Black Fashion Designers Reflect on Racial Reckoning
3 Black Fashion Designers Reflect on the Years Since the 2020 Racial Reckoning
Theresa Ebagua, Founder of Chelsea Paris
POPSUGAR: How have the past three years affected you personally and professionally?
Theresa Ebagua: For me, the racial reckoning of 2020 was actually a blessing. We used to just be a wholesale model then I launched my e-commerce site in September. With one of our big retailers, I felt that my voice was being diluted, so I really wanted to do the colorful things that I love. And so I set out to cultivate my own consumer and following. I wasn't sure what the response would be, but the racial reckoning emboldened me to step into my purpose. Even though I was scared, I really just wanted to make shoes that speak to my African heritage with my colors and prints. I told myself, "I'm going to use this as an empowering moment." And the response was staggering — from the consumer level and from retailers that reached out to us. But I was also cautious because I didn't want it to be fad. I didn't want it to be a passing phase. So I was very picky on who we wanted to sell to. I was all about diversity, craftsmanship, quality, giving back, and sustainability. So I wanted to only partner with people that understood these ethos and supported them.
POPSUGAR: How has that initial support evolved over time? Has it remained consistent or dwindled?
Theresa Ebagua: For example, I will call out Shopbop. Shopbop reached out to us during the movement and they've been consistent with me since. And so there are some brands that have continued to support. But I would definitely say that it has waned. I'm not getting as many opportunities as I was in 2020. But I do think I'm respected more as a brand. In as much as I'm not getting a lot of opportunities, the ones I'm getting show that they're doing their homework before approaching me. And I feel like, yes, it's not as hot and heavy as it was in 2020, but I think it has taught Black creatives that we have a voice, we can demand better.
And I'm now using that to my own advantage. Are you coming to me because of diversity? Or are you coming to me because you actually do believe in it or am I just filling a slot for you? And I have to see practices at these retailers or media outlets that you are actually putting in the work to be more inclusive and be more diversified. Not just Chelsea Paris coming into your product mix to fill a void or be the sole or lone Black designer that you carry. So now, it's empowered me to ask the right questions before I agree to any partnership. So even though it [the support] has waned, I feel like our integrity, self-worth and our purpose have grown.