If you didn’t already know, A Vibe Called Tech is a creative agency founded by Charlene Prempeh that works with brands to help them tell both organic and authentic stories about the Black experience. “Our remit is global,” affirms Prempeh, who stresses the importance that the nuances of Black culture need to be explored from the perspective of communities across the world.
One of the labels A Vibe Called Tech works closely with is Gucci. “Our relationship with Gucci is ongoing – they’re really supportive of us bringing narratives of the Black experience to the forefront,” says Prempeh. To coincide with Martin Luther King Day, the two creative forces have come together to create Pioneers of the Past. Commissioned by Gucci to celebrate the brand’s collaboration with The North Face, A Vibe Called Tech has spotlighted four specialists of Black history. Each participant was invited to take a self-portrait in pieces of the collection, which were then collaged by London-based artist Jazz Grant.
“Jazz is such an incredible talent and has been on our list of people to work with since we started,” explains Lewis Gilbert, creative director of A Vibe Called Tech. “Given the restrictions in place due to Covid-19, we were unable to stage any professional photoshoots and everyone had to take images at home the best they could. Jazz took these and transformed them into a dimension we hadn’t really imagined, true to each person’s personality whilst fully embracing the subject matter and showcasing the clothes which influenced the whole thing.”
The exceptional practitioners featured include Alayo Akinkugbe, founder of @ablackhistoryofart on Instagram, Italian Ghanian visual researcher Theophilus Imani and British-Ghanaian critic, curator and art historian Osei Bonsu. There’s also Renata Cherlise, founder of @blackarchives.co: a multimedia platform that spotlights Black experiences and stories to 373k followers on Instagram.
“We have followed Alayo, Osei, Renata, and Theo’s work closely, using them as reference points for research projects in the past, so having the opportunity to work with them on this was a great chance to hear their voices and discover the inspiration behind their practices,” says Gilbert.
As well as the portraits, A Vibe Called Tech has teamed up with Stance Podcast to create a series of conversations with each visionary featured, exploring the changing nature of the Black image; past and present.
“The project gives a wide-reaching platform to the voices of Black creatives and curators, facilitating a celebration of the Black image, from a Black perspective,” says Alayo Akinkugbe. “Even within the restrictions of these times, this project has been a wonderfully collaborative process in which the work of each person involved has supported that of another.”