Look out for Monique!

In a Wild West fashion feature, we meet Monique Harris, textile artist and outsider designer.

I was so young. They probably thought I wouldn’t understand the concept.   

Writing art, design and textiles by Monique Harris
With the assistance of Erica Varize


My mother arrived to pick me up from the foster home and take me to my grandmother’s house. My grandmother always made her own clothes in the dining room. Because of my spastic cerebral palsy, Momma sat me in a high chair where I could watch but not move. There was a big old table in the dining room covered with patterns, materials, and tape measures. My grandmother would lay the pattern on the fabric, which she would cut out. I loved it.

I was so young. They probably thought I wouldn’t understand the concept.   

I remembered these years later when I was rolling down the street in my wheelchair and entered a boutique. I heard Prince blasting on the radio. And when I entered, I saw a lady cutting a pattern arrangement out. I flashed back to my childhood. So I sat there watching. There was no conversation between us yet. I kept going back and forth to her shop, back and forth, because I was scared she would not understand me because of my speech impediment. And then I decided, Okay, I’ll try to talk to her.                                                                     

So I decided on what we had in common—Prince.

I said, “Hi, I like Prince, too.” We started talking about Prince, how we love him and how many concerts we went to, and all of his stuff. Then I told her, “I love fashion. My mother and grandmother used to make their own clothes. One day, I’m going to make my own clothes. I’m an artist. I make pictures, print them on fabric, and sell them.”    


She said, “Ooo, that’s a good idea. I always wanted to put my art on clothes.”

The first thing I tried was to put my printed scarves in her shop. That didn’t work too well. Eventually we lost touch for a couple of years. One day, I got on Facebook and found two print-art-on-fabric programs: Spoonflower and Redbubble. I could send my art to them, and they could print it on fabric and clothes. I sent my art and made some material. Redbubble is where I can make scarves and bags. I was so happy. And then I got in contact with my old friend again. “Erika, I did it,” I told her. “I got my art on fabric. I want to make that dress with the open back but I want to use my own fabric.” We made my first dress.

My next goal is to make a fashion collection. Look out for Monique.

The Author, Artist & Designer

Monique Reneé Harris was born as an African American woman with spastic cerebral palsy. She learned how to use a head wand to create digital graphic art using imaging software. She prints her images on fabric and makes clothes out of them, exploring the intersectionality of being Black, a woman, and disabled. She lives in Emeryville, California with her three cats: Lala, Stephen Curry, and Thompson.

5 responses to “Look out for Monique!”

  1. Carolyn O’Shea Avatar
    Carolyn O’Shea

    You are the most awesome woman I know!!! My best friend in the world!! You go girl!!

  2. Peggy Hakanson Avatar
    Peggy Hakanson

    Just lovely! Want to see more from this woman!!

  3. Vivian Taube Avatar
    Vivian Taube

    I never knew this about your grandmother and mother. I do remember Erika, though, and her shop. Congratulations!


    Monique is a true inspiration! Having worked alongside this spectacular woman at a couple major events, including Oakland’s Art & Soul Festival, I can say that the sky is definitely not the limit for Monique. Congratulations on this new opportunity to let more of the world know who you are!

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