Brandon Blackwood and the Importance of Black-Owned Luxury Brands
Updated: May 11, 2021
I am a collector of fabulous things. A curator of the those elements that help me effortlessly exhibit my individuality. Needless to say, the last year has been a mental exercise in delayed-gratification, discipline, and in many cases self-denial of the unnecessary and luxurious in terms of fashion. I appreciated the opportunity to save money, but refraining from buying things out of fear definitely did not feel good. This was compounded by not being able to have normal human interaction. No brunch. No lunch. No dinner dates. No movies. Definitely, no trips that did not involve a car. And shopping was pointless. Let alone shopping for things that were not immediately necessary.
In the midst of sheltering in place for what seemed like forever, it felt like I was stuck in a perpetual time warp. I was truly out of the loop. My usual hobby of studying fashion trends and seeing how I could duplicate them to my own taste, was replaced with endless cycles of news watching, Covid-19 map hawking and everything pandemic. I was sad and in many ways, detached from what made me uniquely me. I felt out of touch as I just settled into draping myself in lounge wear, fighting off maskne (acne caused by face masks) and curling up with a good book (not that I don't love books, but could I at least read them in style?). I stashed away my boots and invested in a pair of Crocs and Minnetonka slippers, and like many folks, just longed for the days I'd get to put on real clothes again.
In one of my random virtual field trips to the gallerias, shopping centers, and boutiques in my mind (a' la Instagram), I stumbled upon this cute little handbag that was tan canvas with the words "End Systemic Racism" in metallic lettering affixed to the outside. I absolutely had to have it. I had no idea where I would carry it. At that moment, I didn't care. Living in a pandemic awakens this sense of urgency that may not have existed otherwise. This unceasing desire to just live, fully, because people are literally dying around us. I just knew that as a woman who appreciates her clothing making a statement, I could not get more literal than that. So, I signed up for the restock notification. And thus began my love affair with Brandon Blackwood (Black handbag designer extraordinaire).
Not to focus too much on the material, but supporting Black luxury can faciliate Black joy.
What sets a Brandon Blackwood design apart is not only the quality craftsmanship, but the price. Honestly, when does designer and a less than $300 price tag co-exist? Rarely. And when can you know without a doubt that the person behind the brand is Black? As a designer he has really flipped the handbag industry by creating unique shapes, fabrications, and sizes to fit a diverse consumer base. Additionally, he makes sure through his advertising campaigns that he communicates who his target audience is. Where the Black consumer is often left out of luxury marketing strategies, or at best, appear 'othered' as the one Black face surrounded by whiteness, Blackwood features all shades of brown boldly toting his bags. And not just the celebrity faces we recognize, although they are not ignored either. It is a vision to witness.
Seeing ourselves beyond just the end-user or consumer is important. It is not just about the power of the Black dollar, but the influence of imagery. How being truly represented by a brand reinforces your value-that you too are important in a world that consistently shows you that you are not. It honestly isn't about just supporting the brand with your money (although, lets be real, it helps), it is about supporting those trailblazing efforts in a reciprocal way. You want to see more luxe, Black-owned brands? Show the world that they are valuable through your support. And don't fret, if you cannot afford it now, tell someone who can and make plans to support them when you are able. The narrative can be shifted by the people, if we refuse to let someone else speak for us.
Truthfully, it wasn't just about owning a cute bag for me. The statement extended beyond the literal interpretation of the gold phrase "End Systemic Racism." With Black lives being reduced to death, drama and hashtags, it was edifying, if just for the moment to see excellence. To see the effort of hard work paying off. To see someone willing to give common luxury brands, (who often exclude Black people from the conversation) a run for their money, but making it affordable for the masses, so the very people typically left out, could actively participate. As the demand for increased representation and visiliblity was being voiced, Brandon Blackwood was actually developing a solution. Efforts like these are not only encouraging but actually what is needed to change the trajectory of how we have been existing. Supporting his brand makes me proud, but also has given me great joy to see his talent recognized and be supported by the big names alike. He is doing a massive preorder launch today, May 10th at https://brandonblackwood.com/ . Take a look. Experience some Black joy. But more importantly, spread the word.