Online shopping in the past few years has arguably become the most accessible way for consumers to update their wardrobes and keep up with fashion trends. In quarantine, the desire to online shop is heightened by the fact that it’s something tangible and exciting to look forward to - for those who are stuck at home, shopping becomes not only a hobby, but the delivery is actually exciting. Content creators in particular have been focused on updating their social media accounts at home, and are often ordering new outfits for photoshoots. Moreover, online shopping is every introvert’s dream: as our world becomes more digital, and our needs can be met more quickly and efficiently if we don’t leave the house, the pull for ordering clothes online is indisputable.
Luxury brands have definitely been stepping up to the plate in terms of encouraging consumers to order their products online in the last few years. One thing I’ve noticed as a consumer is the tendency of luxury brands to be elusive and creative on social media, rather than outwardly marketing their products. Gucci is an excellent example of this, as their Instagram revolves around creative photoshoots and editorial-style pictures, without the option to buy the clothes highlighted in the picture. However, their website is tailor made for online shopping. This seems to be the model for various high-end brands, as they draw in consumers with creativity and seal the deal with online accessibility.
They understand their brands are more compelling when they don’t attempt to convince consumers to buy their products - they nonchalantly tease their audience with glimpses into the world of high fashion, daring them to shop online.
When online shopping was first introduced, there was a tendency to assume that consumers would gravitate solely towards low end-middle end products. This makes sense: without actually trying something on, feeling fabric or textiles in your hand, or analyzing how an article holds your body, it can be difficult to commit to an expensive purchase. Luxury brands have adapted to this by adding style guides to each article, adding details on how the product should fit, and sometimes having the option to book an online consultation to ensure you receive your perfect fit. If dissatisfied, customers can also often return their purchase for free.
As our cultural psyche accepts online shopping as the norm, luxury brands have been consistently stepping up and making the experience easier for consumers. I’m excited to see how high-end brands, led by people of colour in particular, innovate and contribute to the development of the online shopping experience.
Adi: It’s so lovely to sit down with you, the energy of the shoot is so fun! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and the creative process.
Mykel: Yes! I started in the industry about 25 years ago as a stylist and in production. I’ve done shows from the beginning, casting models and really realizing that I just had an eye for it. I continued as an agent and really learned all aspects of the business, even working in restaurants and owning a bar. Now, my creative studio, Mykel C. Smith Creative, is a boutique creative think-tank. We design websites, apps, we do production, cast and style models, It’s not a service- it’s an experience. When you came in today, didn’t you feel an experience?
Mykel: We’re unconventional in our methods and that’s why our clients trust us!
Adi: How has the pandemic affected your business?
Mykel: Before the pandemic we had so many clients on board for projects, but of course everything had to put everything on hold. Actually, this is my first client coming out of COVID, and it feels good to be back! We’re doing everything for them.
Adi: What do you see changing in the industry?
Mykel: Among other things The Black Lives Matter movement and the push for more diversity has been a great effort. I’ve been doing this for 25+ years now and have always casted a diverse group of models and talent. In fact, I’ve even quit jobs that wouldn’t allow me to cast with diversity. Also today, It’s not even about a new normal, it’s really about pivoting your business. Part of my business is based on doing events, and right now because of COVID, we’ve had to shift to a lot of online strategies until it’s safe. Additionally, people are focusing on a low-waste strategy more than ever now. This year’s made us all realize that tomorrow isn’t promised, and all of these social changes are so important.
Adi: What can you tell me about the styling and shoot inspiration for the collection?
Mykel: The shoot inspiration and theme is Back to the Future - we’re shooting the collection outside later too for a day-to-night look to show the transitional element of the brand and how it can be styled for going out. We want the shoot to give an optimistic look, almost to tell people that this too shall pass and we’ll be back soon. I wanted it to be high-end and fun, and not commercial. It’s futuristic yet glamorous. The line is about ease and it’s about looking good, which is what people want today.
Adi: I couldn’t agree more, the collection and styling is incredible! With everything going on now, what do you see as the future for NYFW?
Mykel: This season will definitely be majorly virtual. I’ll be working with a few new designers and actually, there are a lot showing this season. Most collections are still invite-only in online showrooms and presentations. I’m interested to see how it goes, but I’m glad we’re still doing something. This whole thing really blew the tires out of everybody, and this has given new designers a bit of hope.
Adi: It’s definitely difficult now to keep things on track, but it will be really interesting to see how going online will do. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk! Adi Shoham
Honduras-based and inspired by New York City’s active streetwear, Elisaveta by Soho Studio is the latest fashion-forward activewear collection co-founded by Josephinne Gloster Zelaya. Dubbed ‘Back To The Future’ by the photoshoot’s creative director Mykel C. Smith of Mykel C. Smith Creative, the collection featured elevated sportswear essentials to be worn from day-to-night. I was fortunate to be able to have a conversation with both Josephinne and Mykel, gaining insight on the collection as well as their thoughts on the current state of the ever-industry.
Adi: Why did you create Elisaveta by Soho Studio?
Josephinne: This company is something I’ve been passionate about for a while. I began it pre-pandemic, and honestly it’s given me the opportunity to fully put focus into the brand. Finding manufacturers was a challenge but we made it work, especially with help from my husband and mother who is a partner in the brand, which has been nice.
Adi: Wow, a blessing in disguise! What was the inspiration behind this collection?
Josephinne: Actually the inspiration behind this collection is New York! More specifically, New York streetwear. Off duty looks and comfortable high-end streetwear were the major focus. Right now I’m based in Honduras, but I’m always inspired by New York.
Adi: I noticed that some of the fabrications have really interesting finishes, some are metallic and moisture-wicking and some almost feel like an athletic-supporting absorbent pantyhose material. They definitely reflect a wearable version of active styles. Was the intent of design to be more geared towards fashion or active?
Josephinne: Both! For example, I’m wearing our latest navy set which is being shot today with a blazer. It can be paired with loafers or sneakers, really any way you want to style it, it’s easy to elevate! Mainly the collection is activewear, but it’s designed to be versatile
Adi: It looks stunning! With retail being limited right now, what is your commerce focus?
Josephinne: We have a site that is yet to be launched, likely in September. We’re looking at Amazon fulfillment but will focus on our site once our lookbook is complete! We’re also on instagram @elisavetabs2. Without retail it’s hard for customers to try things on, but we made sure our quality was high and tried it on with lots of different levels of active movement. I love athleisure, and comfort and versatility has always been a priority for me.
Adi: What is the future for the brand?
Josephinne: For this particular collection we’re focusing on Latin America and the US, but we’re looking to expand to European markets when we can accomplish logistics. We want people to feel like they’ve found something high quality yet versatile and fashionable.
Adi: That’s awesome! And it’s definitely what people are shopping for today as everyone’s working from home. What have been the best sellers?
Josephinne: Honestly I was surprised - camo has been our best seller! The electric blue set has also been a favorite, and our tie-dye collection has been very popular.
Adi: The camo is awesome! I’m seeing it here now. The entire collection feels and looks great, too. Thanks so much for taking the time to discuss it! By Adi S.
Knowing what is next before it has happened is the key to being on the cutting edge of fashion. It is what up-and-comer Christoper John Rogers has done and been influenced by, but more importantly, where he is going that makes him such a historical attribute to the fashion industry. His classical training coupled with his so very current visions and intentional off the wall-ness surely makes Rogers unique beyond comparison. Born and raised in Louisiana, graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design, and now working out of a studio in New York City, Rogers’ designs are more immediate, more present, and more whacky than anything a runway has seen previously. Rogers was, and continues to be an artist to watch, and following his win of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2019 and the $400,000 that came with it, he and his designs really pushed their way onto the “ones to watch” lists. Rogers consistently creates styles that are so true and quick and seem to lack traditional thought, per se, but have so much life and passion and color and personality in them that they are simply irresistible and impossible to miss or ignore, for that matter. Currently only technically producing womenswear, Rogers’ lines are not and have not been for women only; they promote androgyny and are popular in the world of drag. Simply put, Rogers is putting his own current spin on classics. And while the term “millennial” is really annoying and stale at times, he does bring that awareness and tenacity of the millennial era to his work. Despite being known enough in the niche world of fashion, when he dressed Lil Nas at the 2019 American Music Awards in an electric green, two piece suit worn atop of a zebra bodysuit, he turned down a new street of fame. It seemed that contrary to the way many designers create for celebrities, that is, to find a celebrity that fits their design elements and inspiration, Rogers molds his talent and energy and inspiration to fit the style and the personality of the client; we saw this with Lil Nas’ immediately iconic red carpet look. As Rogers continues to change the faces and looks of current fashion, he also has goals of producing menswear, but, in typical Rogers fashion, it will be anything but. We can imagine that Rogers’ menswear will mirror the womenswear collections he has come to be known for, complete with vibrant colors, fierce angles, and an almost complete lack of gender identities assigned to collections, despite them having the names menswear and womenswear. As of late, Rogers is a recent addition of Net-A-Porter’s Vanguard Initiative, a program that looks to champion the “next wave of emerging designers,” according to the e-fashion mogul. This opportunity is important for Rogers and the legacy he is creating in many ways: not only will his pieces be more accessible, but also they will reach a wider audience simply through the power of search and the Internet as a whole.
Despite being a newer addition to the world of fashion and couture, there is something immensely special about Christopher John Rogers. In an age where statement pieces seem to be shrouded by street style and comfort pieces, Rogers is reinventing how and why statement pieces are worn and consumed, and if the world of fashion is not now, they will surely be thankful for his contributions in the future. By Emily Goldberg
At just 25 years old, Nigerian and British designer Mowalola Ogunlesi is primed to be a famed fashion name quite quickly. Already gaining traction and the attention of career-catapulter Kanye West, her otherworldly eye has been recently appointed as the new Yeezy Gap Collaboration Design Director. Mowalola grew up in England attending an all girls Catholic school. She was exposed to the world of fashion through her family - her grandmother developed a fashion label in the 1960’s in Nigeria, with her mother following that family business. Her father designed traditional Nigerian menswear, and though she was raised by fashion craftsmen, Mowalola emphasizes her desire for a deeper creative expression. In entering the world of fashion, studying at Central Saint Martins and working for Grace Wales Bonner is certainly a fantastic place to start. Mowalola developed the art of expressing a story within a collection, and launched her first collection in 2017 titled ‘Psychedelic,’ a line she emphasized was “unapologetically black and pan-African.” Mowalola’s most recent collection at Fashion East Menswear SS20 (theme being Exposure) solidified her voice in the fashion industry. Models walked the collection in energized, technicolor leather, with suits featuring bullet-wound graphics and unnatural-toned cow prints. Spray painted, hazed graphics emphasize an element of psychedelica across a strong leather backdrop. The collection was said by Mowalola to be inspired by the exposure of “the horrific feeling of falling in love...it screams my lived experience as a Black person.” More recently, Mowalola released an exhibition at London’s NOW Gallery. Through the month of December in 2019, the exhibit, titled Silent Madness, was “an immersive installation that marries Mowalola’s unique Nigerian punk-inspired aesthetic with her passion for musical expression.” The surrealist color explosion featured a room of draped fabrics in brutal prints. Mannequins with a punkish energy wear Mowalola’s designs, and visitors are handed an MP3 player with 6 songs in which they can choose from to experience the exhibition. In line with Mowalola’s challenging expressionism, the installation aimed to “disrupt and question preconceptions of normality whilst challenging traditional discourse surrounding African sexuality.” Custom pieces of the up and coming designer recently began appearing on the likes of Drake, Naomi Campbell, and Kim Kardashian West, giving Mowalola much deserved media attention. As the designer continues to gain traction, Gap and Kanye West have tapped her to come onto their latest collaboration. Following the cancelled collaboration of Gap’s deal with Telfar, it will be interesting to see the view Mowalola and West bring to the retail giant. By Adi Shoham
Chicago born photographer Danielle A. Scruggs represents why the person behind the camera must understand the communities in front of it.
Welcome to the world through Danielle Scruggs's lense.
As with many influential artists, their parents are an intricate part of how they gained exposure to their field. This northside, Rodgers Park, Chicago born resident, is no different. "My dad was a photographer when he was in the army...(as a child) I remember always being surrounded by cameras, books, and art," laughed Scruggs.
A pink and black rectangle camera was her first at age seven before she began using her father's old Pentax k1000 for her high school's darkroom classes.
After attending predominantly white schools, the majority of her life, she decided to attend an HBCU for college - Howard. Feelings of being lonely misunderstood and isolated as the only black person in grade school were not something she wanted to replicate in her collegiate experience. Scruggs found a sense of comradery within the HBCU institution that she had never experienced anywhere else. "I felt at home, is the best way to put it," said Scruggs.
After taking a few courses in photography, during her junior year, she knew this was the career she wanted to take more seriously. Meeting people who looked like her: photographers and photo editors also made this seem like viable employment. "That's when it became concrete to me - that oh, this is a career path - this is something real," said Scruggs.
Scruggs met Sharon Farmer, a former White House photographer for the Clinton administration, while obtaining her Print Journalism degree from Howard. She also had significant interactions with acclaimed photographer Harlee Little. "He (Little) saw something in me that I didn't even see in myself," proclaimed Scruggs.
Scruggs also has a graduate degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art. This experience put her back in a majority white space even though it was in the middle of "Chocolate City." Danielle, though valuing her education, describes the place like a bubble that didn't "interact with its surroundings." The connections built-in HBCUs are said to be stronger than PWIs - when asking Scruggs if she had experienced this same narrative, she paused for a moment then remarked with excitement.
Her first position as a Copy Aid for the Washington Post after grad school happened on a previous roommate's tip. "It was my old Howard roommate who gave me my first job," said Scruggs. Danielle explains the role was very insular, and you had to "know someone who knew someone" to get a foot in the door. Scruggs was able to gain raw exposure to the photo editors' desk while making her rotation. This role was imperative to her establishing a career in photography.
The Washington Post published the Midwest creative, The New York Times, and ESPN, to name a few. "I don't change my style depending on the publication," said Scruggs. Danielle also works as a photo editor, and the Howard Alumnae encourages photographers to maintain their identity because if the publication wants a different style - they will hire another person. Scruggs is adamant about not changing her photography style, depending on the paper she is shooting for. "Conveying the feeling and energy, I get in a place...and going off that feeling...that's that goal," said Scruggs
This interview took place after white police officer Derek Chauvin's murdered unarmed black man George Floyd by kneeling on his neck in Minneapolis. A 17-year girl, Darnella Frazier, filmed the entire incident. This tragedy prompted the conversation about should we continue to film these events and distribute them. "We don't need to show images of black death to get across the point - we're under siege," said Scruggs. Scruggs elaborates on the unequal amount of care provided to visually representing tragic events surrounding black people versus their white counterparts. As an example, she references the CoronaVirus pandemic. "How the ebola epidemic was captured is a very stark contrast..when the Corona Pandemic was mostly in Europe, you saw (images of) people clapping on their balconies.. (not) the horrific effects, but you get the idea," said Scruggs. Omitting images of body bags, terminally ill patients, and gore does not make the severity any less visible. This African American artist does not feel the level of care provided to countries like Italy during the 2020 pandemic translates to black people when documenting issues like police brutality. "I understand the sentiment 'we have to show people so they'll get it,' but at this point, if you don't get it - you don't want to," expressed Scruggs. Danielle is apprehensive when displaying someone's last moments on earth, and urges the public to consider the psychological effects of repeatedly viewing these images.
Danielle approaches photography from every standpoint, but architecture and portraits are some of Scruggs's favorite avenues. Growing up in Chicago, her love of architecture is apparent through her work, and she can make inanimate objects feel alive. Her love of portraiture comes from a pure love of interacting with fascinating individuals. "I enjoy meeting people and talking to them and getting to know - what's their story. When you have a camera in your hand, you have a great excuse to talk to people," exclaimed the slightly shy Photographer. Scruggs feels like it allows you to skip over small talk and get straight to the "moments of connection."
Scruggs feels her experience being a black woman is reflected in her approach to photography.
"I am aware I am working in a medium that started with dubious origins - a lot of early photography was used to perpetuate harmful racial stereotypes," acknowledges Scruggs. Danielle doesn't want people to forget that there is also a history of counteracting and using the camera to dispel myths and racist tropes. "I try as much as possible to make sure I am not recreating harm," said Scruggs. She captures what she is feeling and witnessing - not preconceived notions.
Amplifying other black women in film and photography is nearly a second job for Scruggs - one she enjoys very much. She operates an organization to highlight Black Women Directors and is involved in more, including Authority Collective; their tag line is "Reclaiming our authority in a Visual World." Scruggs sits on the board at Authority Collective. Her Instagram Black Women Directors are also used to share essential resources such as food banks in Chicago. "I just wanted to highlight black women filmmakers and directors because so often they get left out of the conversation when people talk about black film and diversity in film," explains Scruggs. This social media page and official website shed light on black women directors throughout the world, not only in America.
At one point, she tried to list additional sources of celebration for black women in film and came up short besides Sisters in Cinema. In 2020 there are still very few resources for black people of the diaspora who identify as women in film.
There are still not enough black and brown people in executive photography positions. Organizations and advocacy will hold corporations' feet to the fire and make them act on promises of inclusion. Scruggs' goal is not just to create diversity but also equity.
Scruggs is currently on a social media hiatus - except Twitter. "I didn't like how I was feeling on Instagram - like we have to perform," said Scruggs. She feels social media is restrictive and requires her to self-censor out of fear in how future audiences will perceive her prior thoughts. Instead, the former D.C. resident wants to revert to previously popular mediums such as blogs, email, and newsletters for contact purposes.
Check out her curatorial programs in collection with Authority Collective coming up soon.
SUPERDOPE Q VOLATILE MAGAZINE FEATURE Who's Midwestern born, Southern-influenced, has East Coast flavor and tatted all over? The answer is one fascinating celebrity stylist ready to turn their reality television fame into a megabrand.
Quinton Shotwell or better known by his alias SuperDope Q is an entrepreneur who knows how to build it from the ground up. Q always knew he had an affinity for fashion. Fashion came naturally for him as his peers and elders would consult him for advice on their look regularly. Social Media star turned actress Lala Milan introduced Q to Black Ink CEO Ceaser when he was looking for a new stylist. That opportunity led to a role on the popular VH1 show that has run for nearly a decade and inspired two spinoffs.
Q makes it a point to collaborate and utilize up and coming designers when styling notables like Good Morning America's Keke Palmer. "I don't want new designers to feel like they don't have a chance because people are so focused on the other thing." Focusing on creating trends rather than following them has kept his approach to fashion fresh and exhilarating. Top trends Q is gravitating towards right now are stacked pants, ruched details, two-piece suits, and 1950s headscarves ala Old Hollywood. In pure fashionista form, the Milwaukee bred businessman is still dressing to the nines - quarantine or not. "I can't do anything looking like I've been sitting in a quarantine," expressed Q.
This entrepreneur is exceptionally savvy, expanding his reach to a genderless skincare line, unisex fragrance Carmae, a new mixtape released in May and his clothing line SuperDope fashion line. Not to mention he owns a salon, nail shop, and clothing boutique hybrid in Wisconsin. "It's a one-stop-shop to get fly," said Shotwell. Recognizing a need and audience for specific products has kept Q ahead of the curve.
Q is recognizable by his ever-changing hair color. It has been red, blue, silver, white and currently black. Since afro/kinky hair texture requires additional TLC when dyeing it - Q created a hair coloring kit to target those needs. "They don't currently have anything for us on the market." It is sold in the most significant beauty store in America - released soon.
The Black Ink cast member's motivation is to make his mark on the industry and inspire creatives in the process.
Check out the Black Ink Crew season Finale tonight on Vh1 8/7c.
Aude Harris talks impact with swimwear line due to covid-19.
My name is Aude Harris. I am the Founder and Creative Director of a black-owned African swimwear line, AudeSwim. I was born in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa. I came to the states when I was about 7 years old. Upon graduating from Virginia State University with a bachelor's in Marketing, I traveled back home to Africa where I was inspired by the culture, people, and, textiles. My brand started from there and continues to allow me to incorporate my love for traveling, art, fashion, and modeling into one business. It has always been important for me to embrace my heritage in a way that allows me and women across the world to be effortlessly sexy, thus the birth of AudeSwim.
What has been the immediate effect to your business?
The most immediate effects of Covid-19 have been the abrupt drop in sales and our decreased visibility. Being present at various vendor opportunities and fashion events helps us connect with our existing and potential customers. Since so many events have been cancelled/postponed our in-person customer acquisition and retention efforts have been negatively impacted. It also makes it difficult to create new content. Most of our photo shoots are outside, so we’re having to work around that as well. In addition, Stay at Home Orders have been activated, beaches are closed, and travel is limited, so the need for swimwear has significantly decreased.
How do you see peer brands in Miami and other markets being affected?
Miami is a tourist location, so without any tourists, everyone in the area has been feeling the effects. Non-essential businesses in most areas have been temporarily closed so there’s very little business traffic right now. I have seen brands getting creative with social media to reach and engage with customers.
Although not always immediately thought of when it comes to designer brands, swimwear is very popular, profitable & prominent as statement articles of fashion. With the COVID- 19 virus how do you see it affecting business especially with its hit right before summer and prior to swim week 2020?
I see COVID-19 having a negative effect on the entire 2020 swim season. Multiple vacation destinations are closed for business so there will be a lot less travel. Beaches and pools are closed so there’s no need for swimwear. Countless manufacturers are closed making it extremely difficult to obtain new inventory. Attending Miami Swim Week has been a goal of mine since I began Audeswim and this year’s show has been postponed.
Do you think things will go back to normal? And do you think this may inspire “slow fashion” trends more for the future?
We will continue to have faith and hope through this time and pray that everything will go back to normal but there’s no way to know for sure.
Aside from garment sales, have you noticed a change in your advertising with photoshoots or the campaigns you are choosing or having to run in these moments?
Not being able to work outside has made creating new content difficult since all of our photoshoots are done outside at different locations. We are however planning to create more campaigns utilizing indoor studios and props and continue to be creative for our customers.
Please provide a brief intro on yourself and your brand name as a model.
Hi, my name is Mariama Diallo and I am an actress and model from Guinea, West Africa. I have been modeling for almost 8 years and have been blessed to grace campaigns with brands such as Savage Fenty by Rihanna and Marc Jacob Beauty. I have also had the privilege of being featured in magazines such as Vogue and NYLON. I am in the upcoming Disney film “Jungle Cruise” starring Dwayne Johnson which is set to come out this fall. I am based between Los Angeles & New York City but currently self-quarantining in Los Angeles.
What has been the immediate effect to your modeling career?
With regards to Film and Fashion, nearly everything has stopped. Nobody is physically shooting, which for a lot of us implies that our main source of income has also stopped. However, because of how social media has connected us, we are able to collaborate with brands in new ways. Even though no one is having physical shoots, I have seen numerous models teaming up with brands to uplift everybody during this time. It's been incredible and motivating to perceive how us creatives have been to connect during this time.
How do you see peer models in the U.S and internationally being affected, and are the effects the same?
What's going on presently is unquestionably felt everywhere throughout the world. It is important for us collectively to remain at home, stay safe, and do our part. I travel regularly for work therefore a great deal of my friends/peers are everywhere throughout the world. I have spoken with models from London to South Africa, and they've shared that a great deal has changed all things considered. I think the fundamental need currently is doing our part to remain at home and prevent the virus from further spreading.
What are some pointers you can give to fellow and younger models on how they may best be able to maximize their downtime to prepare for when things are back on track?
I think this is a great time for models, particularly new models, to research and learn more about the industry. I would advise them to study an agency signed model’s portfolios and work on their poses as well as angles. Additionally, multiple agencies are having model searches right now, so they should definitely go submit.
With a large portion of the world being online, it is the ideal time to put yourself there. I also understand that this time is hard for many individuals. It's important for models to prioritize their mental health and wellness. With all of the pressure on social media, I genuinely believe that it is essential to do what brings you peace during this time.
Do you think things will go back to normal business as usual or do you believe this may inspire " slow fashion " over fast fashion trends?
To be honest, I have no idea what is about to happen. With everything that has changed, it's difficult to anticipate what will occur in the up and coming months. I do know things will get better. Only time will tell what the long term impact will be.
What is your insight on how modeling agencies may be affected by this pandemic?
Social distancing has caused a lot of modeling agencies to readjust the way they pitch models to their clients. Everything changed so fast, which put pressure on agencies to think outside the box and find fun virtual approaches to make the connection. Multiple great new things have come because of these changes; ie live takeovers, workout sessions, partnerships and more. There's no way of knowing the long term impacts of this, but I have a feeling that the community formed will last beyond social distancing.
More personally, what has been one of your biggest struggles you have overcome working your way to where you are now in the industry?
The biggest battle I had to overcome was my fear. In Guinea, things are extremely different than they are in the states. My culture is strict and old fashioned; women marry at a younger age and modeling is definitely looked down upon. I was scared that my family would reject me and that by pursuing this career, I would be putting my mom and family's reputation on the line.
I couldn't let that stop me. I saw the art form in modeling/acting and knew that I could make an impact, showing my community that it is okay to pursue creative endeavors. Looking back eight years later, I have no regrets. This career has helped me take care of my mom as well as my family back home. To get to where I am in my career, I had to learn early on to know myself and remain true to who I am. Acting and modeling has given me a platform to make a difference, this is only the beginning.
Creating beautiful, comfortable pieces in a diverse, functional atmosphere has always been a part of DONNI’s process roots. Creator Alyssa Wasko has worked 10 years to build her brand along with a team of only women-owned factories in Los Angeles. She is no stranger to a diverse team and an open mind when it comes to both design and the world around her, and plans to do so in the face of anti-Blackness in the world today. Wasko began creating a line of scarves as an element of physical and coping comfort following her father, Donald’s, passing, and naming the resulting company after him: DONNI was born. Scarves were the only product produced for the first seven years. As time went on, and as scarves were being worn as tops, word-of-mouth organically took DONNI from being solely scarves to a line of clothing and accessories that carries the cool-meets-comfort vibe that DONNI is known for today. T-shirts adorned with pearl buttons, brightly cool-colored terry cloth short and quarter-zip sets, sunglass chains, and hair clips: there is absolutely no denying how utterly cool and sophisticated DONNI (and Wasko) is. Just check out the website: you will not be disappointed. It could be easy for another born and bred Los Angeles brand to get lost in the sea of, well, the other Los Angeles born and bred brands; all of them claiming they are the best simply because they are from Los Angeles (just like people from Los Angeles, better by an association of location). But with its stunning pieces, DONNI, through Wasko’s creativity and eye for design, brings a diverse, women-only team with it; driving its message of style and activism through hard work and product. Wasko wants to continue promoting diversity and opportunity in her company, through both awareness in a world, the world of fashion, that is often not forgiving or open to change, starting within her brand, and moving out into the industry and world as a whole. “I would like to see more good, I think that there is a lot of icky stuff in fashion, to be honest, and, call it like it is, when working with women, unfortunately, there can be some cattiness and toxicity and competitiveness that comes along with it,” Wasko said. “I want to see positivity, and good, whether that is doing good, and not looking out for the bottom line and more looking out for your people.” Wasko’s own accountability for her brand and associates mirrors her opinion and goals in the wake of the protests and growing awareness of the racism that goes on in fashion, and in general. “I want to see people continue with this movement, myself included, and hold myself accountable...I just really care and want to be a part of a change in whatever way DONNI can contribute to that,” Wasko said. “Even though we are a small brand, it is important to use whatever platform we have to do whatever we can. That would be an evolution and a process.”
Although DONNI could be described as a niche, certain audience-targeted style, and brand, Wasko wants to use her line and its leverage to continue the narrative of equality, and to provide for others, instead of being in the fashion game solely for fame and fortune. “It is important to me that this is now embedded in our brand going forward, and it’s not just a short-lived thing,” Wasko said. “My motivation in growth is less fueled by making a ton of money and more so giving opportunities to different people” Wasko is devoted to continuing this incredibly prominent narrative. Her goals going forward, even more so than before, are to grow and provide prominent opportunities for others, in every aspect of her company. From those who deliver her clothing, to those who create the unique and stunning dyes used to create DONNI’s signature tones, to those working in her stories, and those modeling her clothing. She is all about that, and she certainly is all about maintaining DONNI’s promises to activism, as well as encouraging others to stick to the promises they have made in the last few weeks, and utilizing mindfulness going forward. “Follow-through is everything,” Wasko said. “I would like to see other female-owned brands being more mindful and staying committed and holding themselves accountable to the promises they’ve made the last few weeks.” She is right. Wasko’s awareness of how poorly performative activism reflects on a brand’s the message, and knows how important it is to continue to take action against racism in fashion, and not trail off as time passes. Wasko’s idea of accountability and activism transcends politics; for her, the movement is an issue of human rights and is not up for discussion. Wasko believes that if you do not align with her beliefs of inclusion and opportunity within her brand, then DONNI is not for you. It is a big step to take action on social media for a brand, but at the end of the day, it is about doing what is right, not doing what will get the most likes. This concept brings up a great general concept of making sure you do not just enjoy the brand, but you learn about what they support, and how they are making a difference in activism today. “[I]t doesn’t have to be political,” Wasko said, “but [activism] should not be just to make money.” For Wasko and DONNI, doing good in business means taking care, amplifying the voices, and looking out for people. Take note, world of fashion. By: Emily Goldberg
Asata Maisé, a fashion designer who incorporates vintage materials into each of her handmade pieces, has recently been selected for Halsey’s Black Creators Funding Initiative. Maisé’s designs are intricate and one of a kind; in addition to dresses, blazers, blouses, and pants, she plays on 90s nostalgia with classic shoulder bags while integrating modern trends like bucket hats into her collections. In a time of tragedy and revolution, many brands have been actively trying to uplift and promote Black creators - Asata being one of them. In this interview, we discuss her style (an intersection of multiple fashion eras and materials) her inspirations, upbringing, and the impact of BLM on her career.
How would you describe your brand? My brand is an extension of myself. A few words I'd use to describe my brand would be nostalgic, frivolous, and genuine. I read that your passion for sewing and fashion began when you were fourteen. How has your creative vision evolved over the last decade, and has your upbringing impacted your design choices? My taste, interest, and lifestyle has changed so much in the last decade. I prefer quality over quantity. I’ve been exposed to so many different cultures, films, music, and foods in my travels. As far as my upbringing, I always had to be creative. My mom frequently made something out of nothing - that gift has stayed with me throughout the years. My personal style developed from shopping at second hand stores because I simply couldn't afford new clothes from the mall as a teenager.
What or who inspires you, pushes you, and catalyzes your creative growth? This is always difficult to answer because I could go on for days about who/what specifically inspires me. My Tumblr blog is a good starting point to see what I'm recently indulging in (asatamaise.tumblr.com). One of the most pivotal moments in my life was in front of a panel of judges for the Project Runway auditions in 2018. The feedback I received was that I had vision but needed to get out of my comfort zone. That has stayed in the back of my mind for the last few years. In my recent work, I try to push the boundaries in whatever ways I can. What drew you to the style of patchworking? My intention is to limit my waste as much as possible. I’ve always kept fabric remnants from completed projects. One day, after seeing a vintage patchwork skirt on Etsy, I decided that’s what I could do with the leftover fabric pieces. Et voilà. I’ve noticed you combine vintage elements of fashion with modern trends. What era of fashion would you say is your favourite to explore? Probably the 60s into the early 70s combined with the early 2000s. Historically, the 60s & 70s were so unprecedented in not only design but also social and political revolution. The 2000s brought us sex appeal and freedom with high hopes of the new millennium. In what ways have you had to understand business and entrepreneurship in your career? Do you think you were prepared for this? I did not come from wealth or a family with financial literacy. I’ve worked in restaurants since the age of 17. I've learned time management, social skills, and saving as a server and manager. My mother is an entrepreneur, so naturally I was inclined to start my own business. I made a lot of mistakes and learned many lessons from them. How has the BLM movement, and the push to buy from Black fashion designers and creatives, impacted your career? It's changed my career overnight. I feel like I am finally getting recognition for all the hard work I've put in over the years. I'm able to get some help, have a studio space, and sell out in a matter of hours. It's unfortunate that it's happening under these circumstances. But I'd be a fool to reject support of my business. I hope that supporting Black artists is upheld forever and not just another trend. How do you think we can ensure BLM is not just a trend in the world of fashion? Continued funding for upcoming designers. Looking at internal company structures and making sure there is real diversity. Giving credit, fair pay and more opportunities to Black artists. Continuing to hold racists brands/designers/owners accountable for their actions. Do you have any advice for young creatives trying to break into the world of fashion? Now is the time. Post the project you've been working on. Ask for help and apply for grants. Look for internships. Know your worth. Asata’s designs can be found at https://www.asatamaise.com/ or on her Instagram @asata.maise. She is definitely a designer to watch in the upcoming years.
Fe Noel, a black-owned luxury fashion label is changing the fashion game. Over the years, her styles have become impactful and inspirational for many aspiring fashion designers. Her brand is the definition of hard work and success. At a young age Felicia Noel, founder, and designer of the Brooklyn based brand Fe Noel. Knew she was meant to become an entrepreneur. She gets her inspiration from her family’s entrepreneurial careers. That led her desire to create something of her own. Noel’s fashion line is inspired by her Grenadian heritage. The ready-to-wear collections are filled with bold prints and solids that complements many different shades of brown. There are resort styles for travel and essentials for the everyday working woman. Noel’s start to fashion was purely based on her self-motivation. She did not earn formal fashion training from a university. Nor did she have investors to fund her vision. Her talent and creativity are solely self-taught. To start her business, she began designing clothing. In the basement of her mother's daycare. As she continues to do now. Fe Noel’s popularity has increased over the years. Celebrities have fallen in love with her unique designs. They have been seen on Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Gabrielle Union, and Robin Roberts. Just to name a few, Noel has also influenced streetwear styles. In 2018 the designer did a collaboration with Lebron James’ first women basketball shoe. The brand embodies following your desires. Felicia Noel’s work is admirable and motivational. She created her own foundation, Dream in Color where she serves as a mentor for young women. Who has the passion to become an entrepreneur? Fe Noel can be purchased at Bloomingdales and Fe Noel.com Sarah Fontanges
Adi: Hi Awa! I hope all has been well with you, I’m so excited to discuss Black in Time and how it relates to some of the events happening in the world today. To jump in, why was Black in Time important to you to showcase at FIT? Awa: It’s essential because, attending a predominantly white institution at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I feel underrepresented as a whole on campus. Becoming the Black Student Union’s president, my first mission was; how are we bringing the culture to this school and how are we forming communities along the way? Not only through FIT but also neighboring schools including other SUNY and CUNY partners. Black in Time was a safe space for our people to not only learn about our history but to sit back and embrace what we’ve done. All we’ve been taught is our history of the enslavement of being oppressed. Changing the narrative to showcase our culture was vital to showcase that we are no longer oppressed. Adi: The importance of celebrating the communities accomplishments is so beautiful as well. If this exhibit were to be done in 20 years, what kind of fashion, music, art, or culture would you hope to be showcased? Awa: Some of the stories I would love to see are those within A.I. and tech. There’s a lot of us within that field that we forget about, and I would also love to expand on Africa as a continent. We tend to forget too how rich and beautiful it is. I would love to see those advances in another installation while still honoring the original intent of the exhibit. Adi: How do you feel about activism in fashion? Do you see it as a trend or do you think that this is a moment that brands will actually be responsible with their values? Awa: I believe in both. Black people historically come up as a trend in culture, there was a time being African wasn’t cool and Burner Boy wasn’t the hottest artist out, but it also is important to take this time to have deeper conversations. I myself had to stand up to my first beauty campaign in which I wasn’t represented and. Even though it may have messed up a future brand deal with them I didn’t care because my morals and my integrity told me to say, as your darkest model, how are you showing up for this community? Holding these brands accountable is what needs to happen in a time like this, and the energy should be kept. Adi: Exactly, the power of social media in that it’s empowered consumers to demand transparency beyond a black square post will hopefully keep encouraging the conversation. Perhaps this time will serve as a benchmark for one, two, five, or ten years from now.
Awa: Right. The brands who I felt should’ve been at the forefront of this movement were the ones who messed up along the way. This is the opportunity to speak up and be loud. The companies and institutions that have messed up with money and influence. Adi: How do you think people can support Black-owned businesses now and how can businesses get in touch with emerging Black talent? Awa: As an influencer, tackling this algorithm is an important step in exposing smaller brands or people with a smaller following, but support in ways that you know how, and do your research! Dig further than the top companies you find in your google search. Also, donating to petitions and funds, and looking at the integrity of the brand you purchase from rather than just shopping due to convenience. Adi: Agreed, it’s such an easy way to support when you know exactly where your dollar is going and how it’s making an impact. And speaking of which, tell us about Kaday.Ko! Awa: So, Kaday.Ko is a brand that started by the name of Awa by Kaday, which was originally going to be a fragrance line. As we got closer to the launch of the product an accident happened this time last year, and I wasn’t able to operate the line. I made a vow to myself then that by the time next year rolls around for my birthday, I would be ready to launch. I reached out to the Cosmetics Fragrance and Marketing department at FIT, along with the chairmen and students and alumni of the program, and industry professionals for advice. I made the goal of launching on July 26th which was the same day as my accident, but I also didn’t want to rush something like a fragrance. I always have had a deep passion for fashion and am getting ready to launch a Summer Capsule for 7/26. It’s going to launch as a line of 70 items including graphics celebrating the African diaspora. Adi: That’s so exciting! So will this capsule be clothes that you’ll be designing or a vintage curation? Awa: So this will be clothes that I’m designing myself but as we create more capsules we will be venturing into vintage pieces as well.As a dedicated thrifter, whichever item you pick up from my vintage collection will feel like something that has been truly curated. I’m not big on fast fashion, I love the originality and sustainable aspect of clothing. Adi: I can’t wait! It’s so powerful to be releasing this a year after what you’ve been through. I’m so proud!! Awa: It was definitely hard this past year especially with all of the projects and maintaining schoolwork, but ultimately I’m proud to have done something for the community. Adi: And that something was huge! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk, I know you’re going to a protest today. Be safe, be well, I miss you!