The One Fashion Trend Gabrielle Union Will Never Wear

“I don’t like to play it safe."

The ultimate warm weather wardrobe has officially arrived, thanks to Gabrielle Union. The actress and entrepreneur just dropped her Summer 2020 New York & Company collection, and it’s bursting with bold prints, playful silhouettes, and vibrant hues that are tailor-made for picnics in the park and lounging by the pool (while practicing social distancing, of course).

For the New York & Company collection, Union was inspired by the culture, art, music, and dance of Little Haiti in Miami. She worked closely with the brand to create styles that embody the same qualities of this unique place: powerful, bright, and filled with life. “Miami holds such a special place in my heart,” she tells Bustle. “There are so many wonderful neighborhoods like Little Haiti, which is filled with a rich history and a vibrant culture. The energy and passion that resonates within this community is palpable.”

It’s fitting, then, that the theme for this collection is “community.” For Union, it’s a theme that’s especially significant. “Community is everything to me,” she says. “It helps us stay connected and gives us a sense of belonging. I love the community in Little Haiti because of its heritage and beauty. In my daily life, my community includes my family — both my relatives and my chosen family. We create a space where everyone is unafraid to be their most authentic selves.”

That philosophy translates to her professional life, too. She launched her production company, I’ll Have Another, with the intention of green-lighting and amplifying diverse stories that are often overlooked and undervalued.

“I started my production company specifically to focus on telling stories that authentically center the views and perspectives of marginalized voices,” she shares. “Just that alone keeps me motivated and inspired — knowing there are so many stories out there that deserve to be told.”

There’s no doubt that living through a global pandemic and a societal reckoning with race takes a toll on mental health. Union’s best advice for getting through these unprecedented times is to recognize when you need space to reset.

“I’m feeling so many different things, it’s hard to process it all as I try and cope,” she says. “It’s hard to remember the importance of self-care when things are at the point they are now, but I try to give myself some space when I know I’m reaching the end of my rope. I have had years of therapy, which has helped give me a toolkit for how I can take better care of myself. It’s been incredibly helpful for me throughout my life and in this moment.”

As a lifelong supporter of Black-owned businesses, Union stresses that people should be purchasing from Black designers, creators, and entrepreneurs year-round — not just when posting a black square on Instagram is the social media trend du jour. Some of her favorites include Grace Eleyae, Donata Skin Food, MahagonyBooks, My 2 Cents Restaurant, Blume & Plume Coffee, and Eso Won Books.

“I’ve always supported Black-owned businesses, and I encourage everyone to start doing the same,” she says. “And not just because it’s what people are talking about in this moment, but because Black-owned businesses have just as much to offer as any other business. It’s important to know that ‘Black-owned’ doesn’t mean it is exclusively for Black people — these brands and businesses offer products for everyone.”

Union says her style icons are “real, fearless, and fierce women,” and through this collection, she’s helping women everywhere bring those characteristics to life. Ahead, she walks Bustle through her favorite looks and trends for the season.

“When I get dressed, it’s important for me to feel confident and comfortable, but I also love to mix it up with bold statements,” Union shares. “I typically gravitate toward pieces that make me feel my best. That’s how I approach designing every collection. I want to create easy pieces for modern women that feel bold and exciting.”

“I love to throw on a dress — it’s one piece so there’s very little thinking involved!” she shares. “I really love the Twist Front Maxi Dress, which channels the vibrancy and energy of the Little Haiti community. The silhouette is versatile and comfortable enough to be worn at home or dressed up for date night.”

“This summer I’m loving bold and bright color palettes, as seen throughout my new collection. As we are all spending more time at home, adding pops of color can really help to brighten up each day.”

Union doesn’t have a go-to uniform. Instead, she focuses on the event or activity at hand, and thinks about the specific mood she wants to convey through her wardrobe. “I love to dress up for the occasion and like to experiment with different styles and silhouettes,” she explains. “I typically like to wear pieces that are feminine, modern, and bold.”

You won’t catch her wearing anything predictable or minimalist. “I don’t like to play it safe! Fashion is a platform to express yourself to the world, so I love that my collection is bold and unafraid.”

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