The Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative (MOBI) has announced the launch of their “Well & Well-Dressed” campaign, a collaboration with Dutch fashion powerhouse Scotch & Soda encouraging holistic living in queer communities. Created as a “call to action” to combat adversity while looking and feeling good, the initiative aims to foster a space in which the LGBTQ+ community can nurture their inner and outer wellbeing.
Scotch & Soda dressed nine handpicked LGBTQ+ influencers using their latest in-store collection. The result was a striking statement highlighting each model’s personal style while disrupting gender norms.
CASSIUS caught up with MOBI founder DaShawn Usher to learn more about the collaboration and discuss the importance of fostering wellness in queer spaces. Read on to learn more about their latest campaign, then head to mobi-nyc.com to see what else MOBI’s up to.
CASSIUS: How did the Scotch & Soda collaboration come about? Is there a reason why MOBI chose to work with them in particular, and were other brands considered?
DaShawn Usher: The collaboration with Scotch & Soda happened very organically. One of our MOBI team members connected with the team at the Fulton Street store [in NYC], and when they heard about the work we were doing, they were eager to collaborate with us in a creative way. The brand positions themselves as being “from Amsterdam, from everywhere” and wants to be part of the conversation with us surrounding inclusivity. With New York Fashion Week coming up in February and wellness being a focus for us, we landed on a campaign that values inner health just as much as outer appearance.
C.: Disparities are undoubtedly present throughout the wellness movement, with the mainstream wellness industry catering mostly to a white audience. In the last few years, the work Black women have done in changing the face of wellness has gained more visibility. Can you talk briefly about the work Black men have also been doing, and why this initiative—with a focus on queer brothers of color—is especially important?
Clothing becomes our armor. Style becomes our creative expression.
D.U..: We know that health disparities continue to disproportionality impact communities of color, particularly the Black communities. Often, we are not treated as a whole person when engaging with providers. The focus tends to lean towards treating the symptoms and not the person. There is no consideration in the healthcare field for the systematic and social implications and oppressions that occur before we even step in the door. Our race and gender, as Black men, is always seen before our sexual identities even comes into play.
We share the same struggles, stigmas, and prejudices that other Black men are facing, especially right now. We are seeing an emergence around different forms of wellness for Black men, like increasing financial wellness through educational classes around budgeting and planning to career and professional development. In addition, seeing social wellness efforts that are centered in healing and emotions. For instance, we recently heard of HealHaus, a wellness studio in Brooklyn that helps Black men deal with anxiety and depression and would love to work with them in the future.
C.: In many wellness campaigns, things like exercise, fitness, and healthy eating are often highlighted. But as this campaign emphasizes, wellness goes way beyond the physical. Tell us more about the decision to highlight style and fashion in challenging the traditional perception of “wellness” and what it means.
D.U.: We are trying to shift the paradigm to challenge providers to understand that there are these nontraditional factors that our community had to adopt to essentially cope with stressors and traumas to navigate life. There was more to the untold stories of what we heard when we grew up about “the importance of looking the part.” The Black community has always had an ongoing relationship with fashion, particularly the retail industry. When everything else is happening and may be going wrong, we have prided ourselves with this ownership of style. It’s one of the few outlets where we can have full control when it comes to acquiring things. No matter how costly or inexpensive, we have the power to buy. Ultimately, this affects how we feel and how we present to the outside world. Clothing becomes our armor. Style becomes our creative expression. While fashion has had this ability to transform beyond the cliché retail therapy to really aide in coping with ourselves and how we are viewed by others. We should always feel good about what we wear as that’s the first form of self-actualization as we strive to meet our other needs.