Here’s the deal, I love Nordstrom Rack and Zara just as much as anyone, and getting a good deal on a coat or dress is one of my favorite pastimes, but it has occurred to me more than once that if I could trade some of that time, energy and money I devote to adorning this natural black girl magic and invest it in stores and brands that provide jobs and living wages to people who need them, it would be a double pleasure…like having my cake and eating it too. Imagine, if we could actually upcycle our clothes and accessories and have our fashion choices be environmentally neutral? To that end, I did some research and here are five black woman-owned fashion brands that are all committed to a social and environmental conscious value chain, through procurement policies and value-add processes that focus on the greater good. They are using their passion for personal style to positively impact our world.
With a colorful fashion background, Auroura James began Brother Vellies. This cult-favorite brand (endorsed by some of your favorite celebs– like our Queen Mother Beyonce) introduces fashion conscious consumers to the gorgeous patterns and work of traditional artisans from Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and throughout South Africa. With a principal focus on sustainability, every part of this operation has environmental intentionality. From the person who makes the shoes, to the leather used, and even the scraps of that leather, there is a use and purpose. As for pricing, well, they are generally on the heftier side, but ya know– who says fashionable sustainability doesn’t cost sis?
Throw that Dooney and Burke out the window, and give that played out Coach bag to Goodwill. LULAH is a Brooklyn-based lifestyle and heritage brand that focuses on honoring the “daring, persistent, and unsung women of color throughout American history”. In the spirit of its namesake, Lula Bright, the founder, Ibadah Wadud’s mother, who grew up in the oppressive Jim Crow South, this brand works to create heirloom-quality leather handbags. LULAH’s non-profit partner, the Women’s Prison Association, offers paid training to women impacted by the criminal legal system who are seeking careers in fashion. No need to feel insecure about securing these bags!
No haste, no waste. Fast fashion is becoming a thing of the past. “Fanm Djanm” which means ‘strong woman’ in Haitian Kreyol, is a zero-waste fashion and lifestyle company that can help you jump start your eco-friendly fashion journey in a conscious and stylish way. Specializing in hand-made headwraps, all fabrics and dyes are provided by way of international wholesalers. When possible, the company will source and handpick certain materials from African entrepreneurs. By “turning a cover-up into a coveted accessory” Fanm Djanm recycles and upcycles both fabrics and jewelry.
Founded by celebrity stylist Dechel McKillian, Galerie.la brings socially conscious fashion to the masses through a specialty selection of brands. McKillian has dressed some of Hollywood’s favorites, from Drake to Lionel Richie, and knows full well the negative influence fashion can have on people and our beloved planet. By presenting, eco-friendly, local, recycled, or vegan fashion brands to consumers Galerie.la is “making green the bonus, and not the focus”. Their Los Angeles store features a gorgeous curation of sustainable fashion from brands such as; Known Supply, Back Beat Rags, and Father’s Daughter, so you can raise your vibrations and shop without the guilt.
The Tiny Closet
If you are a fashionista who has made the lifestyle change to minimalism, The Tiny Closet is the shop for you sis. Subscribing to the adage “be the change you want to see in the world”, Natalie Live took the minimalist ideals she had applied to her closet and decided to share them with us. This company began as a popular personal style blog and strives to make your mornings easier by providing you with a few simple, adorable clothing options that can be worn over and over, dressed up or dressed down. Flex your style and keep your shopping simple.
Tonika Reed is a journalist, copywriter, and short fiction writer currently based in Los Angeles, California. Her work has appeared in The OC Register, Resolute Magazine, AislePlanner, and many more. Tonika loves to write about fashion and design, and when she’s not writing, you can find her retweeting others at @TonikaReed, curating her tea collection, or watching reruns of Three’s Company.
Featured Photo: The Tiny Closet