MILWAUKEE — The Black Nativity production by Langston Hughes is returning to Milwaukee’s Marcus Center just in time to kick off the holidays.
And two local designers are helping to bring colorful and cultural patterns to the spotlight.
Costume stylists Kyndal Johnson and Vato Vergara said they’re evolving their costume design to lean more into the Afro-centric diaspora.
Vergara said fashion is an important part of his lifestyle. He said his Black and Latino roots are the cornerstone of his work as a creative and artist in Milwaukee.
Now, Vergara’s using his love for fashion to help inspire others in the community to embrace their style and culture.
“It’s important for Black and brown people to be put on a pedestal for style and fashion and looking good,” he said. “That’s where we come from. We come from gold and we come from fabrics.”
Both Vergara and Johnson work with Black Arts MKE. It’s an organization that aims to provide Milwaukee-based artists of color with opportunities and a platform. Together, the two are sourcing and showcasing designs for productions, like Black Nativity.
“I love Afro-centric style,” said Johnson. “I get to go to my auntie’s house or somebody else’s auntie’s house and be like ‘this inspires me’… so I could put it on stage for everyone to see.”
Johnson said she grew up in a family full of singers and musicians, so being a creative is in her nature.
But the two said they want their work to be about more than just lights on stages.
“Now, we’re just doing things that we never thought we could do,” said Johnson.
Vergara said he wants to teach others to embrace their culture and to wear it proudly.
“I feel like my work impacts people because I give people who are Black and brown opportunities no matter what,” he said.
He said he’s hoping to be a trailblazer for people in Milwaukee, changing and developing the city.
Both said they want others to have the courage to branch out and know they can be successful in the arts world as creatives.