With ideals of empowering America’s marginalized Black community, Paul Bennings' entry is the creation of Heavyweight Apparel of NYC
By Elisha Bennet
A Powerful Ethos
Invoking the powerful status of heavyweight such as Muhammad Ali, Heavyweight Apparel of NYC exalts women for the strength, cultural impact, and sexuality they possess. An impetus stemming from issues regarding contemporary feminism and intersectionality, Heavyweight Apparel of NYC is built to empower women of color and address the issues that they face. Paul directs his models in puissant fashion to exemplify the message of Heavyweight Apparel. Never bashful to exemplify the human form, Paul sees the elation of the body as an extension of the power and confidence that is associated with the traditional heavyweight.
He founded Heavyweight Apparel of NYC in a one-bedroom apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn with the vision of a brand carrying into a media outlet that represents an Afrocentric worldview that has become disparaged and generalized.
"It's an apparel brand, and that's what it is in its base, but really what I want this to be is a media brand."
Living in a world where people of color are executed in unabated fashion, Brooklyn is being gentrified, and mass incarceration plagues the community, Paul set out to replace "the global system of racism with a system of justice." Underrepresented and discouraged with a choice of stereotypical representations or Hip-Hop-centric publicans such as XXL, Heavyweight Apparel of NYC takes aim to spread Paul's idiosyncratic worldview through his own apparel line that addresses feminism, racial inequalities, and self-expression.
It's our narrative and we get to tell it.
Shaped by traveling and defined by New York City, Paul has been instilled with “a deeper perspective along with an appreciation for the culture, my people, and humanity” which parlays into a confidence that characterizes Heavyweight Apparel. Paul spent eight years in the United States Air Force stationed across Southern California, Korea, Italy, and Las Vegas. Seeking more, he spent a stint in the Peace Corp serving Kenya.
"I wanted to do some more traveling, I wasn't ready to settle down. I wanted to see the world. ... I went to Kenya and had the time of my life."
An inclusive worldview attributed to his travels, and Paul finds himself endowed with inspiration to share his worldview.
“I’m able to compare lifestyles and see other ways of living. I’m able to bring those experiences to the brand [Heavyweight Apparel] and show something else."
Realizing a Vision
Paul returned to America and entered art school for graphic design. This provided him the opportunity to draw from ideological influences such as Dr. Cornel West, James Baldwin, and Dr. Marc Lamont Hill. Message-centric and reminiscent of 90's New York City street bills, Heavyweight Apparel is striking. A stylistic amalgam of George Lois Esquire’s magazine covers tempered with Helmut Newton’s and Nobuyoshoi Araki’s imposing portrait photos through a lens of Roc-A-Wear era hip hop. The sum is a street-wear strain that is unmistakably New York City in its tone while invoking the impressions that the world laid onto Paul.
A stylistic amalgam of George Lois Esquire’s magazine covers tempered with Helmut Newton’s and Nobuyoshoi Araki’s imposing portrait photos through a lens of Roc-A-Wear era hip hop.
Paul is now growing his burgeoning brand. Solidified in Heavyweight Apparel of NYC brand, he is putting his sum into realizing his vision.
"It Invokes struggle, triumph, perseverance, resilience, strength, and sex appeal."
Paul created his brand to give back to his community at large, share his worldview, and prize those around him who don't receive the admiration they deserve. He finds his own part in this battle by seeking out people of color to work with, especially women, to accomplish “my [Paul's] own activism and sense of justice." He pays above the standard rate with what he sees as fair, insisting that it is these efforts that create and shape his brand with the authenticity needed to spread the message of empowerment.
"I don’t give a fuck. And I’m too old to be scared about trying or failing or looking silly. Everyone else is getting their slice of the pie and I see people going after their dreams, why not go after mine? And besides, I feel like I have a better story to tell than other emerging brands. Other emerging brands take the same pictures; they’re all wearing the same shit, with the same poses but these brands don’t really have a voice. They just have a picture with a “add to cart” button – and that’s it. I think what makes this brand endearing, it’s something that people can relate to – the story of the underdog, the story of redemption, the story of moving forward even in the face of inexplicable odds – that’s my definition of a “Heavyweight!” Now all I have to do is take those elements and add a little bit of 'sexy' to it, and now I have something special and authentic."