When it comes to publishing material related to fashion across a variety of social media platforms, clothing hauls are among the most popular types of posts. In most cases, the speaker is referring to a shipment that they have gotten from their preferred brand or to their most recent acquisitions from a shopping excursion. In the instance of Olivia Joan Galli, she only lately started posting videos on her channel that feature pieces of clothing that she inherited from her late grandmother’s closet. Her grandmother, Joan B. Johnson, along with her husband George Johnson, was a co-founder of Johnson Products Company. The couple established the company in 1954 and went on to develop products that were crucial to the Black hair community, such as Ultra Sheen and Afro Sheen.
Before, Galli would ask viewers of her “get ready with me” TikTok videos what they thought she should wear on dates before filming the films. Now, her fans are enthusiastically engaging with the exquisite fashion pieces that her late grandma used to wear. Galli has images of her grandmother wearing the clothes. (In one of these amazing photographs, her grandma is shown wearing a glittering gold dress when she visits the White House to meet the president at that time, who was Bill Clinton.)
It is heartening to see that Galli’s grandmother kept many of the designer items she possessed, such as those by Donna Karen, Manolo Blahnik, and Karl Lagerfeld, and it is even more satisfying to know that they will be maintained. These artifacts were a part of her grandmother’s history, but now she gets to incorporate them into her clothing as if they were her very own. Her films are an example of sustainability in a way that is not always acknowledged. Galli discussed her relationship with her grandma, her plans for some of the vintage artifacts that she has inherited, and her own identity beyond the scope of her viral TikTok videos in an interview with Unbothered.
Unbothered: After you acquired your late grandmother’s fashion things, you started making TikTok films. What prompted you to start making videos?
Olivia Joan Galli: “I started producing movies, mainly the ‘get ready with me sort, because I was going on a date with an ex-boyfriend, and none of my friends were responding to my emails on what I should wear. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a video about the process. I thought it would be fun to ask folks on the internet for their responses to the question. To make matters even more amusing, in [one of my videos], I can be seen donning her shoes. I had already begun to adopt her sense of style in both my videos and my personal attire. Because I didn’t want people to believe that I was a 24-year-old baller buying Chanel, I made sure to specify which items belonged to my grandma. And it was only natural for people to inquire about the identity of my grandmother.
Have any of these designer brands get in touch with you after you’ve come into possession of some of their pieces?
“I wouldn’t say that at all. However, I am going to be the social media ambassador for Louis Vuitton, and someone who still works with the British designer Zandra Lindsey Rhodes told me that the green dress I wore with the deep v cut is [really] the back of [the dress], so that was really great.
When you were a child, in what ways did your grandmother’s sense of fashion have an impact on you? Do you remember if she shared any of her fashion advice with you?
“There is only one piece of advice that my grandmother has ever given me, and that is that you must always look nice because we’re Black and people are always looking at you,” she once told me. Maintain a polished appearance at all times and give your hair a good look. Even while she was receiving hospice care, my grandma continued to get her hair done on Fridays at noon. I would always make sure that she had a polished appearance and that she was wearing her signature red lipstick. At night, I would also place rollers in her hair. She had to always put up a good appearance, even when she wasn’t feeling very well, because “when you look good, you feel good.”
How do you envision merging these things into the way you dress on an everyday basis?
“I am the kind of person that will go to lunch with my pals and wear whatever I want, regardless of whether or not other people think I am “over-dressed.” The only reason I wear them is when I want to feel lovely or when I want to feel confident on a particular day; therefore, I wear a number of these pieces on a daily basis. In my opinion, it is not necessary for these items to be reserved solely for formal events all the time. Because they are intended to be worn, they should be seen being worn on a regular basis. I don’t get invited to that many special events, so if I do wait on those days, they’re just going to be sitting in my closet.” I also don’t get invited to that many special events.
What is it about you that you would like people to know about you? Please tell us about your photographic endeavors.
When it comes to my photography, my whole idea is beginning a discourse about black people in a different way, and at times it can be quite unsettling. Coming from the background of my family, though, I believe that I have a voice for it. When I was a child and would browse through publications, the only time I would see images of black women, they were usually one of two extremes: they were either extremely stereotyped or extremely bleached. My speech impairment, which I’ve made significant progress in overcoming, combined with the fact that I’m a slow learner, has made communicating my feelings a challenge for me throughout my whole life. I’ve been able to convey to other people how I experience the world through photography. I had never been able to convey to my mother how I truly felt about her prior to the day when I took her portrait for the first time. Through my photos, I was able to convey how I perceived her and how lovely she is, despite the fact that she is a single Black mother who raised three children on her own. I felt it was important for her to be aware that she ought to begin viewing herself in that light, despite the fact that she might not now do so.