By Stuart D. Luman





This story was published in the

The Oakland Tribune


Henry Delton Williams

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 from.

``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.

Williams, 57, 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 costumes.

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.

“This is 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.

Although 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.''