“At the end of the day, we do things out of fear or love. [I don’t feel any] fear because everything I’ve done is from love,” Don Crawley -- better known as Don C -- shared during a talk on the significance of streetwear at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) on July 22. Since the late 90s, Don C has been enamored with street culture and fashion, and art that fits into the ever-changing bucket of “non-traditional.” This passion led him to becoming connected with Virgil Abloh -- now Louis Vuitton extraordinaire and streetwear visionary -- with whom he founded Chicago-based RSVP Gallery. Now, Virgil’s extensive portfolio of work is on display at the MCA until September 29. As for Don, he’s gone on to manage tours for Kanye West, and to work with a wide variety of artists and creatives.
But, he doesn’t want to be limited. Streetwear, he says, is simply defined as “apparel that is derived from the streets,” leading to the common judgment that streetwear is somehow lesser than other art forms. “You’re not fashion, you’re streetwear,” is something Don’s heard more times than he can count, as if the two couldn’t be further apart. But Don C and Virgil have been purveyors in broadening the definition to so much more -- streetwear can be high fashion; graffiti artists are architects, too. That which comes from the streets isn’t “lesser than,” but rather “more of,” in the sense that it serves as a melting pot for everything creative and organic.
Don and Virgil founded RSVP Gallery in Chicago in 2009, and over the past decade they have been constantly redefining what streetwear is -- such as Don’s “Just Don” brand of basketball shorts that sport zippers -- and above all else, hosting gallery events that cultivate a community of creatives that are blurring lines across all industries. Expanding the community all the way to Los Angeles has prompted Don to think more about the national -- and even global -- implications of the work he’s doing. Streetwear inherently attracts youth, and he thinks that today’s youth have the unique potential to change the world. “It’s on the conscious of the community,” Don said about his fans, “today it’s streetwear, [but tomorrow] we could be tackling the problems of the world.”
But he doesn’t want to focus on just any one problem. Instead, by putting out a consistent energy of love and prosperity, and turning his gallery into a safe space that fosters creative self-expression, he wants the kids to chart their own paths, solve the problems that matter most to them. He also hopes to change the narrative of hip-hop -- one that is so intertwined with the foundations of streetwear -- from one of anger and frustration to one of hope. “Ultimately, the role [Virgil and I] play is to show love and be supportive of others doing what’s core to their heart.”
Just as he’s pushed against limitations, he wants everyone else to do so, consciously, every single day. “Sometimes ‘trying’ is the word we use that just gets in the way,” he says. So instead of just trying, do. You never know, you might just end up changing the world.