black designers

REDEFINING LUXURY: GETTING RID OF THE STIGMA ATTACHED TO BLACK OWNED BRANDS AND PUSHING THE CULTURE FORWARD

WRITTEN BY SHARRA GREENE

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In an interview with Fashion Bomb Daily, luxury streetwear designer Milan of Milano Di Rouge opened up about the criticism she received following the release of her first $500 branded sweatsuit. “Who does she think she is? She’s not Gucci… Why does she have a $500 sweatsuit?” The backlash went viral, eventually creating even more buzz for her brand. But as I watched the interview, it made me start to think about black owned luxury labels as a whole and the attitude that some of our own people carry when it comes to supporting mainstream luxury labels vs. supporting our own. Milano says, “I don’t think that we as black people understand our value.” As a stylist who recommends various brands to clients, I’ve had an up close view at what black consumers see as valuable and I couldn’t agree more with Milano.

There have been countless times I’ve watched black consumers either refuse or hesitate to support black luxury fashion labels, claiming that the merchandise is ridiculously overpriced. However, these are some of the very same consumers that will splurge on a designer belt from a traditional luxury label without a second thought. We see this pattern very often. It always makes me question what makes something “luxurious” and why we are so cautious when it comes to purchasing luxury pieces from black owned brands. There are literally hundreds of ways this question could be answered. But, looking at the history of black people and the consequential need we have to feel validated, one could of course say that our dependence upon certain mainstream design houses stem from a desire to be associated with the majority, or the race who is thought to be “superior” within our society. When a group of people have been enslaved, abused, denied opportunities to better themselves, and essentially set back for generations, there’s no question that all of that breeds generational curses and deep insecurities that can affect countless aspects of our lives, even down to our buying choices. Many of us may look at who we consider to be “well off” and ahead in life and think, whether conciously or subconsciously: “I want to shop where they shop. It will show the world that I am important, just like them.”And if this is the thought process we’re adopting when it comes to our shopping experiences, then personally I feel it’s time that we really think about how we define “luxury” within our lifestyles and possibly begin to redefine it for ourselves.

Models wearing  Andrea Iyamah .

Models wearing Andrea Iyamah.

By definition, the word luxury is defined as “ the state of great comfort and extravagant living.” There have been so many black owned or black affiliated luxury brands that have come and gone. Very few have withstood the test of time while your traditional brands like Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, etc. have remained in the mix for as long as we can remember. While I’m well aware that there are multiple reasons for this, the one that we as a people can control is our ability to pour our money and support into brands that genuinely celebrate us, whether they be traditional and mainstream, emerging, or start ups.

Often times, I feel that we as black people are too hard on each other in business. We often complain and pick a brand apart when it comes to their price points, but splurge on other well known ones without question. We threaten to ruin new designers’ reputation with bad reviews when an item is slightly delayed, but when dealing with a major company we tend to grin and bear it. Don’t get me wrong, as a chronic perfectionist and a bargain lover, I definitely can relate on some fronts. But looking at the big picture, if we as black people truly want to leave our mark on the fashion industry, we have to be more patient and supportive of each other, especially when it comes to premium goods. This is when redefining luxury should come into play. We shouldn’t be ashamed or hesitant to give a new designer a try, as long as they are providing us with quality merchandise in materials that will sustain us for seasons to come, looks that inspire us and make us proud to wear them, and great customer service. To me, that should be our standard for luxury. Brands like Nichole Lynel, Laquan Smith (my fave ready to wear designer, period), Andrea Iyamah, India Monae, MWR Collection, and Sai Sankoh are just a few of the current black owned luxury labels who work tirelessly to maintain that standard. We should be open to them and brands similar, proud to wear them and proud to plug them.

Model wearing the  Adorn Jacket  by  India Monae .

Model wearing the Adorn Jacket by India Monae.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong at all with shopping a traditional luxury brand. I, myself CANNOT WAIT until I’m in a position to splurge on Fendi as that’s one of the mainstream brands that I covet the most. However, I think that more black consumers taking the time to discover and support emerging luxury labels that are black owned would only push the culture forward and open certain doors that we claim we so desperately want access to. This goes beyond just buying from them. It should also affect the ways we navigate the industry. For example, for all of the fashion hopefuls complaining that they can’t find employment or internship opportunities within the industry due to racism and discrimination, think of how many black owned brands would love to help their own people grow in the field, especially knowing that a majority of their sales has come from their own people. Additionally, supporting black owned luxury labels even as they are emerging would lead to us having more options when it comes to wearing a luxury brand; we wouldn’t necessarily have to opt for a design house that creates and sells racially demeaning merchandise to the very consumers that often support them.

Wearing creations by our own people with pride, providing constructive criticism that will give minority owned labels a chance to grow instead of tearing them down, and choosing to shop with brands that show respect to our people are a few of the ways that I feel we can redefine luxury, ensuring that blacks in fashion can have longevity in the industry and actually profit from it ourselves, heavily influencing the culture for years to come.

Sharra,

“The definition of walking art.”

Sources / Featured Brands : Fashion Bomb Daily, Andrea Iyamah, India Monae, Laquan Smith,MWR Collection, Nichole Lynel, Sai Sankoh

MY INTERVIEW WITH CEO AND LUXURY SHOE DESIGNER ON THE RISE, SHATIARRA MONROE OF SHATIARRA MONROE COLLECTION

WRITTEN BY SHARRA GREENE, FEATURING SHATIARRA MONROE

Designer and CEO Shatiarra Monroe modeling her   Feb 14. shoe  . Brand images by  Stewdio Photography .

Designer and CEO Shatiarra Monroe modeling her Feb 14. shoe. Brand images by Stewdio Photography.

If you follow fashion and you’re from my city, you’ve probably seen poppin’ women all over your timeline completing their fits with a pair of signature feathery lace up heels by Shatiarra Monroe Collection. Launching on Valentines Day this year, the online shoe company captured the attention of many with a sultry shoe campaign and has since been growing a tribe of women all over Baltimore who love pairing the brand’s 4 inch showstoppers with their flyest fits. I got to witness the growth as a long time Instagram follower of Shatiarra’s.

I initially took notice of Shatiarra’s account due to her sexy yet classy personal style (plus, she’s gorg) but I began really keeping up when she announced that she was working on something BIG. She definitely wasn’t wrong… and if you know me, you know I’m always on the lookout for new brands to connect with and support, especially ones that are owned by young black women. So It was only right that I reach out to the woman behind the brand. I’m so honored to be the first to interview Shatiarra on behalf of her shoe collection! Check out our interview below as we talk her inspiration, the pros and cons of owning and building her business, and the lessons she's learned on her journey so far.

Sharra: So, I've been following you on IG for quite some time ( I think even since we were both in high school, tbh) and I've always thought you were such a doll! A while back, I noticed your eye for statement pieces, sleek hairstyles, and a soft glam beat. That's what initially attracted me to check out your page because I honestly felt that your style reminded me a little of my own. When did you first take a real interest in fashion and style?

Shatiarra: Aww thanks, it’s amazing to hear that there’s someone who’ve watched me over the years and paid attention to detail and it’s even more fulfilling knowing that the person…well you, are such a beautiful spirit. I value that acknowledgement because I am a person who pays attention to detail. I’ve been into fashion for like ever. My challenge has always been trying to find an item that I thought up.

As I child I’d wear the little cha-cha slides from Walmart and I had them in all colors but I’d try to hook them up with my clothes and it was hard because my slides were lit and my clothes weren’t lit so I then had to make my basic clothes into lit clothes. Fast forward to like high school and I’d make bows to wear with my uniforms and do something crazy with my hair. Every phase of my life displays me trying to work with what I have to get the image I want to portray.

Model  Cori Bullock  wearing the AG shoe, coming soon to  ShatiarraMonroe.com .

Model Cori Bullock wearing the AG shoe, coming soon to ShatiarraMonroe.com.

Sharra: You’re so welcome! So, In today's social media world, there are so many people launching fast fashion clothing boutiques (which we love, but let's face it, there are sooo many, it can be a real challenge to stand out amongst competition). What inspired you to go a different route and take on the task of creating a luxury shoe line in your early twenties?

Shatiarra: I use to feel like I wouldn’t excel at having a successful business because I wouldn’t satisfy everyone. Everything changed the moment I decided that I would just be myself, produce products that I absolutely love, and value myself. That’s it. It sounds cocky but I don’t aim to please anyone. I envision designs and scratch the itch that I get from that. Then, I put in the work to get that idea into something tangible.

This inspires me because I see designers put the bare minimum into their brands, but they are popular or they have a following so, it sells. Imagine if the quality and overall design was as lit as the person behind it all. That’s where I found my lane because I am that. I love everyone who supports my collection because everything I put out and plan to put out is precious to me and to know the world is accepting of it is very comforting for me and it’s the push that keeps me going to continue to grow my collection.

Sharra: You make a good point as far as a lot of people half doing something and having it pop off for them. But I like to think that authenticity always wins so as long as you’re authentic, I feel like there will always be that tribe of supporters that relate to your vision. What do you believe sets your brand apart from other luxury shoe lines out there?

Shatiarra: I believe I am set apart from other luxury shoe brands because I am not trying to fit in. Everyone says this but here’s the kicker, I also do not care to stand out. It’s like a middle ground that I found myself in and not a lot of shoe designers are able to be here. Either a shoe is giving everything and more or it’s pretty basic. Nothing is wrong with that either, but I find myself completely separate from both, yet satisfying, either way a person wants to go, and it’s not something I aim for or that I ever have the intention of doing. It’s just how my personality has seemed to show face in my work.

Shoe styles:    Feb 14    &    Premier   .

Shoe styles: Feb 14 & Premier.

Sharra: That’s a cool middle ground to have. I feel like finding that happy medium between elaborate and super simple designs diversifies the type of people who are attracted to your product… So, the city of Baltimore is often rumored to be/associated with being full of people who have an unsupportive, "crabs in a barrel" mentality. So I HAVE TO ASK, upon launching, did you experience this at all or did you receive the support that you wanted and expected with birthing and selling your own collection?

Shatiarra: So, I did not experience this when I launched and if it did take place it was nothing that I was aware of. I only paid attention and gravitated to the love. Maybe if I chose an industry that was over saturated or popular in our city, I probably would have seen a disconnect from the support that I expected vs. the support that I got, but I don’t know anyone in our city with a shoe collection that they personally designed. If so, I’d love to meet them. I love to see people into the same thing that I’m into.

Sharra: I love your perspective on that. Only focusing and gravitating to the love literally can cut the number of distractions in half. So, you describe your own personal style as "elegant and classy with a hint of edginess". Is there anyone who heavily inspires your personal style? Possibly, a style icon or public figure that you would love to style in a pair of your signature shoes?

Shatiarra: Believe it or not, I find inspiration everywhere. I’m into Pinterest and I save bookmarks on Instagram of so many different looks and ideas. I can’t pin point a particular person because I take bits and pieces from absolutely everywhere. I’m just like anyone else when it comes to their business, I want my shoe collection to be spotted on some of the greatest. The issue with people like myself is that after that occurs, it will still always be an accomplishment I’ll find myself always trying to achieve. Right now, I like to look at like “instagram famous” models and determine who I would want to do promo for my shoes. I have a promo strategy that the models love and I look to reach out to larger IG models with a similar approach.

Sharra: Reaching out to those with a strong presence and personal brand on IG is definitely a good move on your part because even though I’ve been following you for a long time, seeing your product on girls all around the city, all over my explore page is what really opened my eyes to how fast your brand is catching on, which is so dope. So, how has your life changed since launching Shatiarra Monroe Shoe Collection and what are 2 lessons you've learned from being a business owner, one personal and one professional?

Shatiarra modeling her  AG shoe , coming soon to  ShatiarraMonroe.com .

Shatiarra modeling her AG shoe, coming soon to ShatiarraMonroe.com.

Shatiarra: OMG, you’d be amazed at the major lessons I’ve learned since launching because it’s not what a lot of people are vocal about when it comes to the cons. I’ve learned that I like the friends that I acquired through business more than I like my lifelong friends and relatives. It’s a breath of fresh air meeting people who think like me because although I love the people closest to me, we all are not necessarily on the same page when it comes to making moves, otherwise we would all be winning big right now.

A professional lesson that I’ve learned is that profit is not going to come right away. I used to hear this all day but as a business, of course your goal is to make a profit and if I’m selling then I felt like I should see my profit right away. But no… and people don’t talk about why but it just doesn’t happen that way. The money comes 2nd. You have to love what you do first, and this is how I run my collection. Remembering the love that I have for what I’m doing is how I find resolution in that lesson.

Sharra: YES! You a real one for bringing that up because like you said, it’s something that’s almost taboo when it comes to new business owners and creatives entrepreneurs so I’m glad that you were able to learn that lesson early and still keep going. Last but not least, I peeped an accessories tab on the site, is that something we should be looking out for soon or will you be adding accessories to your inventory way later on down the line?

Shatiarra: Accessories are coming very soon. I plan to have 20 items on my site by the end of the summer. I have so many ideas so right now my dilemma is organizing it all. I will venture into clothing and accessories eventually but my primary focus will remain on creating luxury women shoes.

~Thank you so much for chopping it up with me, Shatiarra! I’m so excited to see what your future holds, girly! All love!

Like what you see? Click here Shop Shatiarra Monroe Collection! Follow the shoe page to keep up with future releases and follow Shatiarra on Instagram for more glimpses of her day to day life and her bomb personal style!

Hope you guys enjoyed this interview! More content coming very soon to the Walking Art Blog. Stay tuned!

Sharra,

“The definition of walking art.”

MAKING A MARK IN FASHION DESPITE THE "YOU CAN'T SIT WITH US" MENTALITY THAT PLAGUES THE INDUSTRY

WRITTEN BY SHARRA GREENE

Pioneer and Curator of Ebony Fashion Fair, Eunice Walker Johnson sitting front row during a fashion presentation.

Pioneer and Curator of Ebony Fashion Fair, Eunice Walker Johnson sitting front row during a fashion presentation.

As expressive and beautiful the phenomenon that is fashion can be, there’s also such a strong sense of secrecy and exclusivity concerning the industry. Anyone who wants in has experienced this in one way or another. From authorities in fashion refusing to hire people of a certain look, race, religion, or social class, down to giving no front row seats at shows for those who aren’t deemed “good enough” over trivial matters, even down to how secretive individuals can be when it comes to sharing their “recipe for success” , the “crabs in a barrel” attitude that often exudes from many of those who are apart of the industry is virtually impossible to miss; and if you let it, it can leave you feeling discouraged, disheartened, and underrepresented. Thankfully, we’re living in a time where those who came before us have walked so we could run, and it’s becoming easier to still show up and kill it in this industry, in your own right.

Whether you’re an aspiring tastemaker, blogger, designer, model, or even if you’re just a lover of fashion culture, I’ve found on my journey just how important it is to unapologetically offer your 2 cents, despite voices in the industry constantly trying to control what is perceived as acceptable and appealing and what is not. You never know how your perspective will positively influence and inspire others along their own journey. Here are a few ways to keep making your presence known…

IF YOU CAN’T JOIN THEM, CREATE YOUR OWN

This has been the approach that some of fashion’s most iconic trailblazers and legends in the making have taken, and are still taking. When we abandon our need to be accepted by everyone we feel is important, that’s often when our true calling makes itself known. As a young black woman who’s building a career in fashion, it’s no secret that throughout history, there have been many doors closed for people who look like me. However, I’m so blessed to be pursuing fashion in a time where those who came before me have knocked down some doors and tossed me the key, in a sense.

Ebony Fashion Fair Curator Eunice Walker took initiative to highlight blacks in fashion during a time when the mainstream tastemakers in the industry were ignoring us. After having a dream of writing for Vogue deferred, Editor in Chief of Fashion Bomb Daily, Claire Sulmers (if you read here often, you already know she’s my fav!) utilized her growing online presence to create “her own Vogue” in so many words, creating and maintaining a unique space for multicultural fashion to be celebrated. “First you ask, then you take.”, she says.

Eunice Walker Johnson’s Ebony Fashion Fair exhibit, highlighting black up and coming designers of her time.

Eunice Walker Johnson’s Ebony Fashion Fair exhibit, highlighting black up and coming designers of her time.

From Instagram born, profitable fashion brands to influencers who found their tribe, went viral, and never looked back… we live in an era where when we can’t join someone’s movement, we can create our own and be just as, if not even more successful, and a lot of industry vets are upset about it. But there’s honestly no going back… due to the way we receive our information (internet, social media, etc.") There’s an array of ways to consistently contribute your perspective in any industry, especially fashion.

Seeing a lack of representation in fashion that moves you to want to act on it? Instead of wasting time begging and waiting for certain opportunities, be the change and create your own. It can start with establishing your own movement, whether it be via an online presence, creating in-person groups and organizations, etc. Through experience, I’m learning that it gains momentum when you continue to create your content, share your style, share your opinions, and continue to show up and speak up despite whoever’s trying to silence you. You’d be surprised how people identify with your voice when you use it.

SPEAK UP, NEVER BE AFRAID TO PLUG YOURSELF

Me introducing myself to legendary stylist Misa Hylton at the  Convos with Claire networking event  in December 2018.

Me introducing myself to legendary stylist Misa Hylton at the Convos with Claire networking event in December 2018.

With fashion being such a competitive industry, it’s important to know how to plug yourself. This is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned thus far when it comes to my business. When I first started styling back in 2014, I was not as confident as I am now, which probably caused me to fumble a few bags in the process. It didn’t help that I’m naturally introverted, believe it or not. But over time, I’ve learned when to break out of my shell and handle business because if I don’t speak for my brand, no one else will.

When you walk into a room hoping to make your mark, Ive learned that it’s important to remember that people don’t read minds. They’re not aware of the gifts you possess, and until you speak up and let them know, you risk missing out on building meaningful connections with others and further establishing your brand. If you’re looking to get better at representing yourself, practicing your elevator pitch and testing it out at networking events or when you meet new people, can help you level up when it comes to leaving a lasting impression.

SUPPORT A MOVEMENT BEFORE IT’S “MOVING”

Everyday, I see SO MANY dope brands and creatives in fashion who offer a fresh point of view and quality work getting knocked off, ripped off, and overlooked. I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “nobody is messing with your movement until it’s moving” but it can be challenging to gain momentum when people don’t support you just because you haven’t “made it” yet in their eyes, whatever that means. That’s why I’ve recently been making a point to support my fellow small business owners, minority owned businesses, and an array of other groups in fashion who constantly seem to get put on the back burner.

When you choose to support a label, or brand before it has completely taken off and gone mainstream, not only do you establish yourself as a trendsetter and not a follower, but you also gain leverage by supporting at the beginning stages because it often leads to strong partnerships and relationships with the owners of these companies that many others missed out on because they simply jumped on the bandwagon later on down the road. Consider taking on ambassadorships or even simply purchasing from more of the brands that are slept on, it can help you make your mark in the long run, in more ways than one.

Hope you got something from this post! New fashion week coming to the blog very soon! Stay tuned!

Sharra,

“The definition of walking art.”

#BLACKBRANDSMATTER: 5 BLACK OWNED BRANDS TO SHOP FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

CURATED BY SHARRA GREENE

#BlackBrandsMatter: I am wearing  Brazen Bundle s Virgin Indian Hair in 20,22, 24 lengths)

#BlackBrandsMatter: I am wearing Brazen Bundles Virgin Indian Hair in 20,22, 24 lengths)

So, for the next 3 weeks, I'll be curating holiday gift guides for my BOMB subscribers! Each list will feature a variety of different online finds that would make great gifts and each list will have a DIFFERENT theme! Reminder: The full list is EXCLUSIVELY for my subscriber’s eyes only! This will be the only gift guide posted to the blog so MAKE SURE YOU’RE SUBSCRIBED to receive the weekly list, leading up to the holidays!
     This week's theme is Black-Owned Brands! On my 
podcast (returning 11/27), I express how important I think it is to support minority-owned fashion and lifestyle brands, as so many minority groups contribute so heavily to the culture. With Black Friday deals coming right around the corner, I wanted to plug you guys to save those coins! Happy Shopping! 

HOUSE OF REHAB BAG

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These BOMB statement bags from black-owned brand House of Rehab are a remixed, yet original take on the well-known Chanel signature bags (except way less coin) . Know somebody who's a fashion lover? (obvi, yourself, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this) This is the perfect gifted accessory.

I just received the black and white version of the one above and I was more than impressed with the bag’s quality and not to mention, the BOMB customer service! I ordered my bag a few days ago and it shipped and tracked within HOURS! On top of that, they offer $3 flat rate shipping! Go check them out! P.S.  House of Rehab offers more than just bags! They also sell some fly tee's, hoodies, and sweats to keep you warm during this harsh Winter season!

KINGDOM NATIVE SWEATERS

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Kingdom Native designs dope casual wear with empowering, faith-based messages on each piece. Their array of sweaters, tees, and jackets, and hats would make for a unique and special gift. Their KN Racing Unisex Navy Blue Sweater (above)  is my top pick from their collection! But there's plenty more where this came from, for both men and women! Click below to see their full collection!

 

BRAZEN BUNDLES

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SO, Idk about y’all but this is one gift that I would LOVE to receive this year! I’m fairly new to the weave game but when I do rock inches, Brazen Bundles is my go to hair destination! Selling premium yet affordable virgin Indian hair, Brazen Bundles provides accessible quality goods and great customer service. Soft textured hair with minimum shedding and tangling is definitely the perfect present. P.S., for those in the Baltimore area, delivery is available!

HOODIES & TEES FROM BLACK VOGUE BY NAREASHA WILLIS

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Know someone who loves making political statements through personal style? The well known anti-appropriation brand Black Vogue by Nareasha Willis has the cutest worded clothing! I already have some merch from the brand, which I love! But Nareasha's tee dress is currently on my wishlist so I thought I'd share! Check out what they're offering for the holidays!

SUITS BY CONNAISEUR PARIS

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Tryna splurge on something special for bae? Connaisseur Paris takes custom orders for luxurious suits online! Their line offers a variety of unique colors and patterns. They also sell bow ties, dress shirts, and more! Have measurements ready!

Need more help shopping? I would love to style you and your loved ones for the holidays! Send styling inquiries here!

If you happen to try any of these pieces, I would love to see them! Send your style pic mail & style advice requests to styleadvicebysharra@gmail.com! I can't wait to see what you guys have in mind!

Last but not least, don’t forget to subscribe for the full holiday gift guide! New posts coming to The Walking Art Blog very soon!

Sharra,

“The definition of walking art.”