Sport

A Statement for Diversity and Black Designers in Sportswear

Main image to the post A Statement for Diversity and Black Designers in Sportswear

Alaysha Johnson, a 100-meter hurdler, qualified to represent Team USA at the Olympic Track and Field Trials on June 30 while wearing an outfit by a Black designer.

In a post-race interview, Johnson emotionally asserted her commitment to paving the way for others like her. She exclaimed, "and I did it with a Black designer on my chest."

Johnson, who completed her college career at the University of Oregon, is generally an unsponsored athlete, making her something of an anomaly among professional track athletes.

"I thought once I turned professional going into this sport, once I started running fast, I would get the same opportunities," Johnson said according to Mile Split.

Instead, on the track, Johnson wore HMN ALNS, an independent Black-owned brand by Phillip Mims. Mims said he draws from diverse inspiration like streetwear, anime, and runway fashion.

Mims told NBC News that he was playing Xbox when a friend texted him that Johnson had qualified for the Olympics while wearing one of his designs. To Mims, it was notable that she did not mention HMN ALNS specifically.

"To me what she was really saying is kind of like, 'insert any black designer here.' She didn't need to have a Nike or a Lululemon. Like there's other designers out there," Mims said.

While Johnson had approached HMN ALNS prior to the trials about wearing one of his designs, Mims had told the hurdler that the brand, which keeps a small inventory, did not have anything in stock. Mims said he believes that she purchased the outfit herself — a black bodysuit with shorts, and a half bikini, half-high neck top.

Mims himself was surprised to see Johnson in his design at the trials. "I would never thought that you could even be running in that," he said, noting that wearing that specific design on the track shows Johnson's "creativity."

Indeed, her creativity showed in more than one way at the trials. Johnson borrowed fellow hurdler Tonea Marshall's shoes, after her own spikes broke before the event, according to The Associated Press.

Despite the wardrobe challenges, Johnson ran her personal best in the final, landing in second place. She finished behind world leader Masai Russell, with Grace Stark, who just graduated from University of Florida, coming in third.

However, despite this breakthrough moment on the world stage for HMN ALNS, Mims said that trendy athleisure staples like jumpsuits and leggings have been part of his brand for years.

Johnson, with her awareness of the brand, is now catching everyone else up on the world stage, he says. "That's what the platform is for us, that's what that stage is for — to finally shed light on some people that have already been doing it for so long.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09