Styles from the first Negris Lebrum collection

Styles from the first Negris Lebrum collection


Travis Hamilton Depicts His Comprehensive View of History in New Collection


Travis Hamilton

There has been discussion over the past few years—particularly in 2020—regarding accurate depictions of American history. A topic of conversation in many circles has covered affording due recognition to influential people whose profound contributions to this country were overlooked due to their culture, class or background. But Travis Hamilton is changing this narrative with his American Legends collection. The designer, creative director and founder of the Negris Lebrum label has released the new collection of T-shirt designs that pay homage to freedom and civil-rights leaders Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, John Lewis, Barack Obama, Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr.

“I want individuals to see those heroes as actual American heroes,” Hamilton said. “Their history and the work they have done has played a role in all of our history.”

While Hamilton, who has shown at New York Fashion Week, is known for his more-formal pieces, with wholesale price points typically $125–$475, the American Legends T-shirt collection is bringing him full circle. As a graduate student in public policy and labor relations at Texas Southern University, Hamilton felt a strong, lifelong interest in politics but also developed an interest in storytelling through fashion. His first collection 20 years ago comprised 12 T-shirts.


Frederick Douglass seated in the Lincoln Memorial chair,

“It was a little bit more comfortable to go back to something as simple as the T-shirt and of course it was more meaningful,” Hamilton said. “The brand started basics such as T-shirts before we transcended to more formalwear in dresses and pantsuits.”

A Louisiana native, Hamilton’s design process has been heavily influenced by the Creole roots in that region. His first collection was built on the phrase lenoir est joli—the French term for “Black is beautiful.” This influence is at the heart of his brand, as Negris Lebrum is based on the story of an older woman of the same name who lived in the designer’s hometown. As a light-skinned Creole young woman, she could pass as a white person but chose to remain true to her Black roots. She eventually fell in love with a dark-skinned Black man, and their romance caused an uproar.

“She was a grandmother in our hometown. I knew her and her family. Her granddaughter and I are very good friends,” Hamilton recalled. “I always felt that people not liking you because of the choice of you loving someone because of their color always bothered me. I just wanted to do something and bring out the positive in it.”

Returning to his T-shirt roots, in addition to making a positive statement by recognizing the American heroes whose legacies are often overlooked in history books, Hamilton is hopeful about changing the conversation. His idea for the collection was sparked by political debates in which Hamilton engaged with friends from an array of political leanings. By recognizing the efforts of important figures that were once hidden, there is room for the United States to grow more inclusive, yet authentic, with its storytelling regarding the evolution of this nation toward its recognition of all of its citizens as Americans. Hamilton decided to envision different landmarks within the United States but with the faces of some of the country’s most-powerful leaders in freedom fighting and civil rights such as Frederick Douglass sitting in the Lincoln Memorial chair and Harriet Tubman depicted as the Statue of Liberty.


Harriet Tubman as the Statue of Liberty

“We started coming up with something meaningful to say. [Let’s] take John Lewis, Barack Obama, Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. and place them on Mount Rushmore and push them as what we would see as our heroes. It’s not to say that those are already not American heroes, but every area, every culture has different heroes,” Hamilton said. “I wanted to create something that can relate to me and millions of other folks.”

After releasing the American Legends Series 1, Hamilton foresees additional releases within the collection to showcase authentic American heroism. The American Legends collection is available online at with T-shirts sized XS–XXL, priced at $77 wholesale for long-sleeve styles and $55 for short-sleeve versions.