with a sense of distrust, not to feel at ease to be yourself and move in this world with the kind of freedom you are naturally born with because your skin color in certain terms is a danger to your very existence… is exhausting. This awareness of how others discriminate can understandably breed anger and frustration. It wasn’t until I began to understand that hate stems from ignorance and ignorance stems from fear. You hate what you do not know and you fear what you do not understand. I realized that those who hated me simply for the color of my skin were taught to hate in this way, repeating the same behaviors of past generations who did not understand their thoughts and acts are based on fear, ignorance, and the absence of love in its entirety. Without love in its entirety, there is an absence of ownership of wrongdoings, compassion, forgiveness, a willingness to listen, learn and grow which helps all evolve into better individuals.
Irk: Who /what inspires you? Cipriana: The strength, kindness, determination, and love of people are what inspire us the most. Fortunately, TK and I always had a shining example of what true love, strength, determination, and kindness were through our Mother. Our Mother took on the un-stereotypical role back in the day as the breadwinner, working a corporate position while attending one of the top universities in the country, as our father was the stay-at-home parent working part-time. I look back on our childhood now, and realize how stressed she must have been, with two young girls, a mentally ill and abusive husband, financially supporting a family while working and attending rigorous college courses, yet never letting those factors deter her incredible spirit. There is not one moment I can recall where she ever directed her frustrations onto her children…not once! Hands down one of the most diligent, meticulous, and passionate individuals I have ever encountered when it comes to working yet our Mother always made time for us, always had a listening ear, always encouraged and supported our dreams, patience beyond compare, and most importantly we always felt loved. She knew how to be our best friend yet we were very aware and respected the boundaries of her authoritativeness as a parent. When anyone asks who inspires us the most, it will always and forever be our beautiful mother. Irk: Can you share your mood board? or part of it? Cipriana: To be honest TK and I have never had a physical or virtual mood-board in the general sense when one thinks of creating a mood-board but I know we both have daily mental mood-boards. Our mother has always been unwaveringly consistent in “visualization”, envisioning what you want for yourself, how you can achieve it then taking action to turn your dreams into reality. As young girls, she constantly spoke about visualization and practicing this mental exercise daily, so much that it has become ingrained in our day-to-day. Sometimes I am not even aware that I am visualizing as it is now a subconscious habit.
TK’s Question to Cipriana: TK: You’ve always been an incredibly beautiful and inspiring representation of what it means to be supportive and positive to women and girls (I know personally for me you have always been that figure) as well as always providing a platform that enhances that support by encouraging women and girls to embrace themselves no matter what others have to say. What would you say to women and girls that are trying to build their self-confidence in the face of vitriol? Thank you so much, sis! You know I feel the exact same way about you, I am constantly inspired by you and so lucky to have your unwavering representation of love, support, and encouragement in my life! Also great question! First I want to say is learn how to be kind and forgiving to myself and others. When you understand hurt people hurt people (and that includes ourselves) you can understand the actions that result from that lack of love in their life. Of course it in no way excuses any form of abuse but it does shed light on a perspective of not falling into the cycle of feeding into the abuse, by giving it substance in your life through validation of their words: actions by returning the vitriol onto them or onto yourself. It is important to foster an environment that is supportive and protective of your growth as well as mental/physical well-being. We all have insecurities but what builds self-confidence is realizing that we are not perfect, loving ourselves despite our faults, and the forgiveness to fall and get back up again, knowing it is part of the human process. I do not have the all-knowing answer to this question but I do know when I eliminated negative people and aspects that no longer served me, accepted myself at my best but most importantly my worst, focused on self-healing versus self-sabotage, it gave me the clarity to become confident in the woman I was continually evolving into no matter the vitriol.
Photographer: Terry Gates (@terrygates) Co-creative Director: Cipriana Quann (@ciprianaquann) Co-creative Director: TK Quann (@tk_wonder) Co-stylist: TK Quann Co-Stylist: Cipriana Quann Set Coordinator: Sheila Hartnett TK: Sunglasses: Quann x Aperçu (@Apercueyewear) Designed by Quann Sisters Dress: Demestik (@Demestik) Pearl jewelry: A Piece Of Oz (@ApieceOfoz) Boots: Shyanne Belts: Vintage Cipriana: Sunglasses: Quann x Aperçu (@Apercueyewear) Designed by Quann Sisters Dress: Alice + Olivia (@AliceandOlivia) Boots: Shyanne TK Quann Tkwonder.com IG: @TK_Wonder Co-founder: @arRestedVoicesLifted