The Folklore Shop Is Connecting The Diaspora One Brand At A Time
by Pascia Sangoubadi
On a Saturday night, 198 Allen St. was filled with Black praises from friends and fashion family to celebrate writer -turned entrepreneur, Amira Rasool. She launched The Folklore, an E-commerce startup based in Cape Town, South Africa that provides a platform to African diaspora designers by way of storytelling through beautiful, captivating and sensual images. Each corner of the room was filled with garments by designers seeking to reinvent the often stereotypical views of the continent through storytelling and expertly-crafted products. The 23-year-old fashion, music and culture writer has been published in V Magazine, The Fader, Teen Vogue and Glamour, so it is only natural that she has exquisite taste for rare finds from the designers housed at The Folklore. But what separates them in today’s marketplace? “Originality. From the photo shoots to the designs. These designers are truly original,” said Rasool. A true testament to this would be the Ivory Coast namesake label, Loza Maleombho. As a synthesis between New York City urban edge and traditional Ivorian silhouettes, Maleombho creates eclectic designs around this juxtaposition to create contemporary looks. Mmuso Maxwell are a Johannesburg-based duo who are proud of their heritage and serve it by emphasizing quality and sustainability for their community. The budding new E-commerce also houses jewelry designer, Pichulik, who is inspired by generational wisdom from the powerful women in her life and the persuasiveness of jewelry as being a linkage to community and healing.
“It’s hard enough being a black woman trying to get these white men to give you money, but being a black woman who wants to invest in Africa?”
With such an exceptional class of innovators, plus Africa housing some of the most fastest growing economies, this developing businesswoman has plans of world domination in the fashion E-commerce field. “I would love to one day open a brick-and-mortar store, but only if it makes sense financially. I do most of my shopping online. I really like e-commerce. However, I do see the value in having a physical space. I would love to open a store in NYC, Cape Town, Accra, London, etc. I definitely plan on hosting pop-up shops around the world in the immediate future,” she said. One would think Rasool has garnered an ample amount of funding to sustain such a promising venture, however, working in this area has been a struggle for several designers. “It’s hard enough being a black woman trying to get these white men to give you money, but being a black woman who wants to invest in Africa? I tried for about two months then just decided to use my savings and ask my family for help.” This is an unfortunate truth for many Black entrepreneurs since Black businesses are often times less invested in than White counterparts. Despite this deplorable truth, the industry has shown some promise in recognizing the profitability of Black art, creativity, and business.
“I say capitalize off of this new “trendy” opportunity but remember trends are fleeting. If you’re going to develop yourself in this space, make sure you have a plan that will help sustain your business even when this black designer craze fades. At the end of the day, your talent and marketing abilities will be what keeps you in the game. Don’t let people put you in a box.
This year’s NYFW gave us hope with designer Kerby-Jean Raymond of Pyer Moss’ show, which we would see is the “Blackest” show to hit the runway since Patrick Kelly’s tar baby button pins. His show took place in Weeksville, Brooklyn, New York, a town created by a free African-American man just a decade after post-slavery abolishment. Models adorned in T-shirts and blouses painted with Black motifs of family and typical childhood memories. Another heavily melanated model was dressed in an ankle-length purple shift dress with the image of a Black man holding a baby. These tender images are soothing in these tumultuous times for Black people and remind us of our humanity and beauty despite others in society who may not believe so. But in typical, mainstream, White fashion taste … will this trend of embracing Blackness, in all its raw form, continue? “I say capitalize off of this new “trendy” opportunity but remember trends are fleeting. If you’re going to develop yourself in this space, make sure you have a plan that will help sustain your business even when this black designer craze fades. At the end of the day your talent and marketing abilities will be what keeps you in the game. Don’t let people put you in a box.” That’s exactly what The Folklore is not.
“Black women have provided a blueprint for turning nothing into something. I’ve found black women have been the most supportive on this journey.”
The Folklore is a haven for Black upcoming designers to create, experiment and sell without the fear of the frequent fleeting embrace of White consumerism. “African designers have the skill, they have the recognition, they just don’t have retailers willing to invest in them. These brands need a space to distribute their goods that doesn’t attempt to misrepresent them.” To avoid misrepresentation by an often White lens, Rasool has found support in friends and family who understand the importance of The Folklore to the Black community and to tell authentic stories of ourselves. “My father inspired me to start the business and really pursue entrepreneurship. Not only did he inspire me, he gave me the resources and encouragement to really put my dream into action. Black women have provided a blueprint for turning nothing into something. I’ve found Black women have been the most supportive on this journey, my photographers, videographers, stylists, etc. have, for the most part, all been Black women eager to help me build The Folklore”, says the girlboss. Through the support of other Black people, particularly Black women, Rasool has been able to shape her business her way and highlight the beauty of these images through her perspective. Ethereal, elegant, opulence clothing that creates a dialogue amongst the diaspora on where we’ll go next.