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!
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After reading once that a whopping 80 percent of women are dissatisfied with their appearance, I knew that an article like this had to be written. Because if there’s one thing that I’ve seen women (especially on social media) seem to almost obsess over — it’s their ass. It’s not big enough, not firm enough, not like-someone-else’s enough. Goodness.
As far as my relationship with my own booty, although I’ve had moments when I wish that it was a lil’ plumper, once I made peace with its natural shape (yes, booties come in different shapes, y’all) and I became more intentional about giving it some TLC — chile, I’m happy and at peace with what God gave me. Now it’s my mission to get others to feel the same way…starting with asking each and every one of you if you actually have an official butt care regimen. And if not, why not?
If the reason is that you’ve never considered creating one before and/or you don’t know what that kind of self-care routine would even look like, here are 15 things that can help you to totally fall in love with that butt of yours.
1. Know Your Shape
I’m just speaking for myself when I say that it really is kind of sad, the amount of stress, potential health risks, and expenses some people will go through to alter their body without taking the time to consider that there really is no perfect body or even body type. At the end of the day, it’s all subjective — including when it comes to our butts.
Although it’s not discussed nearly enough, believe it or not, booties come in four different types: square-shaped, heart-shaped, inverted/V-shaped, and round-shaped. So, if you’ve been damn near killing yourself to create a bubble butt, thinking that something is wrong with you for not having one, understanding that there are different kinds of butts, to begin with, is the first thing that you should probably marinate on.
2. Then Know Which Panties Best Complement It
Once you’ve (hopefully) made peace with learning about your specific butt shape, the next thing you should do is take your created-that-way-and-that’s-totally okay derriere panty shopping to find ones that complement your particular shape best. From what I’ve read and researched, “squares” look best in boy shorts and bikini cuts, “hearts” need high-waisted bikinis, “inverted” also needs boy shorts and round butts look great in thongs.
3. Do Regular Dry Brushing
Every part of our body could stand to be exfoliated; that’s because every part sheds tons of dead skin cells on a daily basis. When it comes to your butt, dry brushing is a great way to go. Although you might’ve heard that it can get rid of cellulite, there is actually quite a bit of debate around that. What is certain is it’s a practice that will remove dead skin cells, increase blood circulation, and also slightly “plump up” the areas where cellulite resides, which can make the cellulite appear less visible and make your butt appear a teeny-weeny bit fuller too.
4. Use a Benzoyl Peroxide Wash
Typically, what causes pimples on the butt is inflamed hair follicles that can come from dead skin cells, sebum, or even yeast or some sort of fungus. If this is something that you struggle with, you might want to try washing that part of your body with a body wash that has benzoyl peroxide as a top ingredient in it. It’s effective when it comes to breakouts because it kills acne bacteria that lingers beneath your skin’s surface while clearing out dead skin cells, too. Stylecraze has a list of body washes with benzoyl peroxide in them that you may want to check out here. Just make sure to keep the body wash away from your vagina/vulva; that ingredient is too harsh for that particular area.
5. Try Some Centella Asiatica
If you’ve never heard of Centella Asiatica before, don’t feel bad — a lot of people haven’t. Yeah, don’t get me started on how Westernized medicine continues to get the side-eye from me because it seems to want to make money more than fully educate people on their health and well-being options (le sigh). Anyway, Centella Asiatica is a plant that is big in Africa, Asia, and Ayurvedic as well as traditional Chinese medicine due to its ability to reduce inflammation, treat symptoms that are associated with eczema and psoriasis and profoundly moisturize skin. Since it contains properties that reduce oxidative stress, it’s also great for slowing down the signs of aging in your skin as well — and since butt skin ages just like the rest of your body does…it couldn’t hurt to add it to your health regimen.
If you’re wondering how best to consume it, for the record, it also goes by the names Gotu Kola and Tiger Grass. Look for these in tea form and drink it a couple of times a week for the best results (so long as you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding and you don’t have liver issues).
6. Get Some Coffee into It
Although I’m not much of a coffee drinker, I do use coffee grinds on my skin from time to time. The properties in it are pretty effective when it comes to softening the appearance of cellulite, reducing inflammation, preventing breakouts, and giving skin a huge boost of antioxidants. I guess that’s why, when it comes to a moisturizer brand that is super popular and keeps butts super soft, Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream reigns supreme — because, for one thing, it contains caffeine. Now, I’ll be honest: it ain’t cheap, so if you want to try a more affordable DIY route, there’s a recipe for coffee-toning body butter here and coffee-based anti-cellulite lotion here.
7. And/Or Exfoliate with Low-Grade Glycolic Acid
Although glycolic acid has been around for a while now, it’s getting quite a bit of attention these days as more and more folks are experimenting with at-home chemical peels. If you didn’t know, this is a type of acid that comes from sugar cane and falls into the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) category. It’s great for skincare because it is an awesome exfoliant, it heals some of the damage that UV rays tend to cause, unclogs pores, stimulates the production of collagen, and helps to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. My personal two favorite things about this particular acid are it helps to even my skin tone out at almost record speed, and it leaves my skin feeling really smooth, too.
So, if you’re looking for something that will “repair” your butt from the summer heat swimsuit weather while also making it extra pretty to look at and feel on, applying a low-grade glycolic acid once a month (or so) wouldn’t hurt things one bit.
8. Firm Up Sagging Skin with Tamanu Oil
Remember how I said earlier that your butt’s skin ages like everywhere else? If you’re starting to notice some signs of that and you want to naturally firm things up a bit, try some tamanu oil. In the article, “We Lose Collagen As We Age. 10 Ways To Naturally Boost It.,” a big part of the reason why I gave it the shout-out that I did is because this type of oil has a solid reputation for helping your body produce collagen. And since collagen helps to bring elasticity to the skin, it’s definitely something that can be relied upon to firm some of the subtle signs of sagging right on up.
9. Take Some Vitamin D
It’s no secret (to many of us) that when it comes to those who run the highest risk of having a vitamin D deficiency, it’s our (Black) people. That’s because the natural melanin that’s in our skin has a more challenging time synthesizing this nutrient from the sun. Since Vitamin D is a nutrient that strengthens our bones, reduces the risk of cancer, decreases inflammation, fights off free radicals, and helps to prevent/heal scarring alopecia, we’ve got to be proactive about getting more of it into our system. And that’s why it’s important to consume things like fortified orange juice, egg yolks, salmon, portabella mushrooms, and yogurt.
And why should your butt care about vitamin D? Since it also helps your body to better absorb calcium, which is essential for muscle contractions during workouts, and since those contractions are what help your butt to “grow” — if you are an exercise enthusiast, there’s no way around the fact that vitamin D is an absolute must-have and must take.
10. Consume (More) Protein
Your butt is comprised of glute muscles, and muscles need protein in order to grow. That’s why it’s also a good idea to have a diet that consists of protein. Off top, meat is a great source. However, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there are other foods that can get you what you need in this department. You can find a few of them in our article, “Vegetarian Or Vegan? Check Out These High Protein Foods.” Oh, and if you’re someone who would prefer to intake protein as you exercise, many experts say that protein shakes work in your favor after working out, and protein bars are fine, so long as you don’t constantly rely on them as a daily meal replacement — oh, and that you keep in mind that many of them are somewhere between 200-350 calories per serving (read those labels, y’all).
11. Remember Your Squats and (Hip) Thrusts
You already know that there is no way that we can discuss “butt care” without bringing up exercise. And although you are probably already well aware that squats are a great way to build up your glutes, there is something that must be taken into consideration before going completely ham on them. For starters, squats do a lot of things — they strengthen your core and bones, give the lower part of your body more power, increase mobility, burn calories, and, yes, they help to tone your muscles, including the ones in your butt.
However, if you’re looking for them to make your butt look huge, you’ve got to keep the type of butt that you have in mind and what kind of shape your body is in overall. Because what squats are gonna do, more than anything, is burn calories first and get your butt toned next. All this is to say that a “bubble butt” is not a guarantee for all. As far as hip thrusts go, they’re awesome because they are able to increase bone density, improve your balance, and strengthen the muscles that are in your hips, thighs, and glutes. For tips on how to do squats correctly, go here. For hip thrust tips, go here.
12. Work on an Exercise Ball (at Least Sometimes)
Now ain’t this some ish? As if it wasn’t enough to know that “sitting is the new smoking,” once upon a time, Insider published an article with this headline: “Turns out that sitting at a desk all day can actually ruin your butt.”
Long story short, not only does sitting down nonstop, for hours on end, end up literally changing the shape of your butt, but it can also lead to back pain and muscle atrophy. So, what do they recommend that you do? Maintain good posture while you’re in your chair, and try squeezing your glutes for a few minutes every couple of hours.
That way, you won’t be “flattening” it as much.
13. Invest in a LED Light
With more and more research coming out about the holistic benefits of LED light therapy, I thought it would be important to give it a shout-out here. If you didn’t know, the combination of red and blue lights can help to treat everything from eczema and wrinkles to hair loss and mild bouts of acne. That said, you might want to consider massaging your buttocks with an LED light device (like this one here) a couple of times a week because, although red LED will not remove cellulite, because it stimulates collagen production, it can help to soften the appearance of it over time. Another thing that could improve the appearance of your backside.
14. Sleep Naked with a Humidifier
Back in 2019, Cosmo published an article entitled “How Following This Intense Sleep Routine Helped One Woman Build Her Butt.” Although it honestly didn’t get into how/why exercise influencer Johanna Devries felt that getting 10 hours of sleep every night (along with exercising) played a direct role in her booty gains, it caused me to look deeper into the correlation between sleep and having a nice-looking butt. From what I’ve read, sleep deprivation can result in the loss of muscle mass, and it can also make your muscles weaker over time. Meanwhile, good sleep has the ability to improve the quality of your workouts — so there goes three more reasons to treat it as a necessity, not a luxury.
And since sleeping with a humidifier can reduce snoring, soften your skin and improve your quality of rest, help your butt out by catching some zzz’s, naked, with your humidifier on. Hell, why not?
15. Love Your Butt. No Matter What.
It was former President Theodore Roosevelt who once said that “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and if a lot of us were honest with ourselves, the (main) reason why we struggle with body image is because we’re looking at what other people have. Listen, a part of the reason why I’ve written articles for the platform like “These 10 Hacks Will Help You Love Your Body More” is because I’m a firm believer that there is nothing that can top an original — and since all of us are one of those…you know what that means…right? Who can top you?
Moral to the story: When it comes to cultivating a butt care regimen, it’s not about getting a booty that looks like someone else’s. Uh-uh. It’s all about taking good care of the ORIGINAL ONE that you have and then loving on it well. Sis, when it comes to the butt that the Creator gave you…please make sure that you do, starting with these tips and building from there!
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Featured image by ascg Photography/Getty Images