5 Contemporary US Boutiques to Discover African and Black-Owned Designer Brands
Words by The Folklore Team
In a market that is worth approximately $2.5 trillion, Black creatives represent less than 2% of the mainstream fashion industry, as of 2020. In the years since, many retailers have made steps to increase their support for Black-owned brands following the social and corporate reckoning that took place that summer. Encouraged by initiatives such as Aurora James’s 15 Percent Pledge, stylist Zerina Akers’s Black Owned Everything and the Black in Fashion Council, working to tackle racial inequality in the industry has been at the forefront of operations of fashion retailers and e-commerce corporations around the world. Macy’s increased the number of Black-owned brands it carries by more than 250 per cent, Moda Operandi, Madewell, and West Elm have increased theirs by 200 per cent or more while Target has pledged to spend $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025.
This has also trickled down to independently run retail stores, which tend to have the ability to individually handpick the brands and designers they with. So with increased emphasis on “buying Black” and consumers moving to purposefully build diverse wardrobes that champion inclusivity and craft, it has never been easier to explore and shop Black-owned brands or African designers thanks to a crop of contemporary boutiques that are intentional about the brands they stock.
From Los Angeles to New York and Atlanta, concept stores and multi-brand retailers in the United States are offering a selective mix of emerging and established designers from across the world, and putting discovery of exciting brands at the heart of what they do. Below are our picks of five of the best that are worth a visit.
Named after the founder’s initials, as well as those of her mother and sister, T.A. is a concept store by owner and buyer Telsha Anderson-Boone, created as an open and eclectic space where everyone can feel welcome. Located in New York’s Meatpacking District, T.A. offers a selectively curated mix of established Black-owned American brands alongside emerging designers around the world, from London and Milan to South Korea and Peru. Discovery is at the heart of Anderson-Boone’s mission, and she personally sources each brand she stocks in her boutique. “When you get excited to get dressed… that is what we offer you, excitement, not only to just come and be in the space but excitement to discover something new,” Anderson-Boone says. At T.A., you can find pieces by Christopher John Rogers and Brother Vellies next to the likes of Canadian designer Sid Neigum, Matériel Tbilisi from Georgia and Peruvian brand Mozh Mozh.
Situated on Venice’s famed shopping street, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, LCD is an independent woman-owned concept store founded in 2012 by Geraldine Chung, a former music executive at Atlantic Records who quit her job to start her own business. LCD began life as an online store, which saw enough success within four years to be launched as a brick-and-mortar store in Venice Beach. The multi-brand boutique, whose name stands for Lust Covet Desire, explores ideas of gender neutrality, sustainability and inclusivity in the fashion design landscape through the brands it stocks, following meticulous research by Chung whether through social media or by visiting trade shows. After the 2020 protests against police killings, Chung realized her inventory was lacking in support for Black designers and made a conscious effort to reach out to creatives in her network and diversify her offering. Some of the collections you can find at LCD include brands such as Khiry, Telfar, Martine Rose and Wales Bonner.
Located in the Bay Area, McMullen boutique was founded in 2007 by entrepreneur Sherri McMullen after many years spent as a buyer at Neiman Marcus. McMullen started her namesake store as a way to make the fashion industry more inclusive and support designers of color, with particular focus on female empowerment as well as a commitment to supporting African and African-American creatives. “It is important that I support the work of black designers and brands as a black woman in fashion and a retail buyer in my position,” Sherri McMullen says about her mission. McMullen boutique has been recognized as one of the top boutiques in the country by publications such as Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily, and carries brands such as Third Crown, Brandon Blackwood, Fe Noel and Lisa Folawiyo.
With an aim of streamlining the discovery process for consumers interested in shopping luxury goods from Black-owned brands, Merge Co. was founded in June 2021 by University of Maryland graduate Nicole Harris. She developed the idea for Merge Co. when she noticed that lack of opportunities available for Black creators in the fashion industry, setting about to create a space for emerging designers to connect with celebrity stylists and discerning clients. The Atlanta-based retailer curates a selection of apparel and lifestyle brands from an international mix of luxury designers such as Nigeria’s Gozel Green and Shekudo. Merge Co. additionally hosts in-store pop-ups and networking events that facilitate introductions, sharing of resources and informational exchanges for brands and consumers alike.
Co-founded by Ericka del Rosario and Mason Rothschild in 2021, LA’s Terminal 27 is a concept store that goes well beyond fashion; the almost 3,000sq ft boutique in Beverly Hills also houses a Japanese-inspired café and art gallery. Offering products that range from furniture and fragrances to the latest in streetwear, the duo cites inclusivity and supporting smaller business as the core of their company, with a goal to “spotlight unfamiliar and elusive faces”. Alongside established name such as Marni and Rick Owens, you can find pieces from Nigerian-born designer Mowalola Ogunlesi.