This month, a touch of Africana tradition has landed in Somerville’s Bow Market.
Mother-daughter duo Imani McFarlane and Delmeshia Haynes recently opened a pop-up shop at the Union Square spot, selling handmade headwraps in silk and ankara from Tafari Wraps. Created in partnership with Black Owned Bos., the six-week experience will welcome customers until March 5.
For McFarlane, a longtime designer and seamstress, the head pieces are a powerful symbol of Blackness.
“When you wear a headwrap, you embrace your heritage,” she said. “It gives you a sense of pride, especially in a society where there is so much prejudice and racism towards a culture or people who don’t look like us.”
As a young child in Jamaica, McFarlane would peer though hibiscus bushes to see a neighboring veranda. There, a lively group of women in colorful African-inspired headwraps would often be chatting or beating drums.
A few years after McFarlane moved to Boston at age 10, she began to wear the coverings herself as a way to mark her roots and racial identity. “I wanted to identify myself as a Black woman,” she said last week, days before her 60th birthday.
McFarlane designed couture at Boston brands for decades, enduring racism and discrimination from colleagues. In 2006, she set out on her own and founded the House of Tafari Collection. It started with $20 from her unemployment benefits, which she used to buy six yards of fabric.
“I thought, why should I sit here making this company money and listening to these insults?” McFarlane asked. “When instead, I could be working for myself.”
Now, the brand sells headwraps from $25 to $300 online and ships worldwide. The cost depends on the fit, fabric, and stiffness of the coverings, which are available in a variety of cuts. Tafari Wraps also dabbles in additional accessories — rasta sac bags, headbands, kerchiefs, scrunchies — and home décor. A newly introduced loungewear line includes a Mansa robe made of silk habotai and a silk charmeuse negligee with Ankara trimming.
All pieces are crafted by hand at McFarlane at her home studio in the Seaport.
Though the headwraps originate in Africa, Haynes said that they can be worn by any creed or color.
“Head wrapping for us is a bridge,” she added. “It opens up conversation, because there’s so much stigma against someone who wraps their head. There are assumptions as to why people are doing that.”
McFarlane also preaches the coverings’ medical benefits.
The fabric is a non-invasive beauty solution for those experiencing hair loss and can help with scratchiness or sores from cancer chemotherapy, she said. In the past, Tafari has hosted head wrapping classes at New England Medical Center and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, as well the Boston Public Library, YMCA, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design. (McFarlane also offers head wrapping tutorials by appointment at Bow Market.)
McFarlane and Haynes said supporting the pop-up — and other minority-owned businesses — is a small step toward closing Boston’s wide racial divide, just in time for Black History Month.
“You don’t have a lot of Black people coming to Somerville usually,” Haynes said. “We want people to come from everywhere to shop.”
1 Bow Market, Somerville
Timberland wants your shoes back
A new “take back” program at Timberland — called “Timberloop” — allows customers to return worn products in the hopes of keeping them out of landfills for as long as possible.
Launched in late January, the initiative is a new foray for the New Hampshire-based brand. It intends to disassemble or reuse any footwear, clothing, and accessories — or refurbish them for sale on a website that will debut later this spring.
The program marks another move in Timberland’s efforts toward sustainability. The company hopes to “have a net positive impact on nature” by 2030 by recycling products and sourcing natural materials, according to a press release.
Companies like North Face, Patagonia, Madewell, and Levi’s have run similar take-back programs for years.
Studs sticks in Boston
After a year-long pop-up in the Seaport, Studs has found a permanent Boston home.
The ear piercing studio and earrings brand opened its ninth nationwide location on Newbury Street on February 9. It offers 12 piercing options and sells quirky earrings — in the shape of evil eyes, longhorns, and stars — online and in person. (Another store will open in Chestnut Hill this summer.)
It drew crowds last year for its social media-friendly decor and “ear-scaping” techniques, a method where piercers map out the best way to bedazzle the anatomy.
To celebrate the opening, Studs donated to Boston-based The Theater Offensive, an arts organization by and for queer and transgender people of color.
91 Newbury St., Boston