Designer Kashmir Thompson on Starting Her Black Pop Culture-Inspired Brand

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KashmirPainter and graphic designer Kashmir Thompson has taken her love of 90?s sitcoms and Black icons and turned it into a business. She sells clutches, totes, shirts and prints, all designed by hand, adorned with Black idols like activist Malcolm X, rapper Lil’ Kim and singer Grace Jones along with popular television show characters, from shows such as A Different World, and pop culture figures.

Her totes have been worn by stars such as actress Angela Bassett and model Karrueche Tran, and have been featured in Essence Magazine under the ?Women of the Arts? column.

Rachel Dixon, an art collector, said that art comes from what you know.

?I bought [Thompson?s] ?Black Girl Pain? print to hang above my bed,? said Dixon. “I love this painting and so much of her work because she really speaks to the kinds of images we want to see as Black people and the memories we had when we were younger.”

With the growing influence of social media as a force for fashion, more boutiques and online-based fashion stores are using Instagram as a source of branding.

Thompson has more than 26,000 followers on Instagram and 10,000 on Twitter; she has branded herself as a creative force online.

She uses Instagram and other types of social media to market her designs. She says what is trending on social media has the potential to have more of an impact in the world of fashion than the high-priced designs on the runway because of the accessibility.

Here, Thompson speaks to TNJ.com to discuss her designs in depth.

TNJ.com: When did you start painting?

Kashmir Thompson: I started painting in high school, so at about 15ish, although I never took painting seriously until about 2-3 years ago.
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TNJ.com: Do you have any other creative outlets?

K.T.: Any type of art really is my creative outlet. I like to draw, I like to sing and dance, though I?m not good at any of it, and anything that’s hands-on that allows me to be creative and expressive.

TNJ.com: How do you begin your process?

K.T.: I begin my process by first thinking of any idea and then by drawing out a rough draft of what I see in my head. Sometimes I listen to music or watch movies for inspiration.
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TNJ.com: Was there a large reception to your work when you first put it out?

K.T.: Not immediately. My work started becoming better received when I started painting things in Black pop culture, such as shows and movies, that people could relate to or that brought back good memories for them.
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TNJ.com: Why make totes, clutches, candles, why not just regular canvas paintings and sell those?

K.T.: Totes, clutches, etc., give my audience a chance to be walking billboards for me. Nobody can see my art if it is kept in the house on a canvas, up on a wall.

Putting my artwork on things you can use in your everyday life, outside of your home, not only helps spread the word about me, but also gives my customers a chance to showcase outside of their home, some of the Black icons that influenced them.
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TNJ.com: How do you deal with people who copy your style?

K.T.: It’s kind of hard to, really. Most times, I don?t. Unless a person is just actually stealing and selling my work, there’s not much I can do. I acknowledge it, and I just keep working. The fans of my work bring it to my attention. They see people copying my style and they know not to buy the cheap knock-off version. I put a lot of time and effort into my art and it shows.