Fashion against violence

Woman’s passion for fashion honors slain brother

By Gary Ridley

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Kala Wilburn didn’t know how to react after she received word her brother, Antonio Anthony, was shot and killed in 2011 on the city’s north side.

“I don’t know how to feel about this,” Wilburn, 27, said after the shooting that claimed the life of her 22-year-old brother, Antonio Anthony. “All I know is I have to continue to depend on the word of God. I have to be strong for my family.”

Now, nearly a year later, Wilburn has fallen back on her “passion for fashion” to commemorate her brother and to help make a positive change on a community that all to often sees its young people make negative decisions.

Wilburn, a graduate of Flint Southwestern and Central Michigan University, now designs and sells bracelets encouraging people to “stop the violence.”

But the bracelets aren’t just empty words. Customers are asked to make a pledge to help improve the world around them when they purchase a bracelet.

Some pledged to stop the violence, while others have agreed to become mentors and help people register to vote.

“The bracelet is kind of like a reminder,” Wilburn said.

Making the bracelets also serve as a reminder for Wilburn, who moved to New York to work for Marc Ecko for three years after graduating from college.

A big smile grew across her face as she recalled the moments she shared with her brother, who also had an interest in fashion and design.

“He did a lot of graphic design,” Wilburn said. “He was really into music so he did covers for albums.”

The bracelets, which are hand-made from local materials in a home she and her husband share, are just the beginning of what Wilburn is trying to accomplish.

Half of the proceeds the Wilburn makes go back into events that Wilburn hosts to help get area students involved in the fashion industry.

Wilburn said she has hosted events at area schools to teach kids how to make things like hand bags, pillow cases and bow ties, teaching practical skills that could lead the kids into the world of fashion or just help them develop better hand-eye coordination.

So far, Wilburn has sold nearly 100 of the bracelets to people all around the country.

“It’s been a good response,” said Wilburn.