Artists Sydney G. James and Sharryl Cross Talk Their Recent Collaboration

Photos by Lamar Landers

Two of Detroit’s favorite hometown artists have come together to meld their talents into something unique and beautiful. Well-traveled fashion design veteran Sharryl Cross and renowned visual artist (and city darling) Sydney G. James are creating a limited edition fashion line in loose connection with James’ recent Vans partnership.

“One of the great things about this is that it ruins the notion that Black women in the same or similar fields don’t support or help each other. Clearly, that’s false,” James says. The collaboration – launched with the simple name Truth – started with a single vintage-inspired skirt that Cross designed when she returned home to Detroit after 13 years working in the fashion sphere for brands like Macy’s, J.Crew, Juicy Couture and T.J. Maxx. 

Cross went sightseeing with her boyfriend the week she flew back and when they came across James’ “The Girl with the D Earring” mural on the Chroma building, she was amazed. “I was just in awe. I took a picture in front of it, but even after we went home I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I connected to her art, and I wanted to make something specifically for her,” she says. 

Cross was inspired by James’ custom Vans – which feature the classic checker pattern and deep reds, greens and blacks – and her numerous murals and works celebrating Black strength and resilience. She fabricated the first item and reached out to James. 

James says, “I told her I usually wear black, and it’s bright red! But I love it because she made it for me, who she sees me as in my soul. It fits my body, compliments me and speaks to the spirit of my work. It was a crazy experience serving as someone else’s muse for once.”

Photo by Lamar Landers

They brought the look to life with a photo shoot the Scarab Club with the help of photographer Lamar Landers, who also happens to be James’ partner. “I might be a little biased, but we both think he did a really great job. The mood and vibe we got from those photos was so perfect we just had to keep going,” James says. 

Both Cross and James admit that being artistic and creative throughout the pandemic has been a hardship, particularly when faced in conjunction with social justice unrest and Black Americans once again struggling to make ourselves heard, seen and respected. Much of James’ recent work is dedicated to victims of police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, like the “Way Too Many” mural. 

“It’s so much harder now, but I have to keep painting us strong and unbent, and she has to keep us looking beautiful. We use our projects as a way to keep going in spite of the pain. If we can come together and keep going, then so can everyone else who looks at what we do,” James says.

Shop the collection at

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