After the election last November, Crystal Anguay Reed wanted to do something that would contribute to empowering people, especially those wanting to take a political stand. At the nonprofit Washington Bus, Anguay Reed works regularly with young people to become involved in social justice, politics, and civil engagement. Eventually, she started a fashion blog which organically inspired her into creating a fashion line called Crystal Anguay Reed Designs.
Lalaine Ignao: What do you do for a living?
Crystal Anguay Reed: I work for an organization called the Washington Bus. I am their deputy director. My main duties are staff management, strategic development, and most of my time is fundraising. We’re a statewide organization that gets young people involved in social justice, politics, and civic engagement. We have leadership development that people learn online and on the ground to be an activist or advocate for an issue. We also work in Olympia on policy. We do campaigns and other activities that are more issues based. The biggest thing we do is voter registration and turnout. So we do a lot of things.
Ignao: What made you want to apply for and work for Washington Bus?
Reed: I worked in politics for a while before. I worked in campaigns and I had a fellowship in DC where I worked on education reform and staff for one of the folks who was a senior consultant of the White House for the Bush and Clinton administrations. I was a fellowship there through the Washington Center. After that, I did six years of campaigning. My trajectory in life has always been politics, so I did political science and law society and justice in college and it’s always been politics and advocacy and community organizing. The Bus is really cool because in the intersection of art and politics, they do nightlife events, festivals, and Capitol Hill block parties. They even become involved at Sasquatch. It’s a really cool organization and I actually applied as their development director and I have been that for a couple years before getting my promotion last year.
Ignao: Tell me about your revolution clutches.
Reed: I started out as a fashion blogger with my friend named Alicia. It was kind of self-care for me. 2016 was a tough year and we wanted to get over all of it. So we started doing some creative activities. We love fashion and we wanted to do something like that. I think there isn’t a lot of representation for people of color doing blogging or fashion that gets lots of publicity so I wanted to see how it goes. If anything, it’s going to be self care for us. We did it for ourselves and then after a while, we started to go to blogging events where we met other bloggers and we were like, “Okay this is kind of cool.” But as politics goes, things got really busy, and one day I was searching things that would be cool to make and I realized that I didn’t know how to sew. So I had to ask my mom if she could send me one of her old sewing machines. I started taking sewing classes and eventually I started making tote bags, trying to put a different spin on tote bags and making it like vegan leather and making it a little bit more fancier than a normal tote bag.
After the election, I went back home to Hawai‘i and I was drawing a bunch of different designs that I wanted to make and I had a vision of a clutch bag and I wanted to put a statement on it. I put things like freed in the bold kind of movement, more women empowerment, POC stuff. I wanted something symbolic and knowing that obviously this is going to be a symbol that we’re going to be standing on many of the folks who paved the way for, but wanted to redefine what that meant for me and I redrew the punch fist which you know is from the civil rights movement and I wanted to draw it a little bit more sassy. I think the original fist does not have the fingernail on it so I drew that in. Initially, I wanted that to be red so that it will be a little bit more different. But the embroidery machine can only do so much. I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. I think that I was very very lucky to be at the right place at the right time with the right thing.
Ignao: Why did you call it “Revolution Collection?”
Reed: So I thought a lot about of what am I doing. I worked in politics for a while now and I feel like we’ve just been losing for a while and this was the ultimate loss. I called it the revolution collection because I think this is a time for a revolution. I know that a lot of people might say revolution as in revolting against Trump and there’s so much more than that. There’s so much more than just hating on Trump. There’s a lot of policy that we need to change. I hope that when people wear it, they’re empowered by what it means, know the history and where it came from, and know that there’s a lot of contention between a lot of different movements that are happening. I hope people understand what it really means to be in solidarity with people of color and what that does. I really want that kind of revolution, that revolution towards equity rather than, “Oh, we’re going to revolt against Donald Trump.”
It’s easy to go and rally and easy to show up but it’s really hard to continue showing up and continue phone banking, doorbelling, or voting. The true revolution will be when people are able to make their way into true action, when it’s not just another thing that you go to. It’s a continued action and that’s my idea of a revolution. It’s not really about a one time thing, but it’s a continuous acting of being. It’s about what is right and standing on the right side of history and that’s why even if it’s a struggle, it is a struggle that has been a struggle for people of color for a long time. This has been a struggle for people of color and it has been disenfranchised and has been marginalized for a long time. I want other people to know that the revolution isn’t something that is just showing up to something.
Ignao: How do you practice your revolution?
Reed: Because of my job, I do it everyday because I have to. I try to stay true to being inclusive and not exclusive and when we’re making decisions, including everybody in the process. I’m practicing what I preach. I also try to be very open. Because we work in politics and there is an institutional biases and racism that happens that within the nonprofit sector, the non profit institution and politics as a whole, I try to make sure that people know their voice is heard and that their voice matters and it could be through asking them for an opinion about a project or it could be through making sure they’re looped in major decision points or writing.
It’s little things as asking in giving advice, or asking to be in their space and respecting that because often times, especially young people and young people of color are not heard because their limited experience. I like making sure that there is open space and dialogue and that also feed back in certain ways and it’s not like the supervisor to the supervisee, but it’s getting some feedback and growing together.
Ignao: When someone buys your clutch, what kind of message do you want them to get out of it?
Reed: The number one thing is being and feeling empowered and being bold, being out. I think that is what the clutch says, standing in solidarity with the movements. It’s about standing on the right side of history and making sure that people feel empowered. One of the hard things being a fashion designer is being one of the capitalists in society.
The radical part of myself is like, “I don’t want to monetize the movement or monetize on what the movement means.” That is the biggest conflict I have within myself. But I put 100% of what I make back into the business to buy fabric or thread, or to buy place mats, but I am hoping that by the end of this year I’m able to donate a significant part of what I make back into the movement Black Lives Matter, or somewhere in the API community that I can give back to because that is the reason why I am doing it and so when people buy it they are able to see that it’s not only about empowerment and looking cute, it’s also about giving back to the community.
Ignao: What are your goals for the future?
Reed: I want to have it in a place where I am able to open a boutique one day and have a store. I’m hoping that people are able to wear my product because I think that is the biggest honor. I hope to continue making high quality garments and quality items and hope that one day, hopefully I can be big enough to have my own store and or be in all the boutiques in the pacific northwest.
Ignao: What advice can you give to those who want to make a stand and be a part of the revoltuion but don’t know how?
Reed: I would say come to The Bus. There are so many volunteer opportunities at The Bus and outside The Bus as well but if you’re a young person and you’re looking at something that you want to get involved in, take my number, email and let me know. There are so many things to do and get done. We do it in a really fun way and not really in a boring, sit in a conference room for hours. We have phone banks, we go to campuses, high schools and do presentations, and we call people and tell people about issues that are happening in their area. There is a myriad of things we can do together. If they want to get involved, look left and look right, there’s many places. All you have to do is ask and show up. Anybody, but especially The Bus would be glad to have you.
Ignao: Where can we find your Revolution Collection?
Reed: Social media, my instagram is @anguayreed. My website is anguayreeddesigns.com and my Facebook is Anguay Reed Designs. You can also go to Clementines which is in Pioneer Square which they carry some of my clutches there. I’m also in a store in Factoria Mall called Kahini Boutique.