What woman doesn’t love accessories? So why not buy them from Black-owned companies? In the spirit of Fashion Week which is just around the corner, here are some to check out companies worth watching.
Candra Palmer didn’t let the challenges of being an African-American company breaking into the highly competitive shoe industry stop her. “It was and is very difficult. However through lots of research, mentors, and countless conversations with other designers. It all helped make that road a little easier,” she says. “However the challenges that I have endured have changed over the years. In my beginning years finding financing, Understanding the Footwear life cycle, launching and developing a product, and distribution was a major issue. As the years moved on technology, multiple resources, and staying in the mix.”
Palmer has made sure to appeal to a broad customer base. “One key ingredient that has helped me grow, has been not limiting my resources to just people that look like me,” she explains.
Artyce, named after the designer’s mother, offers custom footwear collection (U.S.A. made) catering to brides and women attending special events.
She launched the company in 2004 because of her own love of shoes and accessories. “I launched it just for fun,” she says enthusiastically. “ I always loved sparkly accessories and shoes are my favorite! Plus, my parents always tell me to do what you want to do in life. So after doing the business just for fun for a couple of years I took it serious. I then started utilizing my formalized education, corporate experience, contacts and priceless info I learned from my seamstress mother and started Artyce.” In 2006, Artyce opened their first retail location in Culver City, Calif., later relocating to a showroom in Downtown Los Angeles in 2009. By 2011, Artyce expanded into Houston, Texas, opening a location there.
One of the most important marketing moves, Artyce has been able to attract celebrity customers. “Initially we attracted them through personal contacts, and resources. I spent many years interning in the fashion industry building relationships so In the early years of Artyce prior to social media we did lots of product placement with celebrities on the red carpet, tv shows, in magazines, in movies, and fashion shows. Later on we built multiple partnerships with large consumer product corporations and tv networks. So many ways got me to celebrity clients. But in our world of Artyce every client is a celebrity,” says Palmer.
Tyra Banks, Sanaa Lathan, Wendy Williams, Geena Davis, Sophia Bush, Queen Latifah, Rachel Bilson, and Rihanna are just a few of the customers of Samanta Shoes. Samanta Joseph’s niche is stylish and fashion forward shoes for larger shoe sizes. Women with larger sizes often have trouble finding stylish shoes with comfort in their size and Samanta offers large size women’s shoes in size 11 to size 14, and wide width sizes. Samanta started the company with her husband Kelvin Joseph in New York.
In an online article, Joseph was quoted as saying that she stands out from competition because “Samanta Shoes is dedicated to serving a group of women that are often
overlooked, and made to feel inferior. Women that wear larger shoe
sizes, desire current fashion trends and are frustrated by the lack of
Aminah Abdul Jillil
Amina Abdul Jillil started her professional career as a dancer in Los Angeles, working for such music stars as Britney Spears and Janet Jackson. She also appeared in commercials for Pepsi, Mazda, and New Balance. But in 2012, fresh off her third world tour with Spears, Jillil debuted her first collection of women’s shoes selling mostly online as well as in a few L.A.-based boutiques including famed Fred Segal. Her first collection got a major boost when Rihanna wore one of her designs in the “Where Have You Been” music video.
Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, she has been written about in EBONY, Fashion Bomb Daily, Vogue and The Huffington Post.
Gregory Sylvia, LLC
Husband and wife Gregory and Terri “Sylvia” Pope have a growing handbag company called aptly Gregory Sylvia, LLC. “We initially launched the company for two reasons. The first was the fact that Terri ‘Sylvia’ liked handbags and the second was that we noticed such an overwhelming lack of African-American presence in the market. We both wanted to change this so we decided to combine our talents and skills to build a brand together,” explains Gregory.
Headquartered in Charlotte, NC, Gregory Sylvia offers luxury leather goods for men and women. CEO/president Gregory holds an MBA in International Business and is lead designer for Gregory Sylvia. Terri holds an MBA in Business Management and as the vice-president and CFO, Terri manages company marketing and sales initiatives.
But like most startups CEO/president faced its share of challenges. “For us, the difficulties were found in navigating the natural learning curve of the industry. Things like finding the right manufacturing, learning how the market operates, and developing brand recognition have been challenges,” says Terri.
Now they they have an established customer base, they are always looking at ways of expanding. “Using cost effective tools that are available to us has been our method to attract customers. Using various social media platforms to reach an audience has worked well for us. We like to stay connected and engaged to customers by sharing some of the behind the scenes of our company and a little of our personal lives. In addition, by providing quality products and service it encourages customers to share our brand with others,” explains Gregory.
Minku has been called the Hermes of Africa. Based in Nigeria, Minku was founded by Kunmi Otitoju 2011 and specializes in leather bags for men and women. Otitoju, who was working in computer science research and consultancy path at such companies as Goldman Sachs, decided she wanted to work on her on. What makes Minku stand out is that it everything is handmade and they company has a philosophy of Repurpose, reuse, and reduce waste (80 percent of its bag interiors are lined with repurposed items of Yoruba ceremonial dress– aso-oke & damask fabrics.
“After studying computer science (Bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Howard University and Master’s degree from Virginia Tech), I worked in consulting, then enrolled in a year-long art program in Barcelona. Launching my company, Minku, has been a way to combine these interests and influences into something I can share with other like-minded people,” explains Otitoju.
Minku has been extremely successful in attracting customers–and attention in the industry. “We’ve utilized social media in getting the word out, and also blogging. Last year, Forbes magazine named me as one of the 30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa, by virtue of my work at Minku,” says Otitoju. “This was a godsend in many ways, including marketing. I try to attract and retain customers by continuing to come up with unexpected and original designs executed using quality leathers and fabrics. But all this would be futile if we didn’t have the best network of family, friends, clients, and well-wishers that not only spread the word about Minku, but also keep encouraging the brand in all the ways they can. Much needed because the creative entrepreneurship journey is not an easy one.”
Christopher Augmon offer fine jewelry, accessories, and luxury handbags. According to Augmon on his website, his design inspiration comes from the many different customs and ethnicities he been exposed to. Augmon, who himself has modeled for such companies as Ralph Lauren, The Jones Store Company, Sears, and Hallmark Cards, started designing leather apparel in 2008, focusing on high-end luxury designer handbags for women and men three years ago, accessories three years ago and now a new line of Fine Jewelry Line of wedding bands, gold, platinum, diamond jewelry bearing the logo “CA.”
Christopher Augmon handbags and accessories can be found in boutiques nationwide on in the company’s website.