AFROPUNK and Shopify Accelerate!
By Sean A. Malcolm
May 3, 2022
In a collaborative attempt to give Black fashion creatives a life-changing opportunity, AFROPUNK and Shopify have launched the Black Fashion Accelerator Program. This six-month program prepares nine Black business owners for long-lasting careers in an industry that vastly lacks representation of POCs. They will have gems dropped on them from fashion vets and experts—such as designer and creative director at sportswear brand Dyne, Chris Bevans—who will provide resources otherwise not readily accessible in any other scenario. In June, the BFAP concludes its half-year journey with a fashion show where each participant will show off their styles.
Though applications have closed, and the program has made its choices, Shopify is still accepting registrations for their 1MBB program—1 Million Black Business—which helps budding Black business owners get their ideas off the ground.
But before the Black Fashion Accelerator searches for the next nine to shine, let’s look at the Class of 2022!
Bronté Laurent, the founder of the luxury womenswear line par Bronté Laurent, uses sustainable materials made in Ghana that make her clientele feel comfortable and confident. As Laurent simply put it, “I made this for woman, I made this for you.”
Laurent reveals that her business can excel because of the impact BFA had by providing her with all of the resources. Bronte mentions “From financial, marketing, public relations, and manufacturing tools I’ve been provided a majority of the answers I’ve been seeking.”. He has referred to his mentors, program directors, and classmates as “one tribe”, creating a home within the program has been his most enjoyable moment.
Corin Lindsay celebrates Historically Black Colleges and Universities with Corin Demarco, filling a void in the HBCU lifestyle and apparel lane with high-quality clothing that reps your favorite Black institutions.
Sophia Danner-Okotie, a feature in Forbes’ “30 Under 30,” is the founder of Besida. Inspired by West African fashion, the brand has sustainable designs for women that are ethically created in Nigeria.
Creative and visionary, Danner- Okotie, shares that The Black Fashion Accelerator has helped “groomed me[ Sophia] to be a better businesswoman.”. Having not prioritized the business side in the past the program exposed her to techniques on “How to run a successful fashion company.”. In addition, since completing the program her network of professionals has expanded.
Melissa A. Mitchell
Melissa A. Mitchell, who started Abeille Creations and recently partnered up with Foot Locker to create athleisure for women, brings her love for abstract art in her pieces—notably headwraps that have been worn by Lupita Nyong’o, Karen Civil, and more.
Mitchell credits her success moving forward to the BFA program stating “I know that I am a better person as a result of being a part of BFA.” She further explained the valuable information received at the weekly check-ins and hearing from “industry experts” that give “real advice”.
The fashionista has not only gained business resources but she now refers to her classmates as her BFA family stating “I not only feel empowered to scale my business, but I now have real friends in the industry that want to see me win as much as I do.”.
Paakow Essandoh, in 2015, debuted “the official streetwear brand of the African Diaspora” with MIZIZI. Meaning “roots” in Swahili, MIZIZI does just that by blending heritage from the Motherland with today’s fashion trends.
Essandoh expresses how much his business has been tremendously impacted since completing the BFA program. Discovering his confidence in business has helped him develop his decision-making skills by learning how to ask the right questions. However, the best thing about BFA for his business was working with her colleagues stating, “My peers are all dope and doing dope things with their businesses.”
Sylvester Ndhlovu has his core values in the name of his lifestyle brand RuvaAfricWear—”Responsibility,” “Unity,” “Value Creation,” and “Appreciation.” Encouraging consumers to wear a brand that celebrates them, RuvaAfricWear offers options where women can “dress like a queen,” and men can choose “clothes fit for a king.”
Valerie Blaise adds luxury to the handbag and accessories game with Vavvoune, a nickname Blaise’s relatives gave her while growing up in Haiti. With designs birthed out of her showroom in Brooklyn, Blaise brings “a new tier of luxury, not defined by price points but by essence and intentionality.”
Jelisa Smith, who runs House of Fleek, creates made-to-order high-fashion items out of her Florida boutique that is bold, stylish, and size-inclusive.
Classmate Smith reflects on her experience at BFA as an opportunity to gain the knowledge to further grow my[her] business. Smith highlights the add-ons to the program is the personal development as a business owner stating ‘Aside from the knowledge gained from coursework, I have also gained character and competence to succeed.”
Archie Clay and Tajh Crutch
The creative duo of Archie Clay and Tajh Crutch wants you to put down the fitteds and switch up your hat game with their luxury line, Wear Brims. With their collection of fedoras seen on the heads of Chris Paul, Eva Marcille, and others, this brand has caught the eye of boutique shops Nordstrom, which made them the first Black-owned hat company to be sold there.
Clay describes the BFA as an opportunity to “align back to the basics” and “realize that the small things matter”. His most favorable moment during the program is working with his classmate that shares the same goals.
Much respect and congratulations are due to these uber-talented people—and of course, AFROPUNK and Shopify—who are setting the bar and providing a platform for Black creatives to move the needle not only in Black fashion but fashion in general.
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