Three immaculately dressed black women adorned the screen. In reworked vintage pieces with “FUBU” and “Phat Farm” lettering on the front, you posed together during a fashion photo shoot, their every move exuding flair and confidence.
An instrumental version of the song Juvenile played in the background, prompting anyone in the know to prepare for the lyrics “Cash Money Records Takes Over in ’99 and 2000s.” And between the shots, Shyla Janel Hill was directing and arranging the sets.
Miss Hill owns Casual and chic, an online vintage store in Houston. She now presents the Y2K collection, which pays homage to the elite Black fashion brands of the early 2000s. For many black fashion entrepreneurs and shoppers, the current resale boom is not just a trend, but also deeply rooted in their communities and shared history.
Resale industry expected to be worth $ 51 billion by 2023, and is growing much faster than traditional retail. While platforms such as eBay, Farfetch, Poshmark, and Tradesy dominate e-commerce for resale, many independent sellers create their own sites or Etsy stores and do social media marketing. The internet has opened up new opportunities for black-owned stores that are often overlooked and under-represented in the nationwide conversation about the resale industry.
“I am aware of the power of representation and what it looks like in the world of vintage,” said Ms Hill. “Black women are in the minority in this niche, although there are plenty of black women who love frugality and love fashion. I mean, we’re taste makers.
“I attribute my success to black women,” she added. “I think that the style is innate for us, and for many years I did not perceive it as a gift inherent in my DNA. So a lot of people don’t see it as a valuable asset, and in the meantime, here in such and such a fancy publication, they pay thousands of dollars to someone to copy what they see we do. “
McKinsey recent report found that only 4% of black businesses survive the startup phase. Lack of access to capital is cited as a major disadvantage, and the reasons for racism and discrimination are well known.
Ms Hill is working to combat this by creating resources to educate and empower black women to enter the resale industry as entrepreneurs. She shares her knowledge and experience through workshops, ebooks and weekly business chats on Instagram Live (aka “Chic Talks”). She also recently launched a new initiative, Small Business Saturday, where she posts about black business on Instagram Stories Random and Chic.
“The good thing about a crop is that it doesn’t have to be expensive to start with,” said Ms. Hill. “On Saturday for Small Business, I just wanted to share my platform. Since I sell vintage, I only have one copy of each piece, so there is no way I can accommodate more than 200,000 people. I figured I could share my space to help other companies with marketing, and at an affordable price. This comes from the fact that I want to see people win and give them the opportunity to invest in themselves. “
Mariah Collazo, owner Vanilla Vintage in Raleigh, North Carolina, quickly realized that plus size black women were not adequately represented by online vintage sellers. “I first saw this problem when I was in college and was trying to find affordable clothing on a tight budget,” she said. – I rarely managed to find funny, fashionable clothes that would fit in large sizes. I don’t see the point in sustainability if it is not available to everyone. “
As a fashion and textile student at North Carolina State University, Ms. Collazo opened her store as a part-time job and went full-time after graduation. “I understand that vintage clothing tends to be a little smaller as body sizes have changed over time,” she said. “But still, some of the vintage clothing brands I’ve seen on the Internet had a certain aesthetic and seemed to be very limiting. Sustainable fashion is good, but I haven’t seen myself in this area. So I created Vanilla Vintage as a way to be that representative. “
Ms Collazo plans to expand her company further with designer bags and leather goods.
She has partnered with other Black-owned stores and plans to continue. “We have even more to work together and not compete with others. I saw this when I collaborated with other Black business owners, other vintage store owners. By bringing together resources, you will achieve much more. ”
For black women, reworking clothes was not always a choice, but a necessity. Jim Crow laws in the south have prohibited black shoppers from shopping in countless department stores for decades. Some skimped on Black-owned stores, private homes, and public space sales, among other things, and recycling of antiques and used items became a powerful means of expression and style.
Black churches and historically black colleges and universities put on long-awaited fashion shows in black communities, giving tailors, hatters, and other designers the opportunity to showcase their talents.
Although the terms recycling and upcycling have recently come into use, black women have been using these techniques for centuries. Today’s Black-owned vintage shops are an extension of that same spirit of creativity, and the ubiquity of social media allows all this artistry and ingenuity to be displayed on the global stage.
Scrolling the Instagram page Golden Bird Boutiqueowned by C. Golden in Baltimore, showcases powerful images of impeccable black beauty, filled with bold prints, eye-catching jewelry and elaborately knotted headscarves.
Throughout the transatlantic slave trade, enslaved black women continued their ancestral headband culture in the United States. During the days of slavery, some states even passed laws prohibiting black women from appearing in public without a headdress.
Although these laws were built on colonialism and oppression, many black women used them as an opportunity to honor their culture and traditions. Today Ms. Golden regularly incorporates this ancestral tradition into her looks. The kits she creates include everything from contemporary black art to vintage Ebony issues, making a statement about culture as well as fashion.
“I feel like black women have always been trendsetters, cool creators, so to speak. We are definitely revolutionizing the field of vintage, ”said Ms. Golden. “Black women have a special sauce and we pour it on everything we do. I love seeing how we style and re-do vintage pieces to give them a modern and fresh look. I always try my best to create looks that inspire women to stop consuming fast fashion and find creative ways to breathe new life into clothes with a story. “
She is also aware of the potential impact of her work on future generations. “I want my daughter to look at my brand and see the mirror,” she said. “For me, it has always been deeper than fashion: my goal is to convey a message of beauty, strength, sustainability and respect for the environment.”
For Simone Hines, owner Old style as well as Cuondam Cult, an Etsy subsidiary in New York City, vintage merchandise has become a way to share stories through television and film. Items from her store have been used to stylize characters in Underground, Peaky Blinders, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
“When I started in 2008, there weren’t that many black women,” Ms. Hynes said. “Learning how to date a vintage, determine what decade it is from, learn about the various fabrics, zippers and features that help narrow the year – I had to learn all this on my own. Now that I know, I want to be a mentor to other black women who want to get started. “
Building relationships with people to find and place special items and materials was key for Miss Hynes. This is where nurturing nursing and collaboration comes into play.
“I believe that you belong to whatever space you are in,” she said. “I present a one woman show, but I also have a great relationship that helps when I need to find something special and unique.” She is working with production teams on several upcoming projects, but is unable to share details yet. “One of them has to do with Viola Davis and that’s all I can say!”
Back in Houston, as Ms Hill prepares to release Random and Chic’s Y2K collection, she pauses to admire the quality of the pieces. She took over the sewing, materials and construction. “For me, this is high fashion,” she said. “Seriously, just think about what they said. FUBU. For us, us. This is such a powerful statement. “