I’m a wardrobe stylist, so during the holiday season, I immediately start thinking of brands and retailers I can collaborate with or highlight. It’s all about my philosophy that "style is a lifestyle, not just a closet.”
I decided to focus on a few fabulous brands that may not be as well known.
This year, there’s discussion around women-owned businesses and Black female-owned businesses too. Not only has Covid-19 disproportionately affected women, but women of color even more so. While over 50 percent of women-owned businesses are women of color, our total revenue this year was $422 billion dollars in comparison to white, women-owned businesses who brought in 1.4 trillion dollars.
In addition, according to the State of Women Owned Businesses Report, Black women-owned businesses earned an average revenue of $24,000 per firm vs. $142,900 among all women-owned businesses. This gap between Black women-owned businesses and all women-owned businesses is the greatest of any other minority.
What can you do to help close the gap? This holiday season and going forward in 2021, think of a small business or, even more so, a Black, female-owned business you can support and introduce to your family and friends. I am sharing six Black, female-owned businesses in the fashion world to follow. There are literally hundreds to choose from, but you have to start somewhere. Each of these brands will take your personal style to the next level. So, let's jump in!
This jewelry-maker focuses on creating quality and affordable pieces for the everyday woman. Neumi Anekhe originally started out wanting to make bodysuits in 2018. A native of Norway who came to America because she wanted to see more diversity. She became a New York-based fashion stylist because she saw a need for more brands representing people of color.
Anekhe wanted to help diversify the markets, change the imagery and predominant representation that we see in fashion today. OMA The Label creates jewelry for the woman who wants to wear pieces that make her feel empowered and confident. One of the biggest trends for 2020 has been the "neck mess", and Oma is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this. I've found a few necklaces that will be coming into my mailbox soon!
As of January 2019, she was set on making bodysuits and had just one necklace for sale! And then the pandemic hit and because supply was very low, she pivoted from making bodysuits, to begin production of necklaces, and that's where she is today! Coming in 2021, she'll be expanding her jewelry offering and will be in stores like Macy's and Hudson Bay. She exemplifies the power of the pivot!
This company started in 2009 out of the frustration of a professional dancer who, as she was moving along in her career, was experiencing a recurring theme when it came to proper undergarments: transparency and skin color match.
Erin Carpenter spent hours dying and spray painting hosiery so it matched her skin which was, in her words, “too much.” So, Nude Barre was born. After meeting with some angel investors and manufacturers who weren't sure if the concept "was needed,” it solidified her desire to make it happen even more.
Carpenter started selling in early 2012 with her personal network and got major exposure when she mailed a few samples to Wendy Williams. The rest is history. Nude Barre just launched a bralette and bikini panty in late 2019, and we should be on the lookout for a boy short and camisole to hit the racks soon. Erin reminds us that self-love is activism and loving the skin you're in is part of the Nude Barre philosophy. Everyone has a shade and "nude" isn't one color.
Utenzi Miller is the driving force behind Elegant Eyes, Inc. A 1996 graduate of the Essex County College Ophthalmic Dispensing program, she clearly knows a thing or two about style-savvy specs. Her frames are big and bold and, frankly, speak for you.
They are true accessories to establish your look and image. Utenzi has typically taken her specs on the road for shows, but she has pivoted during Covid-19 to conduct virtual sessions. Who's ready for some new, statement-making specs that say you're focused on looking forward into 2021?!
Every lady needs her power shoe for that meeting!
Rebecca Allen was working as a VP at Goldman Sachs and couldn't find the perfect nude pumps, so she created her own. Her initial collection consisted of five nude shades in a classic style based on her friends' skin complexions.
Since starting, the curated collection includes The New Pump, a perfectly-sized 3-inch pump, The Two Strap, which is a heeled sandal, and The Skim, a modern pointed-toe flat with a stand out toe cap. The shoes are produced in Brazil and made in small batches to avoid waste and excess inventory.
What's next? Rebecca is testing direct sales. Rather than being a shoe designer, Rebecca says she designs "solutions," and we can expect more in the coming year!
In 2014, Grace Eleyae took a trip to Kenya that changed her life.
During a bumpy eight hour car ride, all the hair on the back of her head broke off - the result of her chemically-straightened hair and constant friction against the headrest.
Later that year, she created the first prototype for the original slap cap and soon began selling the cap on Etsy. By September 2014, Grace was in full swing. Since its inception, she has continued to expand her hair products to include adjustable slaps, turbans, silk headbands, baseball caps, pillowcases, face masks and more. It’s all with the intent of promoting healthier hair.
During the pandemic when hair salons were closed, sales were humming because women needed a way to handle their unpermed hair - I bought a couple and they were a lifesaver!
Check out this luxury handbag and life goods collection founded by Ayanna Listenbee.
Ayanna, who is based in southern California, started her collection in 2005, because she was pregnant and wanted a cool-looking diaper bag.
She found a manufacturer who made the first one, and then she decided "I can do this!" While it started as a luxury handbag line with sumptuous leather totes, custom clothing and handbags won out!
Besides her totes, handbags, and small leather goods, Ayanna has expanded to include a line of comfort boxes with varying content. This month's box focused on the holidays and contains a mug, hot toddy ingredients, a candle, a blanket, and socks. That's not all - Ayanna also creates gorgeous vintage indigo pieces (I secretly have been lusting after the Palisades infinity scarf). Part of what drives her is that she wants people to be blessed, so expect to find a prayer with each handbag purchase.
Finally, let’s showcase how one Black, female-owned brand went from DIY to the BIG time within a few years. Coco and Breezy Eyewear was founded in 2009 by twin designers Corianna and Brianna Dotson. They grew up in Minnesota and started doing DIY frames in 2009. The sisters decided to "risk it" and moved to NYC with just $1,000.
That risk paid off, because within months, they had big names wearing their glasses, including Beyoncé. In 2018, they added optical and - boom! - they went from placement in two stores to 400!
In an effort to give back, they partnered with American Express and Showfields to create a pop-up that showcased not only their brand, but 10 other black-owned businesses. While 2020 included launching children's eyewear with Zenni (with a portion of all proceeds going to Children Mind Institute), 2021 will see a new celebrity collaborations. Congrats to Coco and Breezy!
Monica Barnett, is the founder of Blueprint for Style, a female, Black-owned business that has been offering individualized personal styling solutions and corporate-level trainings for 13 years. The topic above is near-and-dear to her heart and her P&L. She recently started an online style school to provide introductory courses on style topics, from how to build an eco-friendly closet, to the essentials, to transitioning your wardrobe from backpack to briefcase! Follow her on Instagram at @Blueprint4Style and if you want all of her clothing recommendations sent to your inbox then simply follow her at LiketoKnow.it.