Going Solo.Black designers unveil the trials and triumphs of business ownership
You may call them hardheaded hard·head·ed
1. Stubborn; willful.
2. Realistic; pragmatic.
hardhead , obstinate ob·sti·nate
1. Stubbornly adhering to an attitude, opinion, or course of action.
2. Difficult to alleviate or cure. , inflexible or just plain stubborn. These labels are placed on designers who dare to tackle a new business venture when all of the signs before them read: "Stop!" "Dead end!" "Wrong way!"
Experts in the fashion industry wonder why some designers won't heed their They say there are some strong indicators--fewer financial resources, a reduced interest in tailored, custom-made clothing and increasing reluctance among department stores This is a list of department stores. In the case of department store groups the location of the flagship store is given. This list does not include large specialist stores, which sometimes resemble department stores. to take on newcomers--that dictate that designers choose employment over entrepreneurship.
Still, some black designers are forging ahead with plans to put their labels on the map, insisting that they'll overcome the odds. Here are the trials and triumphs of six black designers who dare to single-handedly ride the storms of today's challenging fashion market.
Francis Hendy Inc. * New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of , NY * 212-354-4764
You've probably seen Francis Hendy's work on the backs of a number of popular singing artists, including Busta Rhymes Trevor Smith (born on May 20 1972), better known as Busta Rhymes, is an American hip hop musician and actor. Chuck D of Public Enemy gave him the name Busta Rhymes (from former NFL wide receiver George "Buster" Rhymes) after watching him perform. , Missy Elliot. Jermaine Dupri Jermaine Dupri also known simply as JD (born Jermaine Dupri Mauldin on September 23 1972) is an American record producer and rapper. Dupri is the youngest inductee to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. . Faith Evans and Genuwine. For the last four years, the Years, The
the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]
See : Time 45-year-old has been designing leather, suede and denim suits, as well as futuristic costumes for R&B and rap music rap music or hip-hop, genre originating in the mid-1970s among black and Hispanic performers in New York City, at first associated with an athletic style of dancing, known as breakdancing. videos--a skill that he honed while creating exotic costumes for Brooklyn's Caribbean Day Parade. After becoming the costumer of choice for videos. Hendy's sales jumped from $80,000 in 1996 to more than $500,000 today.
The firm's growth, however, did not happen without some sacrifices. Francis Hendy Inc. was relocated from its Brooklyn location to mid-Manhattan because his celebrity customers needed a more convenient accessible location. In addition, the work is extremely labor-intensive, and Hendy, along with his team of seven sewers, often stay overnight to process the last-minute orders that are typical of the business. It's also difficult for Hendy to increase his clientele. "I meet a lot of storeowners, hut I have to pick and choose because I'm not set up to do big orders," he admits.
Epperson Studio * New York, NY * 212-226-3181
A walk through the SoHo section of New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City
City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S. might lead you to Epperson Studio, a retailer that specializes in made-to-measure clothing, along with a line of off-the-rack Epperson Basic that is influenced by styles from India, Africa and Asia. Prices range from $65 to $1,200, and items include cross-stitched tops, high-waisted patchwork and classic A-line skirts, tie-waist pants, princess dresses and custom-crafted beaded jewelry, The process: customers select items from the store's array of samples, then the owners take their measurements and whip up garments that fit perfectly. At this rate, inventory is very low--typically about five of one item at any given time--and each item is unique. As you might imagine, the personalized service that distinguishes this boutique from other retailers is quite labor-intensive and that precludes it from taking on large wholesale accounts. But that's not a problem for Epperson's owners. "Our goal is not to be mass produced," Lisha Epperson contends "We want our business to grow, but we also want to maintain some of the specialness of our merchandise."
Everette Hall * Washington, DC * 202-467-003 * 202-362-0191
Everette Hall pioneered a new specialty in the fashion arena when he started targeting athletes. "My clothes worked well for them, and they are proud to support a black designer," he says. His intuition is paying off as sales revenues climbed to more than $3 million last year, The designer has two retail boutiques in the D.C. area, sells to more than 50 specialty stores nationwide and enjoys worldwide distribution with Lubiam 1911, one of Italy's oldest and most respected manufacturers. In addition, Hall was recently inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America The Council of Fashion Designers of America is a non-profit trade group for American fashion designers founded in 1962.
The organization sponsors the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, scholarships, and professional development programs, as well as awards for fashion , next to industry heavyweights Bill Blass, Calvin Klein Noun 1. Calvin Klein - United States fashion designer noted for understated fashions (born in 1942)
Calvin Richard Klein, Klein and Donna Karan Donna Karan is the fashion designer and the creator of the DKNY (Donna Karan New York) clothing label. She was born Donna Ivy Faske on October 9, 1948 in Forest Hills, New York. . And he's a regular fixture on Style with Elsa Klensch Style with Elsa Klensch was a program aired on CNN which dealt with fashion and design from around the world. It aired for twenty years, from 1980 to 2000. The program was hosted by Australian-born Elsa Klensch. on CNN CNN
or Cable News Network
Subsidiary company of Turner Broadcasting Systems. It was created by Ted Turner in 1980 to present 24-hour live news broadcasts, using satellites to transmit reports from news bureaus around the world. , a fashion program seen by more than 20 million households worldwide. Despite Hall's long list of accomplishments, the major department stores still won't give his line any floor space. He says, "It's hard for buyers to see beyond my skin color. They think of me as a black guy that can only sell to black consumers."
Edwin Hall worked with his brother Everett Hall for 15 years before he broke into the industry with his own line. Now the Edwin Hall Style 2001 collection showcases high-end suits and sportswear. Prices for business suits range from $995 to $1,200. The sportswear starts at $250. His clients include business professionals as well as celebrity athletes. "It's a collection that you would find on New York's Fifth Avenue," he proclaims. Unfortunately the half million dollar company hasn't been able to penetrate the high-end retailers because "the perception is that when the [department store's] buyers purchase any product they think it will only sell to African Americans. But the clothing is for everyone."
Torrel Harris * Unique Sports * Uniondale, NY * 516-229-2310
After leaving his job as a sports agent, Torrel Harris reentered the arena by introducing reversible warm-up suits for athletes in 1991. The apparel, which includes items licensed by the National Basketball Association National Basketball Association (NBA)
U.S. professional basketball league. It was formed in 1949 by the merger of two rival organizations, the National Basketball League (founded 1937) and the Basketball Association of America (1946). and the National Football League, generated $3 million in sales last year. And Harris was able to build brand recognition by participating in trade shows, advertising in magazines and pumping radio advertisements. But all of these activities burned cash. "Booths at [trade shows] can cost a minimum of $2,500 each Plus, you have to fly their and stay in a hotel," he remembers. He says it was his creativity that helped him stay afloat. "I picked the stores that I wanted to be in and invited their buyers to stop by my booth. We also got our clothes in videos television shows and hosted fashion shows. The big thing is that we were, and continue to be, consistent."
Valerie Mapp * Knottitude * New York, NY * 888-239-KNOT
Valerie Mapp has developed a new line of travel sportswear with no buttons, zippers or snaps. Knottitude produces eight pieces of washable, wrinkle-free clothing that wearers knot up for comfort and style. The company has accumulated almost $200,000 in sales since 1996. The suggested retail price for the collection ranges from $250 to $300. To meet the production demands of the 100 stores she services nationwide, Mapp uses a college student assistant who works hourly, several high school interns who work for car fare and lunch money, and deals with several subcontractors, including a cutting house in Chinatown and four freelance sewers. For extra help, Mapp relies on the expertise of friends who often donate their time to assist her in design, production, public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most , and sales and marketing. Still, these resources don't alleviate all of Mapp's financial challenges, and that's why 90% of her sales are cash on delivery (c.o.d.). "The larger department stores wouldn't entertain c.o.d, sales at all," she admits. "But I can't afford to wait anywhere from 30 to 100 days to get my money, i don't even take a salary for myself because I'm putting money back in the business."