Black-Owned Businesses We Love

June 3, 2020

Every time someone such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Freddie Gray dies, we’re forced to confront this country’s original sin: the persistent stain of slavery and the “compounding moral debts” of Jim Crow and racist policy that affect nearly every aspect of American life. We’re not going to pretend we have anything new or interesting to say about the subject. We refer you to Black voices such as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Ibram X. Kendi for that. However, we join the chorus of voices supporting protests against police violence and systemic racism. We also hope our country can make the most of this opportunity, even though we’re constantly at risk of facing another tragedy.

Our parent company Maximum Fun has donated $5,000 to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. If you’d like to join us in donating, the LDF has a donation page on their website. There are also countless bailout funds going around. Since needs are continually fluctuating, we recommend donating to the national bailout fund, which is allocating money to individual groups on an as-needed basis. We also recommend checking out the resources at Black Lives Matter, Reclaim the Block, Black Visions Collective, Know Your Rights, Campaign Zero, and the Equal Justice Initiative. This Thursday at noon PST, Stanford political science professor Hakeem Jefferson will also be hosting a Zoom webinar with various scholars on racial justice, policing, and the American criminal justice system. All the scholars on the panel are brilliant and we encourage you to check it out. 

As the protest movement evolves, many of us are looking for other ways to be allies, both in the short-term and long. Beyond educating ourselves, being politically active, and contributing to groups actively working to make things better, we can also support Black-owned businesses. In fashion and style, this means being a patron of Black designers and shop owners, and in a social media world, paying attention to Black voices in that space. We’ve compiled just a few that we know of and appreciate.

 

 

Ikiré Jones

When Walé Oyéjidé started Ikiré Jones nearly ten years ago, #menswear was singularly obsessed with soft-shouldered, Neapolitan tailoring and unstrapped double monks. In the years since, however, men’s style has had to catch up to him. Today, more brands are using clothes to tell the stories of other communities. But before them, Oyéjidé was producing intricately detailed, African inspired takes on suits, sport coats, and casualwear. His clothes were even featured in the 2018 Marvel Studios’ film Black Panther. When King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) appears at the United Nations, he is wearing an Ikiré Jones scarf draped across his shoulder. 

I’m a big fan of the pocket squares. Printed in Como, Italy, these squares feature vividly toned portraits of people of color in classical settings. The original art pieces are stunningly beautiful, without compromising the meaningfulness of placing people of color in settings reserved, in the history of Western art, primarily for white people. The squares are also extremely useful. As a matter of practicality, it’s easier to wear pocket squares like these since you never want your square to match too closely with your tie. Thus, when you have a big, bold pattern – as opposed to a small repeating one such as pin dots – you can always be assured that it’ll stand on its own, but still harmonize through a complementary color. With a little turning here and there, you can show off which colors you want to display most. 

 

 

Post Imperial

New York-based Niyi Okuboyejo started Post Imperial in 2015, focusing heavily on the fabrics that set his line apart. His shirts, ties, and jackets are made of fabric dyed in Nigeria using a technique called adire — at a basic level, artists paint fabrics with wax, which shows up as lighter areas after the fabric is dyed. The result is clothing with deep tones and patterns you don’t see from any other brand. Neckties from Post Imperial are an easy way to wear the adire patterns, but shirts are maybe the best canvas to show off Niyi’s designs. Post Imperial just re-opened a pre-order for summer shirts, including the Ijebu model, which is a slightly oversized, camp collar button-up. The Ijebu is the company’s first shirt made in Kenya — the fabric is dyed in Nigeria, as always.

 

 

Norwegian Rain

For generations, most men have had two options for raincoats: the rubberized mac and the gabardine trenchcoat. Norwegian Rain, however, shows how much more you can get out of your outerwear. These stealth coats are made from three layers of material: a water-repellent shell, a waterproof membrane, and a satin lining to hide the wizardry inside, such as the heat-sealed seams and water tunnels designed for torrential downpours. The designs are sophisticated, sculptural, and drapey. Best of all, they can be transformed depending on how you wear them. Snap off a detachable hood or Icelandic shearling collar, and some coats can be so conservative, you can wear them over dark worsted suits. Fasten a button a certain way, however, and the coat suddenly looks more avant-garde. For that reason, these would make for the perfect travel companion, as you can pack only one piece of outerwear but still have something for any occasion.

 

 

Oswald Boateng

Savile Row is known for being a somber and stodgy precinct, where the term “hush-hush quarters” refers to how tailors don’t talk about, or even with, customers. Even today, many tailors will reply brusquely if you ask them to make something outside of their usual dark worsted suit in the company’s house cut. Over the years, however, some figures have broken the mold: Tommy Nutter, Richard James, and Ozwald Boateng most notably. Boateng is known for his immaculate tailoring and use of vivid colors. His shop has jewel-toned ties and shirts in garnet red, sapphire blue, and amethyst purple. His tailoring style is, in a word, sexy. Over the years, Boateng has tailored for the stars, including Jay Z, P. Diddy, and Idris Elba (Elba even got married in a bespoke Boateng suit). The BBC’s documentary on Boateng is admittedly a bit fluffy, but it captures the most important aspects of the man: his impeccable style, eye for color, and remarkable charm.

 

 

Maurice Sedwell

When Andrew Ramroop left Trinidad in 1974 and came to Savile Row looking for a job, there were no people of color working at the front of any store. One store owner told him that customers wouldn’t take kindly to seeing a Black man, so he would have to put him in the backrooms. Today, Ramroop isn’t just one of the finest bespoke tailors in the world; he’s the owner and director of Maurice Sedwell, one of the most well-respected tailoring shops on the street. He also owns and operates a bespoke tailoring school, the Savile Row Academy, where he’s training the next generation of craftspeople.

Ramroop’s house style is a little more flexible than most. He can make conservative business suits for people who need something for board meetings. He also offers a futuristic cut he calls the “Delta Line.” Inspired by a triangular button he found at a SoHo shop, the Delta Line is defined by its sharp, angular lines, which mirrors through the top and bottom. The V-shape above the buttoning-point follows through the quarters, the triangular shape can be seen in the notches, and the welted pockets are set vertically. If you see a suit sharp enough to slice through an orange, it may have been made at this shop. (Also, can we get a little recognition for how amazing Mr. Ramroop looked in the 1970s! He even made that suit by hand).

 

 

Glenn’s Denim

There’s no shortage of denim startups these days. Many of them blur together with a familiar backstory: two young guys trying to revive American manufacturing, so they’re offering five-pocket jeans through Kickstarter. Glenn Liburd’s story is a little different. As a 62-year-old immigrant from Trinidad, Liburd grew up making clothes. His mother taught him how to sew as a young boy and he later apprenticed under a master tailor. Over the years, he’s made tailored clothing, sportswear, and the garment that originally got him interested in style: jeans. Most recently, Liburd worked as the lead denim tailor for Levi’s Lot No. 1 program, where he made bespoke jeans. Now he has his own company, Glenn’s Denim, which he runs with Brooklyn Tailor’s Daniel and Brenna Lewis. Daniel does the designs, Brenna is behind the books, and Glenn makes all the garments.

On their website, Glenn’s Denim says their collection is inspired by New York City’s subcultures during the 1970s and ’80s, when the “the gritty, troubled city was the breeding ground for radical new music, art, and culture.” The fabrics are woven in the USA exclusively for Glenn’s by one of America’s last denim makers. There’s something about the uniformity of their color that makes them feel like they’re from another era. They are also almost made entirely by Glenn in his Brooklyn-based workroom, using restored vintage industrial machines that he modified to suit his needs. Glenn’s Denim represents the best of those maker-brands you find at a cool NYC boutique.

 

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Armando Cabral

If you’ve never heard Armando Cabral’s name, you’ve undoubtedly seen his face. As a model for countless companies — J. Crew, Todd Snyder, and Mr. Porter among them — Cabral’s stunningly good looks have probably inspired you to add something to your closet. About twelve years ago, he started toying with the idea of starting his own company. After all, while working as a model, he was already talking to designers such as Dries van Noten and Sir Paul Smith about factories, shoe design, and marketing. So in 2009, he joined those on the other side of the camera and launched his own footwear line. His shoes are a minimalist take on classic design — a touch playful, very contemporary, and exceptionally cool. I like his leather espadrillessimple lace-up derbies, and, most of all, side-zips.

 

 

FlameKeepers Hat Club

Many guys can, in fact, pull off traditional brimmed hats, but there are many potential pitfalls. You have to find something that suits you, works with your head shape, and fits correctly. Knowing your cap size doesn’t always cut it. FlameKeepers in New York has a reputation for attentive, expert advice when buying a hat. They stock everything from Donegal newsboy caps to mink Stetsons to summer straw hats (in my opinion, the easiest brimmed hat to wear).

That rep is mostly a credit to owner Marc Williamson, previously of JJ Hat Center, who opened FlameKeepers in 2014. As indicated by the name, Flamekeepers intends to pass the torch of good taste and traditional headwear to the next generation. Williamson has described his own style, which runs toward workwear denim, chambray, and bold bandannas or scarves, sometimes with a top hat, as “contemporary Harlem Renaissance,” referencing the early 20th-century boom of Black thought and culture in New York, following the Great Migration north of formerly enslaved people after the Civil War.

 

 

The Brooklyn Circus

Ouigi Theodore founded Brooklyn Circus in 2006, which puts him about 14 years into his 100-year plan. Theodore intends to create new vintage — that is, to design and make the sorts of clothing now that will be sought-after treasures for vintage heads in 100 years. The store, located in Boerum Hill, has weathered menswear trends, selling tailoring, sneakers, Red Wings, and ball caps, with Americana iconography reminiscent of Ralph Lauren. It’s clubby but not country clubby. The Haiti-born Theodore described BK Circus to Black-Owned Brooklyn: “It’s inclusive to all but centered around Black culture, and our journey in the Americas and the world.” Brooklyn Circus’ site and social media accounts also serve as showcases for art and design, focusing on people of color. I like this recent editorial on Norwegian Rain’s T-Michael.

 

 

Union Los Angeles

Chris Gibbs seems to know what’s cool a year or two before everyone else, which is an essential quality if you’re going to own a groundbreaking store such as Union Los Angeles. Gibbs has a strong personal style himself, and his taste has been a bellwether for fashion since he worked at Stussy and Union in New York in the 1990s. I count on checking Union’s stock to inform me of streetwear brands coming up currently, as well as interesting selections from harder-to-find brands I already know I like. Right now, I’m interested in t-shirts and cut-and-sews from Awake New York (from Nom de Guerre and Supreme alum Angelo Baque) and menswear from Wales Bonner, designed by London-based Grace Wales Bonner. Gibbs’ stock is always an excellent combination of high and low, where you can find a weird handmade jacket for over $1,000 or a $35 tee. Also, check out Chris Gibbs’ conversation with Jeremy Kirkland at Blamo.

 

 

Vladimir Riché

It’s hard to find good online menswear content. That was true ten years ago, during the heydays of menswear blogging, and it’s truer today. However, Vladimir Riché is one of the best content creators I’ve come across, even when compared to others in any era. In briskly paced episodes that mostly run under fifteen minutes, Riché covers topics such as how to find quality shoes, dress appropriately for occasions, and avoid pitfalls when building a new wardrobe. I love his content because it’s well-informed without being pretentious. It’s genuine and relatable. A lot of menswear content all too often falls back on aspirational lifestyles and nitpicking about rules, which can make men feel inadequate and insecure. Riché’s videos, on the other hand, have a comfortable, conversational style. I also appreciate that he covers different budgets, such as the one above on $300 shoes.