Today, athleisure apparel brand Y-FEAR has released its first F/W capsule titled “EQUALITY.” Founded by Black Lightning and Black and Blue actress Nafessa Williams, Y-FEAR’s latest installment was created to inspire those who strive to live a fearless life without the burden of concern for being judged, negatively viewed, or treated differently from their peers. Each shade of nude was custom-dyed to represent the various shades of melanin throughout the community, and the hoodies are able to be mixed and matched to the customer’s satisfaction.
“I’ve always loved fashion,” Nafessa Williams told ESSENCE. Founded on February 8, 2021, the Philadelphia native launched Y-FEAR (which stands for ‘Your Fears And Egos Aren’t Real!) as a means to marry her two loves for fashion and self-care while giving back to her community in a way that demonstrates a brighter future. “I get that question, ‘if you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?’, and in today’s time we can do both, or we can do it all as long as proper planning and strategizing is involved.”
Ahead of the brand’s most recent capsule collection, ESSENCE caught up with Williams herself to discuss the inspiration behind the unisex lifestyle apparel brand, what equality means to her, and her journey through body confidence and body positivity as a public figure and actress.
ESSENCE: Tell me about the inspiration behind Y-FEAR and the significance of the name.
Nafessa Williams: I was inspired to create Y-FEAR first for my love of fashion especially us, my people. We love fashion, so I just wanted to connect my love for fashion and my personal wellness growth. I was like, “How do I do that?,” and Y-FEAR is the word that I came up with for myself to get me through unrealistic things like fear and my ego – those things aren’t real. I created Y-FEAR for myself. This is how I bridge fashion with mental wellness. In February of 2021, just earlier this year, I introduced it to the world and it’s been amazing. So many people are connecting to what Y-FEAR means and it stands for your fears and your ego aren’t real.
It’s a daily reminder. When people wear Y-FEAR, I want them to be reminded that whatever fears, whatever your ego is telling you that day, whatever it is you are afraid to do, it’s not real. I want us to look fly, but I also thought bridging Y-Fear with mental wellness is thinking fly as well. Incorporating the two together is how I came up with the idea. I wanted to challenge the status quo and bring awareness to the false narrative of fear. I come from Philly, which obviously is an inner-city and we’ve experienced a lot of trauma. This is my offering to those of us who have experienced trauma in inner cities.
ESSENCE: When it comes to athleisure, sweats, and loungewear, how does it play an essential part in your personal wardrobe?
Williams: Oh my God, it’s everything. For the most part when I’m going to and from set, when I am running errands, when I’m just chilling around in the house, sweat athleisure is my go-to attire, right. I was like, “Well, I keep buying everybody else’s sweats, I might as well make my own.” That was the inspiration. Getting up and going to set at 5:00 AM, I don’t want anything tight on. I’ve made Y-FEAR with comfort and quality in mind and it’s because that’s what I reach for the most is athleisure and comfortability.
ESSENCE: When it came down to the proper planning and strategizing, what were some of the most difficult – and the most fun parts – of launching the Y-FEAR brand?
Williams: The most difficult [was] the process of producing a collection, and it’s a lot of sourcing and researching. A lot of it is out of your control unless you are doing cut and sew. Unless you are creating these pieces yourself with your own team, it’s tough and even then, you have to rely on other people for the timeline of when the merchandise is going to be available. Shipping gets in the way [and] it’s not always a quick turnaround time. [As] the solution to that challenge, I’ve learned that proper planning and strategizing is how you are able to stay on time with your drop dates, release dates, and those things like that.
Within the first year, I’m learning a lot. Quality control is very important and to me, it was all about quality. Y-Fear is 100% cotton made in the US, and I didn’t want to put anything out if the quality was the most priority. It’s not a quick turnaround as I would like it to be. The fun part is creating the designs, coming up with the name, and having it connect to me, my mental wellness, and growth. Designing is pretty fun, coming up with the collections, coming up with the colors. I like to start with an idea and it’s just a beautiful experience from that start to the actual execution and having the product in hand. That whole journey is pretty fun.
ESSENCE: How do you use your activity and your athletic routine to practice self-care, as we transition into the season of seasonal affective disorder and the winter blues?
Williams: My self-care routine is very important and what that looks like for me is starting out my day. I like to start it out with prayer and meditation. I also like to do some gratitude journaling because that sets up my day. I like to journal and set my intention on the things that I want. I feel like working out is my best stress reliever. I know I’m doing my body some good. I like to think of my self-care routine as a way of me being kind to myself.
When I do all of those things at the start of my day, sometimes it doesn’t happen that way, but as long as I’m doing it every day, that is taking the best care of myself and that’s what it’s about. Finding a routine that helps you stay balanced. We all know what it is that we need to do for ourselves. I always encourage everybody to have a routine to set those intentions, to meditate. I think that could ease some of the depression that we could be experiencing, whether it’s seasonal or not.
ESSENCE: I also follow you on social media. You’re extremely confident in your body and everything that you wear. A lot of people especially women, unfortunately, don’t reach that threshold of confidence until maybe they’re older or maybe they experienced that confidence when they were much younger, but they lost it. How long did it take you to truly love your body and what’s the importance of loving your body and taking care of it?
Williams: Everybody has insecurity, but what helps me settle into those is to give love to those areas to remind myself, especially with the time that we’re living in with social media, I’m not reaching for perfection anymore. I remember in my younger days it was, ‘Oh, I got to have rock hard abs’ and, ‘Oh, I have to be this level of perfection.’ I think once I got to 30, I remember being like, ‘Look, this is my body, this is how I do it. This is my body. I know what my strengths or my favorite parts of my body are.’ The things that aren’t, I’ve just learned how to accentuate them. I don’t have a long torso and always used to wish that I was taller. How I do things is I will try to find outfits or high waist pants that’ll accentuate or elongate me and maybe do it with a belt to cinch my waist. I just don’t want to fall into this idea of the perfect body that has been portrayed on social media.
I also don’t want the little girls following me to feel that I’m trying to reach that as well. I know that young women are watching and that I’m an example for them. I want to make sure that I am using my influence properly and giving love to those areas of mine – that’s it. I remember reading something that Tracee Ellis Ross said, that she just gave love to certain areas of her body that weren’t her favorite. I really took to that and reminded myself I’m not reaching for this level of perfection. I’m good with what God gave me. It’s all about accentuating what you have and finding how to dress for your body type.
I used to think that I had to be a certain size. I gained some weight and I probably gained like 10, 15 pounds – and I like it. It’s my womanly body, my hip had spread to a nice level and a lot of it went to my butt. I think I was really happy about that. I’ve been embracing my body at the same time while making sure that I’m physically fit because that is one of the ways that I take care of my health, my wellbeing. We got to embrace our bodies. I love, love, love, love how much Megan Thee Stallion loved her body and it’s natural and it’s this Black womanly shape. I was being hard on myself too a little bit earlier but it’s all about that transparency too. It helps other women when we are transparent about our insecurities. That’s what it’s about – the sisterhood.
ESSENCE: When it comes to Y-FEAR, what are some other exciting things that you’re working on that you can tease us with?
Williams: I have a new collection that is dropping on the 19th and you are the first person I have publicly said this to. It’s four shades of nude, it’s so fun, and this collection is Y-FEAR “Equality”. I was inspired to create this capsule is because every day I’m reminded of how far we still have to go. I’m very aware and I acknowledge my power as an artist. I want to make sure I use that power to foster change through fashion. When they put on a piece from this caption, I want everyone to be true to themselves and believe that they’re perfect just the way that they are. This is my first collection where I’ve used other models. It’s going to be other models of different races and just bringing us all together and showing that we’re so much more alike than what society has set us up to believe.
ESSENCE: What are some pieces of Y-FEAR that are absolutely essential in somebody’s closet right now for the winter season?
Williams: The essential Y-FEAR piece that everyone needs is a hoodie and I’ll tell you why. Our hoodies are 14 ounces. It’s perfect for the winner, depending on where you are in the world. If you have a little something under it, it might be all you need. It’s perfect for travel, it’s perfect for running your errands, and if you’re on the airplane, it’s going to keep you warm. If you had to pick one piece from the Y-FEAR collection, I would say that the hoodie is the most essential staple that you need.
Honestly, it’s the whole collection because you got to be fly with the whole thing. Our sweatsuit definitely keeps you warm throughout the winter and during our coldest month throughout the year, and it’s 100% cotton. The quality is amazing and everybody loves the quality – it’s really thick. It definitely keeps you warm, I love to travel in it, and it’s my favorite thing to wear when I’m traveling.
While supporting Nafessa’s fashion ventures and the #YFEAREquality capsule, make sure to support her as she produces and develops her very first film – ‘A Holiday Chance’! Starring herself and Sharon Leal, the movie is out in theatres on November 25th. Check out the full trailer below!