The fashion industry can be a tough career to enter, especially for African-Americans. And while clothes are big business–apparel sales for 2000 reached $315 billion, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association. The projected number of fashion designer jobs in 2016 will be just 21,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Most designers, however, enter the field not just for monetary gains but a love of fashion. This is what made B Michael start his own line. His New York-based company, B. Michael A M E R I C A (www.bmichaelamerica.com), is considered one of the lines to watch in the industry. “Millinery Designer (ladies hats) in the early 90’s and introduced my first clothing collection of Couture and RTW (ready-to-wear) in 1999,” says B. Michael.
His growing brand continues to expand. “The flagship Couture Collection is sold as a made to measure collection through our New York Atelier and high-end independent specialty stores in New York, Palm Beach, Florida and Chevy Chase, Maryland,” says B. Michael. Among his A-List clientele are Cicely Tyson, Tamara Tunie, TV exec Susan Fales-Hill, Victoria Rowell, Nancy Wilson, Beyonce Knowles, the late Lena Horne, Lynn Whitfield, Angela Bassett, Myrna Colley-Lee (ex-wife of actor Morgan Freeman), and Venus and Serena Williams.
While B. Michael loves fashion, he didn’t start out as a designer. After graduating from the University of Connecticut, he became an account executive for a Wall Street firm. When he landed a job designing for such famed designers as Oscar de la Renta and Louis Feraud, he decided to strike out on his own. The fashion industry can be daunting to enter, but there was not much that fazed B. Michael. “At this stage I would say it is not productive to focus on the obstacles, which every industry has. It is productive, while understanding the challenges, to understand the nuances of starting a business, having a strong well thought out business plan and clear financial objectives,” he says.
It is also an expensive field to compete in. In fact, a fashion presentation at Bryant Park during N.Y. Fashion Week will cost at least $50,000. “The fashion industry is indeed an expensive business but can also be a very profitable business,” notes B. Micheal. “I would say to newcomers it’s important to partner with a business person, worth repeating… together build a strong business plan and financial strategy. That is typically the first step to getting funding.”
B. Michael makes it a point to get involved in charitable organizations. He works with Autism Speaks, Dream Yard Project, and the Cicely Tyson School Of Performing And Fine Arts.