||When Henry Delton
Williams first started designing clothes 30 years
ago, he was heavily influenced by the civil
rights movement, the Black Panthers and the
politics of the time.
Today his designs are more
influenced by jazz and African culture than
politics, but he hasn't forgotten where he came
``I wanted to
be a world-renowned designer, which was unheard
of for a black man, but it didn't hurt to
dream,'' Williams said.
who has created fashions for some of Motown's
biggest stars, now owns AFAR Clothing Design, an
Oakland enterprise whose name is an appropriate
fit for its unusual line.
AFAR stands for
American Fruit with African Roots. The name is a
description of Williams himself, who is the
product or ``fruit'' of Africans in this country,
rooted in that tradition but also an integral
part of American culture.
``When we were
brought over here as slaves, we were uprooted and
brought to America,'' said Williams in explaining
the name AFAR. ``Over so many centuries, we've
become a blend of many other races of people. I
have in me, Indian, black, white. It's all in
me.'' His clothing is unique because he uses both
African fabrics _ including mud cloth and tribal
sewn patterns known as Kente _ and imported
European fabrics in suits, religious gowns and
His most recent
innovation is the ``jazket,'' a jacket inspired
by both jazz and gospel music. Each jacket is
improvised by Williams from the fabrics and
textures he likes and what he is thinking about
at the time. The jackets are made with the mud
cloth, Kente fabrics and other materials,
cosmetic piping to accent the arms and shoulders
and the overtones of music, religion and politics
that helped shape him.
the type of clothing you can wear more than just
at celebrations of Black History month, it also
works well in the marketplace, for all other
occasions after five and just a lot of other
places, he said.
Williams works on pants and other garments for
AFAR, he hopes the `jazket' will propel him to
the world fashion market, he said.
``I have goals
to reach the international scene,'' said
Williams. ``It's not impossible. It's a dream
close at hand. I'm too close to turn around, it's
like I can see God's face, hallelujah, and I
can't turn around.''