creative entrepreneurs

TALKING FASHION WEEK, PURPOSE, AND BREAKING BARRIERS: MY INTERVIEW WITH FEARLESS & MULTI- FACETED CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR COURT KIM

WRITTEN BY SHARRA GREENE

Court Kim for Matte Brand. Photos by    Arturo Evaristo   .

Court Kim for Matte Brand. Photos by Arturo Evaristo.

    The dope thing about networking and connecting with like-minded creatives is that as you cross paths, you often get to watch each other’s dreams come true. That’s certainly the case with my lil boo Courtlyn Montgomery, aka Court Kim. We met back in April, as we were both doing media coverage for our affiliated brands at the Fashion Designers' and Craftmakers' Angelman Syndrome Charity Event. We instantly vibed, along with a couple of other dope fashion creatives who atttended.

    I still keep in touch with them to this day so I knew that Court would be walking at NYFW. However, I had NO idea it would be for the same exact show that I would be styling! Upon seeing her name on the lineup, I was pumped to connect with her again. Being present doing what I love, while also being there for her during the backstage chaos that is NYFW, was seriously so special to me, especially as a witness to how multi faceted Court’s brand is and most importantly, how much of a genuine spirit she truly is.

          On top of being an extremely talented and candid journalist for Court Kim Media and LAPP the Brand, she also owns an online t-shirt brand, juggles modeling gigs, and is a bride-to-be, all while remaining extremely humble, well-wishing to others, and having extreme tunnel vision. Her energy is contagious and I’m beyond happy that we connected this year. Check out my interview with Court as we talk her inspirations, her BOMB fashion week experience, her advice to interns, and more.

           

Photo Courtesy of Style Fashion Week.

Photo Courtesy of Style Fashion Week.

Sharra: When did you first learn you had a passion for journalism and how did your other creative endeavors such as modeling come into the picture?

Courtlyn: I loved the concept of telling stories early on as a kid. I also love to talk to people about who they are. When I watched Oprah with my Mom as a kid, I grew fond of how she was able to break barriers while eloquently relay the real-life experiences of the American people. My other creative endeavors came out of wanting to naturally expand. Modeling was the biggest surprise for me because I didn’t know that someone like me could make it. I’m happy that I was wrong.

Sharra: So has your upbringing and background has affected who you are as a creative? If so, how?

Courtlyn: Ahhh this one is tricky. Roswell, GA wasn’t the place that I could really get into my creative self. It was more about surviving a conservative, predominately white community as a black kid. Through God and my loved ones, I’ve survived so many traumatic events and I’m still here to tell that narrative. It affects me to the point that I don’t sugarcoat anything anymore. I want my shoots to be meaningful and strategic. My articles have been  received well because I know my purpose. I’m not PR. I’m a Journalist. It’s my duty to eloquently report the facts.

Sharra: Yeah, you can definitely tell that you have a “survivor, not a victim” mindset. It translates through how transparent and candid you are as a writer. So let’s talk fashion week. I stood backstage with you holding your hand during the chaos right before your NYFW debut. It was so special watching that dream come true for you on the runway AND watching you get a standing ovation! Explain what that moment meant for you? 

Courtlyn: LISTEN. First of all, I lucked out in having you backstage with me. Thank you for keeping me level minded through the process. NYFW has been a dream of mine for the longest. It’s one of the world’s biggest stages. The backstage experience was hectic! I was practicing on my backless heels for two hours prior to hitting the main runway. Briana Wilson (the designer of MATTE Brand) casted me in a campaign two years prior so it just felt like destiny to share this moment with her. The standing ovation was the most out-of-body experience that I’ve ever had. It felt electric. I cried after walking as well. A black curve model with boxed braids at NYFW? I did that. I’m still in disbelief that I achieved that.

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Sharra: You definitely did! It was crazy, both being with you backstage and then watching it all pay off during the show and I’m so happy that I was able to be apart of that milestone in your career! So, when asked on Instagram about the importance of internships, you’ve mentioned that you have one under your belt but you believe that you can make your dreams happen on your own. What do you believe is needed to be a successful, multi-faceted creative entrepreneur in today’s world? 

Courtlyn: “Internships” should be a fulfilling experience in your field with proper compensation. College kids should know this so their labor won’t be exploited. My internship, however, was more so about fulfilling something for my resume. However, everything that I’ve done as a creative had nothing to do with my internship. My hard work, drive, and vision has been my guide this entire time. 

Sharra: I agree. I feel like internships should be mutually beneficial, especially because most young people who participate in them are often just starting to take on at least some financial responsibility. So Courtlyn, You’re working so hard on every aspect of your personal and professional brand from perfecting your craft as a writer, to serving as a muse for several fashion and creative projects. What message do you want to send to the world with your work?

Courtlyn: I feel like my message is embedded in my overall brand and creative vision. I lead with love, kindness, and intelligence in everything that I do. I want the world to know that I’m young, Black, and gifted. There’s no point of being humble about it because I deserve to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Black Women deserve to experience joy and that’s what I’m going to exude. In terms of my career in Journalism, I want my writing to always be meaningful, poignant content. 

Sharra: I’m so glad that you get that black women deserve to experience joy and be selective and intentional with all of their work! Way too often, women are trained to serve as everyone else’s source of joy but we can’t pour into others when our own glasses are empty… So, as a stylist, I’m always stressing the importance of using personal style as a means of self expression. It’s important to me that people have fun with their look and that they don’t get so caught up in today’s “trends” that they lose their sense of individuality. How would you describe your personal style? I know it’s pretty versatile! But how would you put it into words?

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Courtlyn: My style is really sporadic to be honest. I don’t dress on a “trends” basis because it’s honestly wack. I’ll partake if I feel that a trend has the capability of being “timeless.” I have hints of “goth” influence in my wardrobe as well. I really want to tap into that more. When I step out, I always serve a “bombshell” look. I love to wear something simple that accentuates my curves.

In the Winter, I always have my statement faux fur pieces. I also loooove to wear menswear. I know that my fiancé is probably annoyed with me for borrowing his clothes on a constant basis. In terms of my hair, I am sticking to my box braids. They’re super easy to maintain and they make me feel powerful. 

Sharra: You’re constantly adding to your brand. You juggle a day job, your dream job (being a journalist owning your own media company, and creative muse, having a t shirt line, etc.) what’s next for the Court Kim brand? Or are you focused on perfecting what’s already on your plate?

Courtlyn: Wow... I really do a lot, huh? This list is so steep. I’ve just closed a couple of deals for future media projects. One of them is a new podcast. The other one is something that I can’t even comment on. I’ve been given a few dream opportunities and I’m in my zone. I’m constantly working on Court Kim Media. I just don’t create based on instant gratification. I want my projects to be well-crafted. I’m in this fearless, commanding time in my life. This is what I’ve been working so hard for.


Court, it’s more than a pleasure being a witness to some of your major achievements in the industry. Thank you for sharing with me and my readers and I’m looking forward to watching the growth of all things Court Kim! Keep up with Court on Instagram, check out her articles here, and check out her t shirt line here!

More interviews and style posts coming very soon to the blog! Make sure you’re subscribed here to be the first to know about new content!

Sharra,

“The definition of walking art.”

COLLABORATION OR COMPETITION? THERE'S POWER IN BOTH CONCEPTS

Written & Styled by Sharra Greene

From "My Sista's Keeper", Featuring Tene'A Cummings and Dominique Harris and shot by Damon Rice.

From "My Sista's Keeper", Featuring Tene'A Cummings and Dominique Harris and shot by Damon Rice.

A lot of major brands and business in the fashion and style realm as well as other industries are taking a stand for the idea of "Collaboration Over Competition", essentially creating a movement that empowers the idea of individuals coming together to achieve a common goal as opposed to individually competing to get there. This movement has a powerful message that caused me think about the different benefits of both competing and collaborating in order to progress in a career, and even in life in general. I believe that both concepts can bring out the best in a person both personally and professionally, I explain how below. 

The Ideal Concept of Competition

     The idea of competing for some sort of supremacy, whether it be money, a repuation, or even clientele, often has a negative connotation behind it because of the often insecure, immoral and sometimes mean spirited nature of people. However, when competition is done with authenticity and good ethics, it can serve as a tremendous benefit for those who are constantly striving to grow within their craft.

    As a style creative, I am not necessarily just studying those in my proximity who are building a brand within my field, but I am looking beyond, at the ones who are or seem to be "winning" the way that I want to win. When I do this, I'm rarely ever looking to compare my chapter 7 to someone elses chapter 20, as they say. But instead, I am proposing a challenge to myself to create work that I truly believe is on that level. I truly believe that by challenging yourself to compete with the best, you can literally only get better in the long term. I believe that when someone is receiving the things that you want, one of the most effective things to do is to challenge yourself to create work that could stand side by side with theirs. This type of competition can be done without announcing, sabotaging, or bashing someone else. Over time, the progress will definitely speak for itself. 

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The Ideal Concept of Collaboration

Though I appreciate healthy competition, it is no secret that I am pro collaboration. Most, if not all of the posts on The Walking Art Blog are a result of a collaboration with other bomb creatives. I absolutely love the idea of a group of individuals leveraging each other's strengths to create a collective work of art. Looking back at my journey as a stylist from when I first started to now, one thing that I've learned is how to be selective about who I choose to collaborate with. When I am either seeking or deciding whether to accept or decline a collaboration request, I am looking to see if we are all on the same page, and if our collective efforts would add value of some sort to each individual involved, whether that be financially, professionally, or artistically, the value needs to be there. When those factors are involved, that is when the magic happens. That is when everyone involved can utilize the results to take themselves and their work to the next level, whatever that level may be for them because it really is different for everyone. 

Embracing Both

I am truly learning to appreciate and embrace both competing and collaborating because of what the two combined could do for me as an artist and as a business woman. My advice? Don't just stick to one. Explore both strategies for yourself in the best way that you can and witness your own growth in whatever it is you're going after. 

My Sista's Keeper.   Tenea is wearing a  vintage faux leather little black dress with fur trim ,  Inari fishnet stockings , vintage earrrings and rings, thigh high boots, gold scale necklace from my wardrobe collection. Dominique is wearing a  vintage Janine New York geometric print metallic dress ,  Public Desire Kassidy gladiator heels ,  Urban Outfitters choker , bangles, rings, and earrings from my wardrobe collection

My Sista's Keeper.  Tenea is wearing a vintage faux leather little black dress with fur trimInari fishnet stockings, vintage earrrings and rings, thigh high boots, gold scale necklace from my wardrobe collection. Dominique is wearing a vintage Janine New York geometric print metallic dressPublic Desire Kassidy gladiator heelsUrban Outfitters choker, bangles, rings, and earrings from my wardrobe collection

Credits:

Photographer/ Creative Director: D. Rice Photography

Models: Tenea Cummings and Dominique Harris

Styling and Creative Direction by Me

Click here to see this full shoot!

Stay tuned for more inspiration and insight coming very soon to the blog.

Sharra,

"The definition of walking art."

MY INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA WILLIAMS, DESIGNER OF IRREGULAR EXPOSURE CLOTHING

WRITTEN BY SHARRA GREENE AND JESSICA WILLIAMS

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      As promised, I'm back sharing the stories of more inspiring creatives who are building a brand and building up others in the process. As a stylist, I'm always researching new designers and brands that I would like to collab with (and shop with, of course). Upon discovering Irregular Exposure on my Instagram explore page, I noticed that the brand offers really chic pieces that can also serve as capsule wardrobe essentials. I also couldn't help but notice that IE designs were being worn by the likes of Evelyn Lozada and Claire Sulmers (founder of Fashion Bomb Daily and my favorite blogger, ever).

      Even better, I discovered that the designer had just recently held the grand opening of her showroom in the downtown area of my city, Baltimore, Maryland. I had to know more... Read my interview with Jessica Williams, inspiring Designer and Creator of Irregular Exposure and IE Fashion Academy, where she coaches other aspiring fashionpreneurs.

Upon tuning in to an Irregular Exposure IG LIVE this past week, I heard you say that you yourself sketch and design the pieces. How long have you been designing?     

     I currently sketch all of my designs. I have multiple manufacturing companies that I partner with to create the collections. I used to cut and sew all designs however I am in a place where I simply don't have the time anymore so I am now outsourcing. This is pretty common with most fashion designers. I've been designing for 11 years. I began as a custom seamstress and I've been a ready to wear designer for about 4 years now.

The name of your brand is definitely one of the first things that caught my attention. How did you come up with the name Irregular Exposure?

     I created the name when I was really young. I actually was inspired by a footwear line, "Irregular Choice." I was infatuated with their crazy designs and I really began to sketch clothing around their shoes. I always wanted to help women expose their irregular vibes and there it was, the name was birthed!

On the Irregular Exposure blog, you talk about how you reached out to over 100 emerging designer shows in hopes of showing at NYFW and were told "no", only to be told 3 days before a show (and with $200 to your name) that you were next in line and accepted. After this show, sales grew by %238. what did you end up doing to prepare for something so major at such short notice and what has this experience taught you?

     Well I am a firm believer in the motto, "don't get ready, stay ready." I had created my collection in advance with faith on my side knowing that God would cover me and allow my collection to be seen by who it was intended for. I was actually working a 9-5 making good money however this particular week was bill week and I was broke! I had faith and it turned out to be the opportunity that changed my life. The experience taught me that consistency, faith, and determination is required. It also taught me that someone is always watching so remain humble and clear on your brand story at all times. Your next opportunity is already watching you.

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What does your Fashion Academy offer and what inspired you to start it?

     The IE Fashion Academy is a digital coaching program for aspiring and emerging fashion entrepreneurs. We offer 6-12 month programs to guide emerging designers, stylist, bloggers, fashion show producers and other fashionable creatives, through the process of concept to profit. With my education and experience, I am able to guide clients through the online classes and events. We are known for our 3 day quarterly retreats which is when the clients meet for 3 days to build. We just wrapped our NYC Fashion Retreat which is when we take clients through the garment district, fashion week and more. My academy is the most important thing to me right now and we are growing. We currently have over 25 private clients in 16 different cities so it's definitely worth the value. Check us out online at IEFashionAcademy.com 

So, Claire Sulmers is one of my favorite women in the industry. I seriously love her. I especially love how she's contributed to the black fashion community. What opportunity allowed you to meet her and how was the experience? 

      I was able to meet Claire at an event in Atlanta almost 2 years back. I reconnected with her through one of her Cocktails with Claire events and she really spoke highly of my brand so we agreed to wear a look on social media. She noticed the investments I was willing to make to be in a room with her. Whether it meant flying to ATL or vending at an event she attended, I knew I wanted her guidance within my network. The experience was very natural. She's a regular lady from the ATL with cool vibes just like us lol! I always am very chill when I meet people. I never like to come off as too much of a stalker lol so I remained calm and gave clear intent. It was really just me going to her letting her know that I wanted to build with her and the rest was history! She's a great person.

What would you call this chapter of your life and why?

      I would call it womanhood. I feel that I am becoming the woman I will be for my lifetime. At age 25, I am seeing clearer. My life consists of God, family, love & business and that's all that really matters. The business allows me to have more time for what matters. I feel so grateful at this point. I just opened my first store and my business is extremely successful. I am at a point where I just want to help others and that's definitely grown woman tendencies lol.

Any advice for aspiring creative entrepreneurs out here?

     Man's rejection is God's protection. Those "no's" you keep hearing are getting you closer to those "yes's." Cover and protect your energy and thoughts. Only share with like minds. Do things for the first time because that's where the opportunity lies.

Shop Irregular Exposure online or stop into their new showroom at 910 S. Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland. I know I will! Keep up with Jessica and all of her upcoming events by following her on Instagram and comment your thoughts on our interview below

Images from the IE lookbook. 

Images from the IE lookbook. 

More photo shoots and inspirational content coming very soon. Xoxo

Sharra,

"The definition of walking art."

 

 

"PICK A SIDE": LOOKS FROM A NEW ALTER-EGO THEMED SPREAD

STYLED BY SHARRA GREENE

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Developed for an upcoming online magazine...stay tuned for details.

Credits:

Photographer/ Creative Director: D. Rice Photography

Model: Amanda Lang of Dollhouse Management

Makeup Artist: Beauty by Idris

Styling and Co Creative Direction by Me

Pick a side...comment your fave look. 

Sharra,

"The definition of walking art."