luxury

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.”