Designing BLACK: Celebrating Black History in Fashion
Updated: Mar 15
"I am not a quitter. I will fight until I drop. It is just a matter of having some faith in the fact that as long as you are able to draw breath in the universe, you have a chance."
Cicely Tyson aka Mama CiCi
America has experienced some of its greatest but also some of its most challenging moments this past year. Issues our country has faced since its declaration of independence seemed to breach the dams that held troubled waters in a controlled place as protests and riots ensued despite stay at home orders across the nation. Regardless of the ongoing obstacles presented throughout 2020, many achievements have been made and many businesses rose to the challenge. The business world, in particular, was hit and nearly 31% of small businesses declared themselves non-operational amid the COVID-19 shutdowns. Meanwhile, a large 52% of personal businesses declared themselves non-operational with the majority (55%) of these businesses were led by women.
Elections made a record setting move forward resulting in our first-ever female Black & Asian American vice president, Kamala Harris. The outfit collection chosen by the new vice president was made by African American designers Sergio Hudson and Kerby Jean-Raymond. The ensemble worn by our new vice president on inauguration day was designed by Sergio who has also famously dressed the previous first lady, Michelle Obama. In fact the outfits were nearly identical!
In recent years Black women have been claiming their stake in the business world. In fashion specifically we’ve seen household names like Rihanna crossover from singer to fashion icon. Her first project was an impressive collaboration with Armani where she designed t-shirts, denim and underwear. Rihanna later on became the first black spokesperson for Dior in 2015. To think this was only five years ago! A clear indication of how underrepresented black people have been in the world of fashion and business.
As we all know, the current struggle to be present in the Market while not being there on the ground was and is difficult during a year like 2020. Many businesses . Yet some brands steered their direction towards investing further in their digital marketing approaches during last year’s pandemic. Specifically, fashion brands who usually rely on promoting their new line of products through runway shows and on ground campaigns where fashion icons are present and appearances of wearing different brands are what highlights the event. Nowadays the case is quite different.
We researched about different fashion brands who have been growing lately & wanted to share one brand in particular that has been making the most out of the pandemic & turning blocked doors into opportunities through marketing!
Learning from other brands’ failures and successes is what helps us refine our strategy when it comes to applying it to our own way of doing business.
Designer and millennial entrepreneur, Briana Shanee Wilson of MATTE Brand pivoted, persevered, and finally prevailed through the challenges of starting her own business six years ago straight into a pandemic that hit many small businesses very hard. Not only was she able to use every challenge as a stepping stone but she also surpassed the projections she set out to reach by the end of the year, closing out her 2020 stronger than ever before.
Briana is an inspiration through her continuous representation of black girls across America. MATTE Brand has been worn by celebrities in hip hop and pop culture throughout the years. The list reaches to names such as Megan Thee Stallion, Teyana Taylor, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Melly, Princess Nokia and Mulatto just to name a few. Matte has done collaborations with local designers such as Grayscale along with rapper and actor YG.
Briana started Matte Brand with the mindset of never wanting to turn in a resume, never signing up to having a boss. Like the majority of millennial entrepreneurs, she wanted to own something that is hers and set out to make sure that would happen with all the resources that she had and would have. Many of the greatest people we’ve come to know through the news after their breakthroughs have mentioned their “leap of faith” moment. Briana’s leap of faith manifested in the moment during her last semester of college when she dropped out and decided that she never wanted to work for anyone ever again and since then she has never looked back.
After dabbling with ideas very similar to the now-popular OnlyFans app, a fashion brand became her avenue on the path to being a successful entrepreneur. Matte Brand ‘s designs are now coveted throughout the world with nearly every collection selling out, sometimes within hours after their first drop.
In a recent interview, also found on her new discussion channel on Soundcloud called éenahsanairb, Briana goes into detail about her mindset in approaching setbacks such as our country’s recent pandemic crisis while running her business. Simply stated; “I watch my actions to make sure that I’m never afraid of it”. She goes on to explain how keeping a positive attitude while facing each and every setback was key in the learning process the pandemic showed itself to be for her personally...
“Right before COVID hit, I was like pushing myself to have this financially free attitude…. I was patient and I think that learning patience was..big. It helped me to..keep finding ways to push forward.”
Briana is often seen posting and tweeting about how important a positive mindset is when it comes to pursuing the manifestation of one’s own success and simply when living life. She takes her role as a social media influencer with finesse, style and a fierce attitude that is supported by many aspiring designers, models and young black entrepreneurs as a whole. Matte Brand has become the fashion brand young black aspiring models can’t wait to see a casting call being held for.
Meanwhile Briana has held classes for black entrepreneurs on how to be your own boss. In an industry that has only very recently experienced representation as well as recognition of black culture, there is no doubt she has experienced her own amount of adversity due to being black. When the world was shutting down, Briana brought a fashion show to the world by creating a virtual runway fashion show found here - MATTE 2020 FASHION SHOW LA. This showed the persistence, dedication and hard work Briana puts into creating value, inspiration & direction for her brand.
“For the longest I never really thought about it. Just because for me, and I think probably for a lot of black people, the amount of money I was making when I first started.. I remember.. I made like a thousand dollars in a day and I was like I never made a thousand dollars in a day. So for me, everything has been a success...I’ve never complained.
‘And then I remember one day one of my friends, Jozzy, was like, “You know if you was white, you would have so much more.”
‘And I just never even really thought about it. When she said that it was very sobering like yes I’m pretty sure if I was white they would be eating me the fuck up. Vogue, everyone, if I was white… I definitely think that it would be received differently BUT I don’t care because I don’t even give a fuck about being received by them truly. I’ve inspired so many girls and changed their lives. “
These words are a staple to the experience of becoming a successful black person in America. A study shows that of the $424.7 billion in total tech funding raised since 2009, only .0006% belongs to black women-led startups. Despite the amazing accomplishments we’ve seen this past year, it is still statistically more difficult for black entrepreneurs to get approved for funding for their startups. Making smart financial decisions is crucial for anyone but especially those who have higher stakes against them. Utilizing resources like the internet and marketing is one way to ensure the success of any small business as it allows you to reach an entire world of people from the comfort of your own home.
As you’ve read, within every effort Briana has valued the importance of marketing when it comes to her brand and herself. In order to be able to run such a successful brand, a necessity is the presence and application of marketing! Most of the time big brands spend their time focusing on their product or service and either have in-house marketing experts or simply outsourced marketing experts taking care of their advertising needs.
It’s not the easiest task to find the right marketing agency that can fully understand your brand and reflect your work as you envision. From the beginning, Briana has been working with a local Digital Marketing company called Evolving World Marketing for close to 2 years. In those two years, EWM NOW’s team has applied the latest marketing trends and media buying techniques in order to show the world Briana’s iconic fashion pieces and vision for progressively influential styles that Matte Brand has taken off. Evolving World Marketing is also based in Los Angeles, CA and works with small, medium and large businesses like Matte Brand. The brands vary in industries from fashion to cryptocurrency, real estate, entertainment, production houses and more! Some of the many brands that EWM NOW has worked with as well are Adidas, The K Label, FromGrayscale, Safetouch, WiseToken, Lips+Loney, and many more.
We leave you with this thought that "Fashion can be used as a cultural translator and a tool against colonization; it re-establishes the balance between symbols, stories and different worlds through style." Never underestimate the power of yourself.
Feel free to leave a comment below with any other helpful tips.
If you need assistance or guidance with getting your brand or business in place, make sure to reach out & request a Free Consultation.
- Izegbe A. Jarvis