Ethnic Background: African American
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Fashion-related occupations: Model/designer
Weapon of choice: Hair
Go-to accessory: Gold chain
“My look is not complete without a gold chain.”
“People always stop and stare whenever I wear a pompadour. “
Her closet may not be filled with pricey designer tags, but don’t let the thrift threads fool you. When it comes to dressing to kill, Shani Crowe is definitely in the murder business. She boasts a tantalizing mash-up of funk, jazz, rock and hip hop, all rolled into one super-dope medley that’ll make your eyes pop. From her unique ‘dos to her crazy cool platform shoes, this young Southside Chicagoan is a fashion killa in every essence of the phrase. She’s just wrapped in a different fabric.
Miss CM: Your sense of fashion is really trippy. You give off a strong Afro-punk vibe. But how would you personally describe your style?
I would describe my style as comfortable, cultural, and textural. Sometimes I do give myself outfit themes like “Afro-bubble Goth,” but it’s usually free form. I love patterns and I love to coordinate colors, themes, and eras that aren’t related, but compliment each other.
From whom, or what, do you draw inspiration for your style?
I was raised in a very Afrocentric community, so I’m inspired by African garb and ceremonial costume. My mom is a die-hard shopper, like [a] serious sale vulture. So I learned at a young age to get designer clothes for the low, resale, or new. I’m inspired by deals dammit! Menswear and cosplay* are certainly inspirations as well.
Your wardrobe is pretty colorful, and it’s clear that you like playing around with funky patterns and designs, as you mentioned earlier. So that leaves me to wonder if you dabble in other mediums, besides fashion, to express your artistic nature?
I am an interdisciplinary artist. I work with photography, video, collage, paint, and textiles. I’ve also braided hair since I was a child. I’m just good with my hands.
Considering you have your hands tied-in all these different art forms, what is it about fashion that you enjoy?
I love being able to wear really whatever I want. I don’t know if I’m necessarily “fashionable,” I just really work my sense of style and it suits me. I think style and the ability to play with different looks is what I love.
How important is it for you to express your creativity through fashion?
It’s important. I make a lot of things that I wear and I’ve had some of my clothes since I was in elementary school. I reject some clothes because they are just too regular and I feel, like, uncomfortable.
Are there any celebrities, or other public figures, whose fashion sense you admire?
I like Vashtie [Kola] because she is comfy cute; [Erykah] Badu is always killin’ no matter what; Bjork really plays with experimental fashions—I respect people that wear what they really want to wear and you can see it. It’s not a trend, it’s from the heart. I feel like I can usually tell when it’s organic.
Speaking of fashion from the heart, you’re a designer. Tell us a little about that.
I design under the brand ANI with a friend, Imani Amos @imanimoon. Our brand is free form and we sell in-person. No ecommerce, unfortunately.
How would you describe the type of clothes that you design?
I have a line of bleached and painted sweats that I produce biannually and sell locally. I just wanted to feel like I was wearing something comfortable that was still artistically expressive.
What are the short-term and long-term goals for your fashion line?
Right now I’m hand treating each piece, and I would love to transition into manufacturing some of my non-bleach ideas. Eventually, and ideally, I want to start designing housewares. I’m an HGTV FREAK!
You’re involved in modeling as well. What’s the story behind that?
I’ve been getting pushed by family and friends to pursue modeling, so I’m working on building a portfolio.
What have been your biggest accomplishments as a model thus far?
I modeled for Tipsy Zine, a Chicago-based nail magazine, in the spring of last year. I styled my hair in an FKA twigs-inspired ‘do, and she somehow saw [it] and reposted my pic’ on her Instagram. It was super unexpected, but a nice instance of internet serendipity.
Who is your favorite fashion designer?
I like KTZ, Kenzo, Ralph Lauren—[but] most of my favorite things aren’t designer; they are hand-me-downs from my parents or random thrift finds.
But I promise you, “random thrift finds” never looked so stylish. Flip through the pages for a look at some of Shani’s most swagged-out fashion moments.
*Short for “costume play,” cosplay represents an art form where participants dress up in costumes to personify a specific idea or character.