When it comes to the fashion world, there's no denying the direct influence and contribution of Black women.
Although recognition and credit tend to go unsaid, the simple truth is: Black women are the blueprint. As the tides shift within the industry, the true measure of sustainable progress will be weighed by how well the new class of designers and emerging brands are embraced and amplified. However, it's important to note that this isn't a request for permission: this is an announcement. Black designers aren't waiting for a chance for their stories to be told, they're letting their brands speak for themselves. And if you truly want to know where the future of fashion is headed, you must first tap into the rising voices who are creating history today.
Meet Sadé Lewis and Shaniya Charles, the design duo behind the self-titled fashion and lifestyle brand, Sadé + Shaniya. When the two Brooklynites met in their high school English class, their bond was formed over their shared interest in extracurricular activities, like Modeling Club and their desire to dissect the ambiguity of the industry they aspired to break into. As Sadé shares, "I feel like we align on things that we didn't like about the fashion industry and how it real mysterious and superficial, as well as not really seeing people that looked like us at the forefront."
Shaniya Charles, left. Sadé Lewis, right.
Photo Credit: Pia Fergus
As graduates of the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, FIT, the pair have been able to combine their talents beyond the textbooks, weaving their story into the fabric of their take on accessible high fashion and ready-to-wear pieces. Drawing inspiration from their personal journey, Black culture, and womanhood, the complex and nuanced experience that Black women share serves as a natural muse for everything they put their hands to.
Their signature design, the Mora Bag, tells a story of the duality of Black womanhood that serves as a stylish and metaphorical reminder to pack light and be light. "The color palettes that we looking into were [colors] that would trigger us to be soft and more vulnerable. There's always the notion that the Black woman is hard, she's strong, and she can do all these things. And she can, but she also has to step into the power of being vulnerable, being open, and being able to feel like you can release," Shaniya shares.
When the innovation of two Black women joins forces, there's no limit to the possibilities that they can unleash. Luckily, xoNecole has a front-row seat to the beginning stages of these dynamic designers, destined to dominate the fashion world on their own terms.
xoNecole: As Black women, sometimes we don't always have control over our narratives. With storytelling being such a huge part of you all’s design process, how does Black womanhood play the role of muse for you two?
Sadé Lewis: The origin of our collections, everything is based off a real story or feeling. For example, The Looking Glass [collection] was very much about looking yourself in the mirror and seeing this multifaceted person. You don't have to fit into one version of yourself, or one version of what people think you should be, you are many things. So that was our individual journey during that time. Literally, accepting us being women who can be everything at once, you know? It definitely always comes from something that we're going through. We don't try to pressure ourselves to create timing. It just comes when it comes. And yeah, it's always from within us, navigating our own lives, then figuring out how can we make a physical manifestation of how we feel.
Shaniya Charles: We also grab inspiration from the woman that we talk to, the people that we deal with on an everyday basis, and the majority of them are Black women. We try to make sure that we're telling their stories as well. Although it's our narrative, we want to make sure that our consumers are connecting to what we're putting out and feel or see themselves in what we are creating.
Sadé Lewis: As Black women, we want to be safe, we want to be able to control our narratives and our lives. This brand for us isn't just popularity. It's so we can have the freedom to be our absolute selves and create how we want to create, tell our story how we want to tell our story, and live how we want to live - and be an avenue for other people to do the same. The overall goal is to be able to support other women and other creatives in their endeavors.
"As Black women, we want to be safe, we want to be able to control our narratives and our lives. This brand for us isn't just popularity. It's so we can have the freedom to be our absolute selves and create how we want to create, tell our story how we want to tell our story, and live how we want to live - and be an avenue for other people to do the same. The overall goal is to be able to support other women and other creatives in their endeavors."
Photo Credit: Pia Fergus
Let’s get into your short film which premiered on the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)! That was you all’s first short film too. What was the inspiration behind the 'Green Eyes'' story?
Shaniya: First and foremost, we both love Erykah Badu! Green Eyes is one of our favorite songs. Sadé was listening to the song in the shower. And she came out and she was like, "I have an idea. We're going to create a visual fashion show based on this!" From there, we just started planning out what we wanted the story to be, the garments we would create for it, and how that would be an introduction to our actual collection that was coming up. We partnered with a Black woman to create the film; we wanted to make sure that although it's our story, that the people involved in it were also authentic and Black.
Sadé: That shower moment was literally me listening to the song. It almost felt like I was in a trance. There's no visual for that song, so it was just me envisioning alone and in a way pleading to this man. When it comes to communication between a man and a woman, sometimes it's just not there. We have egos and pride. The story that Erykah was telling was a matter of pride. It's not time to put your pride out there when you really feel this is your person. This is your soulmate, but your pride is literally ruining everything.
It was really cool to work with the director, Kyra Andrews. She has a theme about her work where she does love stories and Black romance shorts. It was really cool to tell her about our ideas and how we connect to the song and see how she could visually support that the film. It was very hands-on for all of us, even the actors in the film. We did it in one day, in the middle of a snowstorm, but it was really fun. Seeing the end result was like, wow.
As two Black women and emerging designers, I’m sure there have been obstacles that you’ve had to overcome through your trajectory. What are some of the challenges that you all experienced starting out?
Sadé: This is an industry that in all honesty, a lot of the cultural, creative, and artistic design aspects do come from Black people - we are at the forefront of a lot of those things. It's also hard as women to be respected and to be taken seriously. I don't know when those challenges will ever end for our people. So when things get hard and we might feel like our message is not getting across or things didn't perform as well as we want it to, we do have each other to remind us why we're here and that we're in it for the long run; we're not in it to be a quick trend.
You both have been friends for over a decade. How has it been working together while maintaining your friendship? How do you all make it work?
Shaniya: Our communication has always been at the forefront. From high school, we've always been very honest with each other. We make sure that we are each others' open and safe space. Even if something's bothering me, or something's bothering her, we try our best to communicate that. And I think the communication aspect and comfortability that we both have in each other allows us to explore different avenues of friendship and business partnership.
Sadé: We don't really have much of a system in place because I know it's important to separate business from friendship; it's not much a strict structure. But I think the both of us know when it's time to talk business and just time to just be friends. We have a good sense of understanding each other's needs. Just having that grace for each other and knowing when to read the room.
"I think the both of us know when it's time to talk business and just time to just be friends. We have a good sense of understanding each other's needs. Just having that grace for each other and knowing when to read the room."
Photo Credit: Pia Fergus
The whole “networking across” concept that Issa Rae famously coined has really become a collective mindset for many creatives. For those who are looking for their creative partner-in-crime, what are some tips that you would give to finding one successfully?
Sadé: I would say, be open and honest about your needs. I think a lot of times when people are doing something creative, or looking for a service, they go to Google and type in, "Photographers. NYC." And it's like, you might know someone from your high school or your college who's into photography. I think we have to have more of a mindset of working together. If we all came together with our respective interests, we could be so powerful.
It's not necessarily always about looking up to these big names. Because a lot of the time, they're not going to have the same respect. Or uphold your ideas and your project to the same reverence as someone who is grinding just like you. And then you'll learn who you can really build with. Just be open to the people around you and what they can offer.
Shaniya: Be authentic to who you are. It's a lot of pressure and there's a lot coming at you at once in terms of being creative, but I feel like you should just be authentic to who you are. If you like photography or designer, you'll align with the people that you're supposed to align with. We have so much pressure around us now from social media and a whole bunch of different outlets saying, you should do this, you should do that. But just be authentic and true to who you are as a person. And whatever is supposed to align with you and the people that you are supposed to meet will come your way and those relationships will foster and grow to be what you need them to be.
"It's not necessarily always about looking up to these big names. Because a lot of the time, they're not going to have the same respect. Or uphold your ideas and your project to the same reverence as someone who is grinding just like you. And then you'll learn who you can really build with. Just be open to the people around you and what they can offer."
Photo Credit: Pia Fergus
It’s really encouraging to hear that you all are able to lean on each other through the ups and the downs of your journey. Is there anything that you all tell each other to keep each other motivated?
Sadé: We have these little moments where we'll just go to each other and we'll be like, "Girl, you the sh*t." Or, "Wow, you really my best friend, you a bad b*tch." Stuff like that. Also, because we put a lot of storytelling and meaning behind our collection, we use that to align ourselves. This work comes from a place within.
It's always from a place based on the story that we're telling and our experiences together. I feel like that is our anchor; reminding each other that you're creating from a real place. And also, we both come from the fashion industry. We studied it in college and we also work in it. It's like, you really know what you're doing. Just trust yourself and keep going.
To stay connected to Shaniya and Sadé's upcoming collection, and cop a Mora Bag of your own, click here.
Featured image courtesy of Sadé + Shaniya
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
There are two words that Rachel Lindsay keeps returning to over and over again: Rest and renew.
The ambitious, self-described “type A” media personality just left one of her more prominent roles after three years, and instead of being anxious about the downtime, she’s finally learning to take a few moments for herself.
When we talk via Zoom in late August, Lindsay, 38, has just returned from a lunch date with a friend, the type of midday social outing she’d never had time for previously. In a week, she’ll be heading to Europe for an Eat, Pray, Love trip. It’s the first time she’s had time to go to Europe in five years.
“You ask me what I have time to do? Take care of me,” she says, beaming.
In the past six years, Lindsay has made a lot of changes. After becoming the first Black woman to lead ABC’s Bachelorette dating series in 2017, she fell in love with Bryan Abasolo, the man she chose on the show, and married him. Enamored with the world of entertainment but also accustomed to the stability that being an attorney provided her, she returned to practicing law in her native Dallas, Texas, while pursuing media opportunities on the side.
For a time, Lindsay would fly herself to Connecticut to co-host ESPN’s Football Frenzy radio show. The role was perfect for the Dallas Cowboys fan and sports fanatic who majored in sports management and once dreamed of becoming an agent. In 2019, when she finally felt she’d saved enough money and made enough connections, she made the leap and left the legal profession behind, determined to bet on her entertainment dreams.
Working as an on-air correspondent for Extra was one of Lindsay’s first big roles as a full-time media personality. In this job, she interviewed celebrities such as Halle Bailey and Anthony Anderson. She also notably conducted the controversial interview with Bachelor host Chris Harrison that subsequently led to his departure from the franchise. After Harrison told Lindsay he felt people needed to have “grace” for a contestant who had attended an “Old South” party, Lindsay publicly announced her plans to distance herself from the series.
Today, she cites changes in Extra’s leadership and her responsibilities as the reason for her recent departure after three years. “I just didn’t fit within the new regime,” she reveals to xoNecole.
Lindsay is currently focusing her energy work-wise on her two podcasts with The Ringer Podcast Network, the Higher Learningshow with Van Lathan, and Morally Corrupt. Despite the extremely different subjects – Higher Learning touches on race and politics while Morally Corrupt finds Lindsay commenting on her favorite Bravo reality shows – she gushes when speaking about both, calling podcasting “the most liberating thing you can do.”
On Higher Learning, she’s challenged by her co-host, Lathan, to think in new ways. She’s regularly in conversation with prominent figures such as Tracee Ellis Ross and Billy Porter.
Lindsay, a “Bravoholic” whose favorite Real Housewives franchise is Potomac and whose favorite Housewife is Nene Leakes, is no less passionate about Morally Corrupt, even if the subject matter is much lighter. “I’ve always loved reality TV because it was such an escape from my real world. Part of me admired people who could put themselves out there in a way that I believed I never could, until I went on reality TV,” Lindsay says.
Courtesy of Rachel Lindsay
The podcast host says she never intended to find love when she went on The Bachelor, and she was surprised when she was asked to lead season 13 of The Bachelorette. Going from viewer to reality TV star quickly opened her eyes to the demands of being a public figure. After receiving initial criticism from viewers about choosing and marrying Bryan Abasolo, she realized she wanted to become more protective of certain aspects of her personal life.
“I quickly learned that we had to protect what we had, and stop trying to prove it to other people and convince people to know what we knew to be true,” she says. “I wish I could share more of my relationship. But the moment you do that, you have to continue to provide more and you have to continue to answer.”
In many ways, Lindsay benefited from being on a show like The Bachelorette, where the contestants are confined to a limited environment over a temporary amount of time. She says she doesn’t think she could ever be on a reality show where she’s expected to reveal all aspects of her life constantly. In fact, she says if she ever had pregnancy news or updates about her relationship with Abasolo, she wouldn’t make a big public announcement.
Since walking away from The Bachelor franchise, the former Bachelor Happy Hour host says she’s been approached to participate in recent seasons, specifically this year’s season with Black lead, Charity Lawson. Lindsay says she ultimately declined to participate. “I just started thinking I can have a relationship with Charity – whose number I do have and I have talked to – outside of the show. I don’t need to come on television to put that out there for other people,” she says.
Reflecting on her life today, Lindsay is trying to learn the benefits of being still. She’s not planning to do any on-air correspondent work for the time being, and she’s not planning to release another book, the followup to the collection of essays Miss Me with That or the fictional Real Love.
As her 40th birthday approaches in a couple of years, she’s been thinking a lot about the popular quote, “You are, right now, as young as you'll ever be again” from the FX drama Fleishman Is in Trouble. If she does start on a new creative project, it might delve into this notion, she says. “I think I could do something in that space about adulthood and getting older and maybe questioning things in life because I think we all do it,” she tells xoNecole.
Lindsay is not rushing the process, though. For now, she’s remembering to rest and renew.
“We'll see what comes out of this state that I'm in.”
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Featured image courtesy of Rachel Lindsay
Although plums are not the first fruit that I will grab out of the produce section, I must admit that I can get down with some from time to time. As I was trying to figure out why this seems to be the time of year when they pique my interest the most, I realized that they are in season between July and October (which means I tend to see them more in the store). Ah, so maybe that’s also why I’m such a fan of plum cobbler, plum salsa (hey, don’t knock it ‘til you try it!), and, as of this year, plum oil, too, right when the seasons are ready to…shift.
To tell you the truth, I’m not exactly sure how I got sold on plum oil — all I know is that since I’ve been using it (especially on my skin), I have been seeing a major difference. So, if you’re looking for a new oil to try as the weather prepares to get cooler in temperature, give me a minute (or two) to give you some solid reasons why you should definitely add plum oil to your natural beauty regimen.
What Is Plum Oil?
Okay, so plum oil is pretty much what you think it is: it’s oil that derives from the kernels of plums. And since plums contain nutrients like vitamins A, multiple forms of B, C, and E, potassium, copper, and magnesium, along with fatty acids, anti-inflammatory, and hydration properties, it’s fast becoming a must-have oil for many popular beauty and cosmetic brands.
Not only that, but many also consider plum oil to be a “gourmet oil” for cooking and baking because it has virtually no flavor, contains zero trans fat, and it has a high-temperature point for frying. Believe it or not, some people even make homemade ice cream with plum oil (no joke). You can check out a recipe here.
As far as where to purchase plum oil, let me just say off the rip that it’s not the cheapest oil in the world. Oh, but it is so worth it! As far as the brand that I personally use, it’s called Liquid Gold, and merchants on Amazon tend to sell a four-ounce bottle of it for like ten bucks (or 128 ounces for a little under seventy bucks). Walmart claims to carry a different kind of plum oil online (here); I’ve never purchased the brands that they carry before, but I’m just putting that out there as an FYI. I can totally vouch for the brand that I use, though — it’s light, deeply penetrating, and gives my skin a healthy glow.
That being said, let’s get into why I think plum oil is the ultimate beauty oil for the fall season and beyond.
How Plum Oil Benefits Your Skin
What first got me into plum oil was that I was looking for a sealant oil for my skin; meaning, I was looking for a lightweight oil that I could apply to my skin right when I got out of the shower so that I could “lock in” hydration and not have to apply any lotion (I haven’t used lotion in years at this point). What sold me on plum oil is what it did for my back. My skin is particularly dry back there, and so, between how moisturized my back felt along with how plum oil seemed to fade any discoloration I had without breaking out my skin in the process — yeah, that made it a fan favorite right out the gate.
I’m not alone. Plum oil is well-known for reducing oxidative skin stress, repairing damaged skin cells, balancing sebum production, and helping to heal acne and the marks it leaves behind. Plum oil also stimulates the production of collagen (so that your skin is able to look younger longer) and it doesn’t clog pores in the process. So, if you happen to have oily, combination, or acne-prone skin, this is the oil for you.
How Plum Oil Benefits Your Hair
Since plum oil won’t clog up your pores, this means that it also won’t clog up your hair follicles, which makes it a great oil if you’re looking for one that will help to prevent dry scalp or if you want a base for a hot oil treatment (which are always awesome because they can increase blood circulation to your scalp, revive dry and brittle hair and help to strengthen the roots of your hair over time).
Other ways that plum oil does wonders for your hair is if you happen to have tresses that are color-treated or you tend to apply heat on a semi-regular basis, the linoleic acid and vitamin E that’s in plum oil can add hydration to your hair, protect it from thermal heat and even reduce your chances of encountering split ends. Personally, although I’ve just recently been using plum oil on my own locks, I have noticed that my ends feel softer when I put some plum oil on them at night.
I’ve also used it as an oil that I’ve applied to my hair before shampooing it, and it’s so much easier to detangle as a direct result. Yeah, more and more, plum oil and I are becoming the best of friends.
How Plum Oil Benefits Your Nails
Something else that plums have in them is stearic acid. It’s a type of fatty acid that retains moisture, helps to reduce eczema-related symptoms, and reduces inflammation. On your nails, this all can be beneficial because the oil can help your nails from drying out, keep your cuticles soft (raggedy cuticles are the whole worst!), and help to keep your nails strong and flexible (so that they won’t be so prone to breakage). My recommendation would be to rub a bit of pure, warm plum oil on your nails and cuticles every other night before turning in.
Now, I’m hoping that it goes without saying that if you’re allergic to plums, plum oil is something that you should take a pass on. For everyone else, though — if, like me, you can get down with snacking on a plum sometimes, why not take it up a notch and invest in some of this oil for the sake of your skin, hair, and nails? For the longest, my favorite beauty oil has been rosemary… Oh, but plum oil is gaining on it — and that is really saying something!
C’mon sis, try a bottle. If it doesn’t work out, hit me up, and I’ll let you know where to send it to me, chile (I’m not kidding either!). Something tells me that you’ll enjoy it, though. Just in time for fall.
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Featured image by FG Trade/Getty Images