Refresh Your Travel Essentials With These Black Owned, Managed, and Designed Brands
Plan your first post-pandemic trip with these essential Black-owned brands.
Spring begins again, and so does the desire for traveling. Travel restrictions continue to lift during the pandemic, however, the political divisiveness nationwide is at its most palpable. Thanks, in part, to many of the grassroots movements that have captivated this nation’s undivided attention, more Americans can show their allegiance to Black people through their purchasing power. So when you book your next flight or compare prices for hotel and Airbnb stays, before you pack, consider buying one (or all) of these Black-owned, designed, or managed products and apps. Though not an exhaustive list, fitness items, beauty products, and/or apparel from the companies will become a mainstay among your essentials, while also supporting the Black-owned businesses that created them.
Courtesy of Finny John @instinctiveshot
Bombas "The Black Hive Collection"
While Bombas’ founders Randy Goldberg and David Heath are not African-American, since their launch in 2013, their model combined quality-made socks with a mission and purpose, which also captured the attention of Shark Tank as fashion mogul Daymond John invested $200,000 (at a 17.5% equity stake) into their startup apparel brand, which has since expanded into underwear and T-shirts. With every item purchased, Bombas donates one clothing item to a homeless shelter or homeless-centered organization. To date, more than 46 million pieces of clothing have been donated to aid those in need, especially sobering in these challenging times.
In alignment with their sustainable model of bringing about awareness, Bombas launched The Black Hive Collection, a cohort of Black and BIPOC-identifying staff who developed their “brand within the brand”—from the design inspiration and packaging concepts to spurring the Black Hive’s overall creative direction and process. Keeping in alignment with Bombas’ mission, for every purchase from the collection, a clothing item is donated to one of four participating organizations—A Second U Foundation, Sister’s Circle, National Bail Fund Network, and The Marsha P. Johnson Institute—each committed to addressing the root correlation between homelessness and systemic inequality in America, which has disproportionate effects among Black people.
Shot by Mark Clennon, Courtesy of Bombas
Made Leather Co.
Founder: Lenise Williams, Entrepreneur/Owner
After quitting her job at a law firm, lawyer and entrepreneur Lenise Williams started her own firm to have more time to spend with her then-newborn son. Later, after recognizing her gift from branding and marketing, Williams decided to quit her practice and move to Georgia to start her own business.
Made Leather Co. grew out of her combined business-savviness with her love for Marrakech, notably their leather goods. Her goal was to offer a bespoke, high-end quality leather bag—primarily duffles, handbags, and briefcases—but at a fraction of the cost here in the States. Because the bags are handmade and hand-dyed, no two bags can ever be alike, Williams explained in a recent interview for VoyageATL .
“The process for preparing the leather to create the bags is a six-month process called vegetable tanning,” she added. “Most other companies used leather that is stripped of all of its beauty and unique qualities because it goes through chromium tanning, a chemically-based process.”
Alex Carlton Miller
Founder: Valerie Blaise, Designer/Owner
VAVVOUNE grew out of the whimsical passion of its designer and founder Valerie Blaise back in 2015. After buying a vintage handbag online in her early 20s, it occurred to her then that she wanted to “physically make bags and work with leather,” said the Haitian American who lived in Dorchester, in an interview with BostonVoyager .
“I did much of my growing up in Boston trying to understand what being American was,” explained Blaise, “and finally being able to know it’s not monolithic allowed me to find my space in it.” Not long after, Blaise bought her first sewing machine and taught herself how to sew through books, frequent trips to other tannery shops, and video tutorials.
Blaise would later launch her brand VAVVOUNE in Brooklyn in 2015. From its geometric shapes and vibrant colors to her collaboration with celebrated designer Christian Siriano, the collection harnesses the spontaneity and whimsy of its owner, inspiring all to realize their dreams, against all odds.
Founder: Katonya Breaux
Fifty-one-year-old Katonya Breaux is not just the mother of Frank Ocean, one of the most prominent singers/songwriters working today. She is also the founder of Unsun Cosmetics, mineral-based sunscreen products designed for people of color.
Launched in 2016, Breaux developed her brand out of sheer frustration over the lack of inclusive suncare for BIPOC communities. While there are sunscreen products that blend into different hues and skin tones and don’t leave white residue on the skin, many of them are filled with harsh chemicals. It took Breaux one year to perfect the formula for her natural SPF line, which now includes tinted face sunscreen, hand cream, and body highlighters.
“Women of color need to know that [the] sun does not discriminate,” said Breaux in an interview with Billboard magazine. “I have an aunt who was my complexion but she developed skin cancer, and we were like, ‘Wait, what? So it does happen.’ If we continue with the mentality that we won’t get skin cancer because our skin is brown, that we have melanin and it’s fine, then we’re putting ourselves in [danger’s] way.”
Courtesy of Unsun Cosmetics
Founder: Isiah Fowler
When Isaiah Fowler first had the “vision” for his brand SWAV Eyewear, it was two-fold. He not only launched a company that would design high-end, eco-friendly sunglasses, handcrafted in Greece, but also, every pair of eyewear includes an inspirational quote engraved on the inner temples, a reminder, he says, to “never give up on the vision.”
The inspiration for his designer eyewear brand first came to him in 2011, while serving in the U.S. Air Forces. Fowler was diagnosed with malaria, but after beating the illness, he decided from there on that he would dedicate his life to impact and inspire the world. With each pair of shades sold, a portion of that sale goes to the Visionary Investment Fund, which at the start of every new quarter, they will donate the full amount to another visionary and innovator in the community.
Launching his brand in 2018, Fowler says that inspiration is needed now more than ever. “With everything going on right now, it’s so easy to get distracted emotionally,” he said in an interview with Blackbusiness.com. “The fight against injustice and discrimination is bigger than ever, and we need that focus now more than ever…that’s why our frames have ‘stay the course’ engraved on them. Everything in life starts with a vision, but for the vision to come to fruition, we have to keep sight of our focus no matter what.”
Courtesy of Finny John @instinctiveshot
Founder: Yvonne Koné, Designer
Launching her namesake label in 2011, Yvonne Koné has become one of Denmark’s leading fashion designers. A graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, her talents have already garnered her the Elle Style Award in 2017.
Yvonne Koné draws from the minimalism of her Danish upbringing with her Ivory Coast lineage to develop a line that marries her uncomplicated approach to style—as though every item were handpicked from her closet—with a deep admiration for the artisans who preceded her. Take her exquisite shoe collection —where intricate design is wonderfully juxtaposed against bold textiles and vibrant colors. While on the higher end of price, these are custom and original pieces meant to be cherished for a lifetime.