Babette Thomas, Ruyo Aiyo Gerber, Pazia Bermudez-Silverman
Have you ever seen a group of people walking across Main Green and thought to yourself, “Wow. Who are they?” One such trio: Babette Thomas, Ruby Aiyo Gerber, and Pazia Bermudez-Silverman. Though we could have talked to any one of them individually, we thought it would be even more interesting to put their styles in conversation with one another.
Q: Can you describe each other’s personal style?
Babette: I would say Ruby’s style is pretty effeminate. She wears a lot of jewel tones and sparkle and color. But she can also just turn it around and wear all black. Pazia’s style is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. She wears a lot of really unique pieces that reflect her unique background. I feel like we all have pieces that coincide a bit, but you just wear them in ways that I wouldn’t even think to.
Pazia: Going off of that, when I see Ruby, sometimes she’ll have a plain black skirt, but it’ll have a cool cut, and I’ll think, “Shit. I have to do that.” Babette wears more of one color—I hate the color blocking terminology—but yeah, more monochrome and put together. Then Ruby has standout pieces. She works the weirdness and plays a lot with shape and texture.
Ruby: Pazia’s style, like Babette said, is unlike anyone’s style that I’ve ever seen. It’s very eclectic. You can tell that she’s a multiracial person because she brings in so many different elements of her identity and expresses them through her clothing, which I think is really beautiful. When I think of Babette’s style, it’s a lot of solid colors like rich red and blue. There’s a little bit of pastel—a tease of pastel—but otherwise, it’s all of these rich colors, which are just so delicious.
q: Can you talk about your style inspirations?
B: My wall is a really good depiction of that. My style inspirations are really bomb-ass women of color who are just doing shit well. Solange is a huge inspiration for me, and now that you mention color blocking, Solange does a lot of that, and I think that’s where I got it from. Another huge style icon is Paloma Elsesser, who is a model and woman of color. I think she wears stuff that is more masculine, but she is very much in her femininity at the same time.
P: I get a lot of inspiration from my mom and godmother, who only wears custom-made two-piece suits. They’re mostly made out of African Dutch wax fabric, which is also really important to my family; my sister is an artist and makes a lot of sculptures out of it. Also, I love fashion, but I’m not the type of person to say, “Oh, that’s this designer,” or, “Oh, that’s the new Gucci line.” I don’t know seasons, but I see something good, and then I get it. And that’s why I think we all like to thrift shop because it’s just a matter of finding what we’re attracted to at the moment.
R: African Dutch wax is also really important to me because a lot of my family is from West Africa, and I’ve spent a lot of time both there and in East Africa. I’ve always been really influenced by African art. The colors I incorporate come from that. Going to the Caribbean a lot has also had an impact. My family is Bajan, and I grew up there being surrounded by these really rich, bright yellows and colors like that. In terms of my more femme side, I’m definitely inspired by Italian neorealism. I love those films. All the sweaters and fur coats, the dramatic styles and berets have influenced my style a lot. Solange and other bomb-ass women of color are so important to me, as is my mother, who’s this fashionable black woman doing her thing, collecting jewelry. Like my mother, I love huge, chunky jewelry.
Q: How did your friendship evolve through the lens of fashion?
R: So, I met them together. They had already had their “aha fashion moment,” and I came late to the game. I was with some people who knew them, and we were all wearing overalls. Was it—dare I say it—love? Maybe just friendship, but we’ll work towards love.
B: Where I went to school, I didn’t have people who dressed like me, who were into thrift shopping and putting weird things together. So coming here and seeing people like you was just like, “Woah!” I think it’s really superficial to say that clothes play a huge role in our friendship, but it does play some kind of role, and it’s nice to have friends with similar taste.
P: We just look good together. I think that no person can ever have the same style as someone else, so it’s really cool when you have a friend whose pieces you love but wouldn’t wear.
Q: what outfit best reflects your personal style?
“My clips I got on a recent trip to the beauty supply store with Ruby. We bought a bunch of things that reminded us of our childhood. This turtleneck is from Goodwill and the sweater is from Madewell. I’ve paired them with my Dickies overalls. I’ve started to become a little more practical and less effeminate in the way I dress. When I was younger, being someone who was a tall black woman, I felt there was a need to prove that I was feminine. Now, I’m much more of an overalls, coveralls, trousers, loafers kind of girl. I think this outfit has a good balance; the pink adds some femininity, but you also have the practical aspect with the overalls.”
ruby aiyo gerber
“My mother got me this hat—it's kind of my Erykah Badu meets Beyonce at the end of “Formation” hat. The coat was my mother’s in college. As for the shirt, I really like sparkly things. I call it my chainmail shirt. My boxers represent my New York side and also the fact that I like to skate. They are Brujas, which is a femme skate, art, and music collective. These are my K-Mart pants—my friend and I bulk ordered them. In terms of jewelry, I’ve paired some gold hoops with earrings that my father brought back from Afghanistan. People don’t really believe me when I tell them my father was tracking snow leopards in the hills of Afghanistan.”
“The cowboy boots I got a few weeks ago at Goodwill for $5. Everyone knows that I’m a cowgirl. These pants I got with one of my best friends from my childhood. They’re FUBU, which reflects my multiracial identity. The shirt I got in the Halloween section of Goodwill. As for my glasses, my godmother designed them. Every year, I work the big sale that her store has, where all of the super expensive glasses are $30. I got really big hoops because I went with my friends as TLC for Halloween. I also really like hair clips, and the way I’ve styled my hair reminds me of how my mom used to do my sister’s hair when I was little.”
Q: what outfit are you currently obsessed with?
“I like to wear [this shirt] with this jacket—sort of leopard-on-leopard. The pin, which is from the Oakland Museum of California, depicts three women of color. I got these shoes for my graduation—they’re definitely old woman shoes. This bag was a Christmas present. I don’t shut up about being from Oakland. It’s a very diverse place, and it’s often viewed as a crime-ridden city, but it’s where I grew up.”
ruby aiyo gerber
“This is my crushed velvet outfit. My mom got me this top, and I thought it was really cute, but I didn’t know what to wear underneath. So I was at a thrift store in Williamsburg, and I found this darker one. It’s not quite the same color or shape, but I think that it kind of shadows the other one. The earrings are from one of my friends back home, and my buns are my signature hairstyle.”
“I got this outfit at a thrift store. It’s so Clueless but at the same time not. But here’s the real reason that I’m obsessed with it: I have my pasties on underneath! I love pasties. I think they’re the funniest thing ever. I actually wore these out last night with an even more revealing shirt. And then my mom gave me these weird people earrings, which used to be hers.”
Q: what outfit do you wear when you want to stand out?
“I got this dress with Pazia at Savers. It’s my mommy, Ms. Frizzle dress. One of the perks of being tall—at Savers, I can wear anything from a size 8 to 18. These are my clogs. We’ve been through a lot. I’ve had them for like three or four years. This pair is one of the first things I got which I knew weren’t super cute, especially because I went to a kind of preppy school. People gave me so much shit for these, but I didn’t care and wore them anyway. I think they’re dope.”
ruby aiyo gerber
“This outfit is very color-coordinated. The shoes are Nike Air Force Ones. This friend and artist that I worked for in Brooklyn likes customizing sneakers. She wanted to capture my essence and these are the colors she picked, which, ironically, are colors that I never wear. I got this dress at a vintage store in Spain. My godmother gave me these vintage earrings which I love because you can do different color combinations. So I can do two reds, two yellows, or a red and a yellow.”
“I just got these boots from the Kenzo for H&M collection. They’re my stand-in snow boots because I never got any. These overalls I got at a thrift store and I like to wear them under this cowgirl shirt. This is my Pazia belt that I’ve had since I was five. The same godmother who designs glasses custom-made these for me. Then I saw this fur coat for $25 and I figured that since I was going to school in the cold, I needed a fur coat. I told my mom and she got it for me as a surprise.”