Black History Month: Black Women In Streetwear

Black Women In Streetwear

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Let’s Talk About All These Black Women In Streetwear

Ohhhhhhh…my bad, there aren’t many. Seriously the only Black woman I could find close to having an independent streetwear brand is Vashtie Kola, she launched her brand Violette back in 2008. I’ve look in quite a few places, and couldn’t come up with any, even looking on this 2012 article, “The 10 Hottest Girls in Streetwear,” there was not one Black woman on that list, let alone more than a couple woman who actually OWN a brand. Since this is a male dominated industry, women are either not making it as a successful brand, or they are not widely publicized. Either way, I hope to change that!

NOTE: Just to clarify when I say Black women in streetwear, I’m not talking about those who play a part in keeping male owned lines afloat either by designing, PR, customer support, or anything like that. I am talking about Black women who have created, and cultivated a Brand from the ground up – it is her baby, and her baby alone. 

Let’s Talk About the Face Behind BE TH3 CHANGE

As a person, I am highly ambitious and determined. If I set a goal for myself, I tend to crush it, and if I don’t attain that goal within the allotted time frame, I keep going until I see the end! I am a strong-minded who is deeply rooted in the concepts of right and wrong. My journey on this road of Brand creation hasn’t been a simple one. I would never expect it to be, because anything worth having doesn’t come easy.

“Jamila is a strong, confident and ambitious woman. Hard working and dedicated. A true go-getter and has a big heart!” – Chevonne Christmon

Back in 2009, I came up with the brilliant idea that I wanted to make and sell t-shirts; only because, I am more of a t-shirt and jeans type of girl, and some of the tees on the market had some hilarious, yet crass sayings on them. I thought, “This is hilarious, but what person would walk around with this crass ass shirt?!” My son’s father encouraged me to go ahead with my plan, he said, “This is the best idea you’ve had yet! It makes sense because you love t-shirts, and it’s something you’re passionate about.”

Between 2009 and 2010 I was constantly writing out new sayings to put on tees, or conceptualizing new designs (I can’t draw for shhhh..). I even attempted to collaborate with a friend who had a similar style as I do, but that didn’t really pan out. Then, life happened, I put my dreams of t-shirt designs on the back burner. That is, until 2012…

In 2012, while I was working on my second degree (BS in Green and Sustainable Enterprise Management), I took a class called Business Integrated Systems which undoubtedly changed my life. My professor, Carla Bolden, gave an assignment where we were to write a business plan for a real business or one we made up. I asked her if I could use my t-shirt business, she approved. It was during those five weeks that I realized, I wanted to take my idea of making t-shirts to evolving it into a Brand. A Brand different from the norm – a Brand that could change not only the streetwear industry, but also the way people define eco-friendly clothing.

The Birth of BE TH3 CHANGE

Coming into this game I had a lot of naysayers when I told them my goal was to make eco-Friendly tees, wholly made in the U.S., at affordable prices. I heard it all! From, “It can’t be done,” to “are you trying to make money, or save the planet?” I’m like, “why can’t I do both?” Anyone, who knows me, knows that I rarely back down from challenges. 

“You’re driven, ambitious, focused, structured, determined, and willing to sacrifice to attain a goal set. Most of all, goal attain/achievement minded. Even if it’s a small one, you’re determined to see it come to life and/or be met. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget you’re competitive!” – Ken Bolden

Was it easy finding a manufacturer to suit every single need that I was looking for? NO! At a point, I almost gave up. It took me over a month and half to locate a manufacturer that provided what I wanted. I wanted a manufacturer that wholly makes their tees in America, not a company who says they are American made (e.g. American Apparel sources their cotton from overseas suppliers). The reason I’m so hellbent on wholly making tees in the US is because I live here. One must take care of home prior to taking care of a neighbor. As an adult, I see many Americans that have lost their jobs to people overseas because businesses are trying to increase their profit margins, I want to do my part to help bring back and keep jobs in America. The other reason I feel so strongly about American made tees is because I have an eco-friendly line. What would I look like sourcing materials from manufacturers overseas – that’s unnecessary pollution; I’m not gonna contribute to that madness!

“Glad I could be part of you campaign to take your product viral, keep your head up and stay positive about your future, it’s refreshing to see some in your generation take an interest in cleaning up what my generation and those before me screwed up, Sorry! I support clean and green initiatives, keep up the good work…” – Al Gipson
I Failed Twice but Kept It Moving
I had a plan, I had a few designs, I was ready to go! Time to raise capital! What was my plan to get this capital? Kickstarter. LOL. First mistake (side note for anyone thinking of crowd funding), have a following. I did not have a large enough following, nor did I have a team of people helping me spread the word, and market (outside of friends and family). This resulted in two failed campaigns, campaign 1 and campaign 2. However, I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Gina-Marie Chesseman, who wrote an article on Triple Pundit News.

“Jamila is one of those unique and charismatic people that leaves a distinct impression on people wherever she goes.   She rarely ever likes to play by the rules and instead makes her own.  It’s been exciting to watch her transform from the love for taking care of mother earth to environmentally conscious technology and eventually entrepreneurism.   Her sustainable clothing line, Be th3 change, is the embodiment of all of the above:  green, unique and innovative.” – Cheresa Wright

Check out the my old Kickstarter video.
The Reason Why I’ll Never Give Up
For one, I never know who’s watching. I have had so many people tell me how I’ve inspired them, especially when I felt my lowest. I have a strong support system around me which includes friends and family. When I feel doubtful, my friends are there to give me encouragement, and remind me of how far I’ve come, even when I don’t realize it.
“Jamila is very outgoing, outspoken, motivated, driven to success, smart, and a very good friend that I can look up to, due to her drive. I can see a very bright career and business she has been working so hard for, and I know all she has done and continues to work so hard for will pay off! (MOTIVATION and never giving up is the key to success!)” – Nacny Castillo
On top of that, I have a son, who even at a young age continuously tells me how proud he is that I’m building this business. However, my mother has to be my biggest fan, and biggest supporter – she always has been. More importantly, when I came to my friends and family at the last minute in a panic because I had to write this piece (and I do not like talking about myself), I asked if they could help me out, and each of them sent me a lil blurb (those are the quotes you have been seeing throughout this article).
“She is a very confident person with high energy and strong determination to reach her business goals.  She has a very friendly and outgoing personality, but very focused on changing things for the better. Jamila is armed with an “I can do it” attitude about everything she does, and nothing is going to stop her from reaching my business goals! She’s well educated with a couple of degrees. Family is very important to her, we have always influenced her to be the best. I know my niece’s business is going to be everything she dreams it to be, and more!” – Cynthia (Auntie) Belvin
I am very confident in my ability to succeed. I may not be the 1st Black woman to own an independent streetwear brand, but I may very well be the first Black woman to have created and own an independent, Eco-friendly streetwear brand, wholly made in the U.S. Remember…Look good. Do Better. BE TH3 CHANGE.
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