clothing

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

3 FLY TRANSITIONAL LOOK COMBOS TO WEAR IN IFFY WEATHER

STYLED BY SHARRA 

So, I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been inspired to do a closet audit! Something about Spring makes us want to start fresh and level up, especially style wise!

One thing about March is that the weather is still usually pretty inconsistent. It can be really chilly one day but warm and sunny af the next. The good thing about early Spring though is that you can mix both Winter and Spring staples to create a look that’s interesting and unique, while still being season appropriate. Think mixing vibrant colors with traditional Fall boots, pairing cozy spring trousers with sexy open toe sandals on sunny days, and adding eye catching prints to dark ensembles.

Stay ahead of the curve with a few of my personal fave chic styles that you can easily layer (or unlayer) when adapting your wardrobe to the weather, along with my style guides on how you can rock each one.

(P.S. I've curated similar shopping links for you to shop since the app that I originally created these looks on is no longer available!)

ALL BLACK & A POP OF COLOR

Bold patterns in bright colors scream Spring. But what happens when Spring is not quite in full bloom? That’s when I like to tone down my favorite vibrant pieces with darker shoes and accessories.

How to Wear it: Pair a busy printed bottom with a sexy top make it season appropriate with sleek boots. If it’s chilly, you can layer it with a cropped leather jacket, which still shows off your shape while keeping your arms warm.

CARGO PANTS + ANKLE BOOTS

Shop a similar look  : bardot top,  cargo pants ,  gold bag ,  ankle boots ,  necklace .

Shop a similar look: bardot top, cargo pants, gold bag, ankle boots, necklace.

Lounge pants with a bomb heel is my go to “dressy-cas” vibe. Pairing khaki and olive tones with lively yellows and golds can Spring up a dull look.

How to Wear it: If you go slouchy on the bottom, go bodycon up top, and vise versa. Choose an ankle boot or open toe sandal to show off the hem of your pants of choice. Build up the look with metallic accessories.

OFF THE SHOULDER TOPS + LEATHER BOTTOMS

     Okay, these BETTER stick around because my closet is full of 'em! Always classy and charming, with a hint of sultry, off the shoulder tops are a never-ending closet must-have. It gives you the best of both worlds, covering up your arms while showing some shoulder. The interesting texture of leather skirts, shorts, and pants, can give your flirty tops some edge.

How To Wear it: Add on a pair of drop earrings to draw attention to your bare shoulder. Throw in pops of warm colors to show you’re ready for the Spring.

Mixing separates like these can drastically increase the shelf life of your wardrobe during the in between seasons! #styledbysharra

     More outfit advice will be making its way to The Walking Art Blog very soon! Make sure you're subscribed to be the first to know about new posts as well as exclusive content that is only for my subscribers' eyes to see!

Sharra,

"The definition of walking art."

"FASHION MADE ME DO IT": NEVER LET SEASONAL TRENDS STOP YOU FROM PUTTING YOUR OWN SPIN ON A LOOK

WRITTEN BY SHARRA GREENE | PHOTOS BY MONICA KRYSTEL ROSE

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Growing up, one of my guilty pleasures was (and still is) watching reality tv shows with my mom and sis. And as crazy as it may seem, my favorite part about it isn’t even the drama and crazy storylines that most of us watch reality tv for in the first place. I mean, obviously that’s what initially sparked my interest. But after a while, I realized my favorite part really is looking at all of the looks the people on the shows wear, and having side convos with my fam about what we liked and what we didn’t like, who we thought always dressed well (and who we thought needed MUCH help), along with how we would’ve worn or not worn certain things differently.

Difference in perspective is what makes fashion culture so interesting. What I think is fly is not necessarily what someone else may think is, and vice versa. And to be honest, without us all having different tastes, fashion would be really boring and uninteresting. Personal style is what makes all the difference. That’s why I always encourage my fam, friends, and even my clients to always stay true to themselves, despite what may or may not be currently “in fashion”. It’s cool to incorporate trendy pieces but it’s so much more important to wear pieces that speak to who you are because you never know how your unique take on something could inspire someone else, which is inherently what keeps the culture moving forward and what keeps us all on our toes.

I wore this look while I ran around NYC during fashion week, catching shows. After a show, I stopped in Chipotle to eat and charge my phone. As I was scrolling away, a lady came rushing in and came up to my table, telling me how much she looved my outfit and asking me where I got my jacket and boots (shop the look above). She mentioned how she would’ve worn the jacket with a matching gold skirt instead. As I explained to her how I always like to add an unexpected element into my fits, it sparked a dope convo and we ended up talking for an hour about how we as women use personal style to express ourselves and how our style usually evolves as we enter different chapters in our lives.

It made me think about how something as expressive and fun for us should never just be limited to what’s “on trend” and what’s not. With everything from top designers to social media and fast fashion factories selling us an image day after day, it’s easy to get caught up in what’s poppin’ and what’s played, losing our sense of individuality. But as exciting as it is to study trends as they come and go, at the end of the day, I gotta be me… you gotta be you. Never let a temporary wave keep you from serving a look that’s authentically YOU. Our different points of view when it comes to style are so necessary.

Sharra,

“The definition of walking art.”

A FASHION FINESSE: 3 TIPS THAT I GIVE MY CLIENTS TO QUICKLY LEVEL UP WHAT’S ALREADY IN THEIR CLOSET

WRITTEN BY SHARRA GREENE

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         First rule of searching for a bomb look: SHOP YOUR CLOSET FIRST! Though each client that I work with has different needs, there are always a few life hacks that I often give them to help make their life easier with what they already have at home. In this post, I'm sharing some of the simple yet major keys that I give my clients by sharing a few ways to flip your go-to pieces in your wardrobe! 

SWAP OUT YOUR COMFY TEES FOR A SEXY TOP TO GO WITH YOUR FAVE DENIM

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This one is the perfect compromise, especially if you're a jeans and flats type of girl. If comfort typically comes first for you when it comes to dressing, going with the v cut top with spaghetti straps or ruffles that we typically save for date night with bae, can add more of a dressier take to your everyday denim ensembles.

My client Wanda (below) recently took this approach. As a busy mompreneur, comfort is super important to her. She's now starting to incorporate ruffles and sultry designed tops into her wardrobe and to say it's working for her would be an understatement!

 

SPICE UP YOUR SWEATS WITH COLORFUL SHOES & ACCESSORIES

     This closet hack is the perfect way to upgrade those faded sweatshirts and bottoms that you've considered throwing away! By pairing a worn out, faded, stretched out piece with another sexy-fitting separate and eye-catching accessories, you'll give your damaged goods a fresh and presentable look. 

 

GET MORE WEAR OUT OF YOUR SPRING SHOES WITH TIGHTS THAT MAKE A STYLE STATEMENT

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Before you say goodbye to your favorite spring heels for a few months, don't forget to try them out with a pretty pair of sheer stockings and tights to keep your legs warm while you slay in low cut shoes all year long. Floral tights or ones with a lace design typically go nicely with open toe strappy heels or pointy toe pumps.

     I hope you enjoyed these closet hacks!

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You can always send outfit pic mail to me if you use the advice I offer to styleadvicebysharra@gmail.com! I love seeing what you all put together!

     P.S. if you found these tips useful and would like more, be sure to subscribe to my weekly style advice newsletter to receive exclusive style advice from me every week, the inside scoop on my brand, blog post alerts, and more! New interviews, photo shoots, and outfit inspiration coming to The Walking Art Blog very soon! Stay tuned!

Sharra,

"The definition of walking art."