Filed In: the interviews
I first met Robert Charles or Rob, as I call him, through a mutual friend (Hey Peter!) at a New Orleans social gathering. We chatted it up, shared a few laughs and quickly became good friends. Rob is one those people that has a magnetic energy. If you’re not drawn in by how gorgerous he is, then you will definitely notice his incredible sense of style. Either way, you will want to know who’s that guy and what’s his story? A trait Rob believes has helped advance his career as a designer and stylist.
In the matter of a few years, Robert Charles has gone from an up-and-coming New Orleans designer, to a solidified style-maker that has had his designs worn by artists like Daley to Xscape. His career is a true example of what can happen when you not only tap into your greatness but also own the hell out of it.
Recently, Rob took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his brand, ideas, and clothing company R. Chvrles with me. Be sure to read my interview with Robert Charles now. I know it will leave you feeling incredibly inspired. Enjoy!
*Robert Charles and I on-set for the “Dev Takes LA” DATC photoshoot.
Deveney Marshall: Tell me about your journey as a fashion designer, what was the inspiration behind the R. Chvrles brand?!
Robert Charles: My journey on this road of fashion & design has been a very long one. In the beginning, I can honestly say I don’t think there was any real inspiration behind the brand I just knew i wanted to create & maybe tell a story with those creations.
DM: When did you first know you wanted to be a designer?
RC: I learned at a young age how alter clothing from my great-grand mother (may she Rest In Peace) thats when I was taught how to hand sew. It wasn’t ‘til I was in high school and coming into my own (as we all do as we get older) figuring out what works for us and what doesn’t as far as looks and styles. I always loved the suited tailored look and still do. I got my start by making bow-ties as time passed, getting the reaction I got I knew if I could do this I can definitely make and construct full garments…that’s when I knew.
DM: How did growing up in New Orleans influence you as an artist?
RC: Growing up in New Orleans was possibly the best thing that could’ve happened to me besides being born *laughs*. New Orleans has a vibe that really can’t be put into words. I believe we are a different breed of people almost like telling a story but you had to be there to really get it ya know? It has influenced me as an artist in many ways from the music, the art, the food, there’s no place like it so when I create I do it in such a way that you know you like it but you don’t know why. It’s intriguing and it’s doing something for you but you really can’t place your finger on it.
DM: You are someone I would consider to be a grand fashionisto! How is your personal style reflected in your designs?
RC: Thank you I really appreciate that! I push boundaries with my personal style, I feel like I reflect that in my designs when you see not so ordinary pieces like the jacket I made with fabric made of roses, a fabric that’s traditionally used for wedding dresses I just saw something different in it.
*R&B singer Daley wearing R. Chvrles Brand.
DM: Speaking of that fabulous piece, r&b artist Daley wore it for a few of his performances, which was huge! That is a testament in how much your career has truly blossomed. You’ve also designed for Dawn Richards and her back-up dancers, and most recently you designed for the legendary r&b group Xscape, how did those opportunities come about?
RC: Although I do feel like there’s much more to come (I hope *laughs*), I honestly feel like I was granted those opportunities by speaking up for myself. By not being afraid to speak on my talents and laying myself on the line. I’m a firm believer that you are your own biggest supporter, outside of family & friends no one can or will grind for you like YOU can. So I believe if you want to be in a certain place you have to work for it put yourself in THAT place.
DM: Amen to that! I know for sure there is more to come for you, but how does it feel to know your career has grown to such a level?
RC: Honestly, sometimes I’m still in shock as to how far I’ve gotten. We all want a seat at the table, we all want to make a name for ourselves, but it only makes me want to work and push harder to not only get to the table, but not have to introduce myself when I get there. I want to be known I want my name to ring bells in many ways there’s much work to be done.
DM: Your “Heaux Is Life” apparel makes such a bold political statement, what lead you to designing those?
RC: It started as joke. [Well] really [but] not really, because it’s such a real statement to be applied to life or at least life the way I view it. Basically I was leaving out for work one afternoon and before leaving I said “time to go be a heaux for the man, and heaux is life when your on the schedule everyday” *laughs.”
DM: What does “Heaux Is Life” mean personally to you?
RC: I know normally when you hear the term “hoes”’or “heaux” it is usually associated with the lights of a prostitute or someone selling their body, but thats not what I meant. For me “Heaux Is Life” is getting up working that 9-5, it’s selling yourself so others can buy into that brand that you’re trying to build, it is doing what you have to do to get what you want. Something like a “hoe” or “heaux” would do.
DM: I love that! If no one understands that, I definitely do. What advice would you give someone looking to get into designing?
RC: Simply don’t give up, trust in yourself and vision because not everyone is gonna feel it but it doesn’t mean it’s not good. In many ways some people don’t like or don’t support what they don’t understand.
DM: That is one of my favorite sayings, it’s beyond true. So what can we expect next from the R. Chvrles brand?!
RC: I’m working on putting together a pop-up shop in New Orleans as soon as I can, but as far as designs all I will say is stay tuned beautiful things are in the works.
*follow thedevandthecity.com IG page: @thedevandthecity
New Orleans is one of the most unique cities in the world. It’s filled with a magical essence, distinct beauty, and some of the most talented souls around. One of my favorite things about the city is all of the beautiful creatives you meet at every turn. From musicians to dancers to visual artists to actors, you’ll find them all here. New Orleans serves as the birthplace to greats like Fats Domino, Master P, and Frank Ocean and so many other artists that are on their way to becoming greatness.
Being a native New Orleanian and a music lover, I am always scrawling the city to follow the careers of the next big thing, and there are 3 artists that I’m sure will be on everyone’s radar very soon. These eclectic group of musicians are breaking boundaries, and bringing real talent to the music world. Recently, I got a chance to catch up with them and we discussed all things New Orleans and (of course) all things music. Be sure to view my interview featuring Willie Dropkick, THELIKWIDLIGHTEXPERIENCE, and Pernell Cook below.
I randomly meet Willie Brooks or Willie Dropkick in the mall one day. He was pushing himself as a new artist and told me I had to give his SoundCloud a listen. I remember thinking “Great another over confident SoundCloud rapper,” but after actually listening to his music I realized there was some real talent that lied within his confidence. Willie can actually spit, and to say he is a super talented lyricist would be an understatement. His raps cover a little of everything from the political climate to the typical “turn-up” lifestyle of a touring rapper. Back in April, Dropkick independently released his debut album “Legendary,” a project he calls a testimony of his life.
I’ve known LIKWID for some years now. He is one of those artists that you would call an all-around creative. Not only is a talented musician that sings, plays the piano and the guitar, but he is also a skilled photographer, songwriter, and producer. LIKWID’s artistry is just as his name says, an experience. His futuristic and funkadelic sound is not only sonically stimulating but he makes sure his listeners are visually pleased as well, as he’s currently working on a film to compliment his newly released album “Sex Droids.”
I go as many people would say way back with Pernell, we both attended the same high school (Shoutout To Warren Easton). Pernell is what I would say is an artist through and through. Everything about him screams dope ass artist, from his style to his vibe to (of course) his sound. Pernell’s sound is sensuality embodied at it’s finest. He is the perfect mixture of Lenny Kravitz meets Maxwell.
DM: Tell me about your journey as an artist, what has it been like? What inspired you to become one?
Willie Dropkick: My journey has been great the ups the downs all the late nights. I couldn’t ask for anything better. My dad [inspired me], he would always bump the 90s hip hop and r&b everywhere we went. I used to steal all his cds and bump it alone in my room. Growing up watching rap city, seeing artists freestyle in the basements seeing artists go freestyle with flex and sway. I always had a knack for writing, after awhile I started rapping to random instrumentals myself and developed a love for it.
THELIKWIDLIGHTEXPERIENCE: My journey as an artist has been one of constant learning. Music is a world with no end. Being from New Orleans I was inspired first by the local musicians and my surroundings.
Pernell Cook: I’ve always been a vocalist. My mom once told me that as a toddler, instead of yawning, in the morning I would sing. My family is full of singers and musicians; They first inspired me to want to sing. Though I’ve always loved to sing, I was super shy about it as a kid. My family helped me get over the bashfulness and I started, slowly, to embrace my gift and began to want to hone my craft as a musician. I’ve been singing for a while, but I’ve only recently-within the past half decade- began to consider myself an artist. The journey, thus far, has been self-enlightening. Personally, art is something that is supposed to take you out of your conform zone; in doing so, you learn a lot about yourself. It’s great that being an artists and my journey is allowing me figure out a lot about myself, which I feel reinforces my art.
DM: Describe New Orleans in one word?
DM: How has being a New Orleanian influenced you as an musician?
WD: From from New Orleans can either make you or break you. I can guarantee it made me be a better man and a way better hustler. Seeing what I saw makes it easy for me to write songs. Always hearing and being around live music made me become way more creative.
LLE: There are so many brillant musicians here I guess its made me push myself to be excellant in it. Im always trying to take things to the next level.
PC: Music is such a huge part of the city’s culture; it’s really hard to be here and not have music be apart of your life. Literally, there’s a musician on every street corner, when you’re downtown. It’s like the city is a huge stage. Being here has, for the most part, made me more comfortable with myself as a musician.
DM: Describe your artistry is one word?
DM: What would you say sets you apart from other artists in your genre?
WD: I may have a deeper feel than other artists, these songs I write comes from a lot of pain, problems, good times. You can really tell by my tone that i’m not just doing this music thing for a wave.
LLE: I’m crazy enough to do something no one else would think of or dare to try.
PC: It’s really easy to fall into being a “type of artists”. Just because I’m a RnB singer doesn’t mean I have to be what people perceive as an “RnB singer.” Simply being myself sets me apart from other artists. I’m putting a lot of my experiences, thoughts, and perspective into my music; those things are unique to me and will continue to set me apart from other artists because no one else can be me.
DM: Who are some of your big influences?
WD: My biggest influence is knowing what failure feels like, knowing what I’m working toward…me taking that risk and following my passion doing what I love and remaining real. As far as a busines stand point artists like jigga, rick ross, curren$y, and some others just help me grow as an artist, a person , and just a boss period…from their music to their interviews.
LLE: I would have to say Prince, James Brown, Meshell N’degeocello, Stevie Wonder and Bowie. I’d model my career off of James Brown and Prince; they took control of there business and revolutionized music.
PC: Most of my biggest influences are artists who have commanded their creative space and are confronting convention simply through their unapologetic sense of self and the earnestness in which they express themselves. Artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard, Andre 3000, Young Thug, Lady Gaga, Cher, Lenny Kravitz, and Solange are a few of the bigger names that I feel have done that and have inspired me to do the same.
DM: What has been your experience as an New Orleans musician?
WD: In order to be recognized in your own city you have to make your power moves in other cities first, do a couple tour runs, drop music on a consistent level. Yes, I do get love from my peers maybe not as much as other artists around, but it’s because i’m still under the radar. I’ll give it some time…my 1st album did drop only 5 months ago.
LLE: I overall have a good experience here. I’ve been for the most part well received but I know who my audience is and it’s not necessarily the locals.
PC: New Orleans is a great place to be a musician because of the general appreciation of music here. People here readily embrace new artists just out of their pure love of music, it’s extremely encouraging. Networking here has been really exciting because this same embrace is shown, even more so by other musicians and people in the music circles. I definitely feel I am being received well and I am super excited to push my music.
DM: The current political climate is heated to say the least, do you feel the need to reflect that in your art? If so, why?
WD: Yes and no…I hate politics. I do talk about police brutality on blacks, I do talk about all the hatred being spread around between our own people, I do talk about the senseless killing going on in my city…but I know deep down it’s going to take more than me and my music for my people to come together.
LLE: Yeah I do! My lyrics were always social political and spiritual too. It’s just something I do when I fill a certain way about the world.
PC: I’m putting a lot of myself and my perspective into my music, so it’s difficult being apart of society [and] not to have social phenomenon be reflected in my music. I have an opinion, a voice, and I want to use my art to express my opinions and perspective. The political climate has affected me as a citizen, as a person and if I’m to be completely transparent in my art I have to let how this climate has affected me be reflected in my art.
DM: What legacy do you want to leave behind as an artist?
WD: I [want to be] the artist that made a difference. The artist that had a journey with a message saying that you really can do what you love and chase your dreams it just all matters on how bad you want it. For me it was either chase my dream or be 50 years old wondering what if.
LLE: When it’s all said and done I hope people realize the power and importance of my music as a tool for elevation. If I have my way i’ll change the whole game.
PC: I want my legacy to be that I was unconventional and unapologetic about it. Sometimes it’s hard to be yourself in society because we’ve been taught to be a certain way. I want my legacy to inspire people to be comfortable with themselves and not convention.
DM: What can we expect from you next as an artist?
WD: More growth, more energy, and more stories I have yet to tell [with] more feeling. I’m dropping a joint album with my producer titled “Business & Women,” “Too Legendary” the album and more tour dates coming soon.
LLE: Films, a tech partnership and definitely alot more music. I hope everyone like surprises.
PC: I’m really excited about the projects I have been working on. I want my next project to really introduce who I am as an artist to this city. I’ve been curating this package of music and visuals to do so. I am my own creative director and it’s forcing me to do to a lot of things outside of just singing. I can’t wait to finally show people and let people hear what I’ve been working on. The beginning of next year will be an explosion of material from me and I’m super excited.
*To learn more about Willie Dropkick follow him on IG: @williedropkick
*To learn more about THELIKIDLIGHTEXP follow him on IG: @thelikwidlightexp
*To learn more about Pernell Cook follow him on IG: @__kravitz (double underscore)
*Legendary and Sex Droids available now on all digital music platforms.
I had the pleasure of meeting Paula Bland at the Rizos On The Road event back in May. She was this fabulous lady, with long flowing braids and gorgeous dewy skin. I went over to her table and introduced myself. She began to tell me about her hair and skin care company “The Love of People,” in that moment I knew I had to feature her on this website!
As I listened to her speak, I quickly realized Paula was more than just an advocate for natural hair, but more of a person that wants everyone to see the true beauty within themselves. As if speaking with her was not amazing within itself, I left Paula’s table with a bag of goodies as well. I could not wait to get home and try them. I instantly fell in love with the TLP “Whip It” Skin and Hair Butter. Not only does it moisturize and hydrate your skin but it beautifully coats and nourishes your hair also. Plus it smells simply divine!
I recently got a chance to catch up with Paula Bland to discuss all things The Love Of People. After doing this interview with Paula I learned there is so much more to her than meets the eye (which is already pretty awesome btw). She is not only the owner of a natural hair company, but a woman that intends on using her brand for activism all around the world. Be sure to read this inspirational and incredible interview with Paula below. Enjoy!
DM: I know The Love of People (TLP) was created right before the natural-hair movement, what made you want to start a natural hair care line?
PB: I had just finished my degree in Biology and Chemistry after Hurricane Katrina and a rigorous 18-month long accelerated Nursing program; I had made a conscious choice to go natural while in my Nursing program. During this time, I always say that, “I lived under a rock.” *laughs* With the knowledge that I received with these multiple degrees under my belt, I was determined to live a more holistic life to decrease health comorbidities for myself and my family and friends around me. Other than going natural, cutting out certain foods was also a focus of mine at that time. When I decided to take my hair out of braids and truly experience it in a free and natural state, there was nothing out there to tame what I had growing from my scalp and that is how TLP came to be. Bettering others lives and not just being another product in the cabinet became our focus as a brand.
DM: What inspired the name of the company?
PB: The Love of People derived initially from the initials, T.L.P. which stand for my sisters and myself, Tara, Liza, and Paula, in that order. Shortly after I started on my natural journey, my two older sisters followed. None of us had ever seen our hair without some type of processing added to it. When we “Big Chopped” and really got to experience our hair we saw so many different curl patterns and textures in each of our heads! My oldest sister would say, “We have all people right here.” So, from our initials and that concept, The Love of People was born.
DM: I love that! Let’s discuss your natural hair journey a little more. Besides the choice to live a more holistic lifestyle, what else would you say influenced you to embrace your natural hair?
PB: I was influenced to start my natural hair journey to truly see what God gave me and to embrace my natural state. I was newly married and I wanted to share my true self with my husband and the world. I wanted to know how I looked with my God given texture and I wanted to see if it was truly all that bad, which wasn’t the case.
DM: As black women it’s so important to openly accept ourselves and appreciate our hair, especially since society constantly tells us that we shouldn’t. Why is it so important for black women to embrace their natural hair?
PB: Embracing your natural hair is so much more than just that. It is hopefully a shift in our consciousness. The natural hair movement to me is to embrace the differences that society has tried to deem as negative and ugly and take those things back. To start to see our uniqueness as beautiful again, from our crowns, to our big lips, to our hips and butts. Every inch of us is beautiful! The quicker we see that the quicker we become more comfortable in our skin and move on to more pressing issues like world hunger and equal education.
DM: I hear that! One thing I love about The Love of People brand is its’ emphasis on being hollistic and natural, how important was it to create a product that reflected that?
PB: The Love of People knows that what you put on your body is as important as what you put in your body. Your body still has to filter all the things that we apply to the outside of our bodies as it would what you ingest. That in itself is a big deal to TLP! Your skin is the biggest organ on your body and we put it through so much on a daily bases. From air pollutants, to water toxins, to product toxins, and on and on. It is no question to why we have so many health issues that plague us. Holistic management of self is something that TLP would love for everyone to embrace and take very seriously.
DM: What impact would you like TLP to have on the natural-hair community?
PB: The Love of People is so much more than a natural hair product line. It is a brand that truly has the consumer at the heart of production. Placing the consumer at the driver seat of what products are made is what TLP strives to do. The Love of People takes our research and the consumers needs into each and every formulation to make products that truly service your needs.
DM: What advice would give to naturalistas about caring for and maintaining their hair?
PB: Firstly, you should always have 2-3 product lines in your arsenal. Your hair gets used to the coating mechanisms in products and they can cause the hair to appear dull. Secondly, you also need to switch products because your hair needs certain things based on the season, climate, hormonal shifts, etc. Thirdly, you should always use a product for at least a month before making a decision on whether or not you like it. Last did bit, always clarify your hair before switching between brands, this will stop your hair from rejecting a product, i.e. it will stop/decrease product balls/flakes.
DM: Noted! What would you tell anyone contemplating on “going natural?”
PB: Do it, it is totally worth it! Most naturals that make the change for the right reasons also make a conscious shift that is usually a positive change and it reflects in all aspects of their lives. From what they eat and drink to the people and things that they allow in their space.
DM: What can we expect next from The Love of People brand?
PB: The Love of People, like I said earlier is more than a brand of products. TLP will become a household product but it will also become a brand that professionals use in their shops. TLP is enjoying it’s organic growth right now but plans about future products and collaborations are in the works so just continue to follow us throughout this journey.
I met Malena Crawford at a book signing during the 2017 Essence Festival a few weeks ago, she stood out from the other authors that was there. She had this radiating glow about her, the kind someone has when you know they’re not only beautiful on the outside but have an amazing spirit as well. As we briefly got acquainted I could tell Malena was more than just an author but a true story-teller. One that God had chosen to tell a grand message.
After reading her debut novel A Fistful of Honey, I can confirm I was right. This book tells the story of a woman that finds herself in turmoil, trying to gather a solution to escape it all, only to find that the real answer lies within her and the divine power she was born with.
Be sure to read my empowering interview with Malena below. Enjoy!
DM: So I hear it’s your first time visiting the city of New Orleans, how are you liking the city thus far?
MF: I love New Orleans, it has a lot of heart! The people here have been so welcoming and of course the food is on point.
DM: Yes! There is no place with delicious food quite like ours! Let’s delve into your novel, which is AMAZING by the way, I know your main character Alena’s life is based on your real-life experiences tell me about that?
MF: Thank you! Alena Ford is actually a play on my name, M-Alena Craw-Ford. She is an old part of myself that I released to become the woman I am today. Now, “A Fistful of Honey” is work of fiction, not all of her experiences mirror my own, but a great deal of them do. Or the experiences of women I have known. What Alena and Malena have in common without a doubt is the journey that the character takes from not knowing her place in life and feeling broken, to moving into purpose, forgiveness, and self-love!
DM: Well you definitely expressed that journey throughout the book. One of the main reasons I was intrigued by your novel is the mysticism throughout it. It’s very similar to New Orleans mystic culture. Why did you feel it was important to include this component in your book?
MF: It was important to me that women of color, black women especially, could themselves in God; to be validated as the image and likeness of the Divine. I found in my experience that we were largely missing from mainstream ideas of who God is and what holiness looks like. So having Osun, the Yoruba Goddess of Love, a black Mary Magdalene, and Isis as key characters was only natural for me.
DM: I loved how you gave an authentic account of the Black Woman’s Experience by showcasing how powerful yet taxing it can be. How does your experience as a Black woman relate to the characters in the novel?
MF: At the heart of A Fistful of Honey is the truth of black women: that we are powerful and divine. This truth was something I had to reconnect with in a major way, and it changed my life. It is a truth that Alena Ford has to reconnect with. She tried to find solace from racism and mainstream acceptance by denying her power and divinity as a black woman. She has to accept herself and get to her joy just like I had to. Not long before I began writing, I realized that in my experience as both black and woman, I was spending so much time in fighting and survival mode that it was distracting me from the joy of living. It was an “aha” moment for me. I made the choice to live the grandest life I can despite the onslaught of challenges and injustices hurled our way. We and only we define ourselves and create our lives.
DM: Wow, those are such powerful and true words! As a fellow storyteller I know we often learn a profound lesson about ourselves by sharing our art, what did you learn about yourself through this process?
MF: Writing A Fistful of Honey has absolutely changed my life. I learned how to surrender and be led by God, this was the only way the story would be told through me. I learned that vulnerability is power. Vulnerability makes you a pliable and whole vessel for miracles. I cannot tell you how many readers have written in or come up to me sharing how this novel has changed their life. That has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God.
DM: I totally understand when you say that. I believe God is the storyteller and we are just the vessels that are used. Besides the idea of the Divine often shown throughout the book, what else would you say makes A Fistful of Honey different than any other fantasy fiction novel out right now?
MF: A Fistful of Honey is different because our protagonist is a black woman who is in her 30s and also a mother. This is something almost unheard of in fantasy fiction. Also, it’s what I would call “hybrid fantasy”. The story has fantastical elements, but it also has a rich and layered emotional story of literary fiction with a little dash of hot romance.
DM: What do you hope to bring as an author to the world of fiction novels?
MF: I want everyday women to see themselves in my stories and get inspired by them! I stand out as an author because I’m not afraid to be a pioneer or the underdog. I write characters that come from my life, fuse together genres, and pose non-traditional or even controversial ideas for a new and juicy experience.
DM: I definitely can concur with that. I was able to see my journey in this story. What can we expect from you next as an author? Will there be A Fistful of Honey novel series?
MF: You can definitely expect a sequel to A Fistful of Honey for sure! You may even see some nonfiction how-to books since I am so passionate about self-development and living our best life.
DM: That sounds great! I’ll be looking forward to it.
*Malena Crawford currently resides in Washington, D. C. Besides being an author, she is a transformation coach and motivational speaker. She studied at George Washington University and holds a BA in Psychology and Neuropsychology. Malena is also the founder of the Black Divine Feminine Reawakened movement; a revolution dedicated to the way black women see and experience themselves. Her novel has received phenomenal reviews from renoun authors such as Iyanla Vazant, and has been featured in magazines like Blavity, Rolling Out, and Uptown.
I met Candice Grace a little over a year ago at a press party hosted by Fashion Week Lake Charles. She was dressed to KILL, and being the bonafide fashionista that I am, I had to who this fellow fabulous girl was. I complimented her on her gorgeous shoes that had me, well…gagging. She expressed to me she had a recently launched an online shoe boutique called GAGG Shoes. What I didn’t know at that time, was when Candice said recently she truly meant recent. GAGG Shoes had only been up and running for one week, but you would have never known it. Not only was GAGG Shoes featured in FWLC, but she also had a vendor booth where FWLC attendees could purchase her items as well. If there’s one thing I love more than a fashionista, is fashionista that is also an amazing business woman. I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Candice and we talked shoes and so much more, read my interview with her below!
DM: GAGG Shoes has been in existence a little over a year now and is doing extremely well, how does it feel to watch your business flourish in such a short amount of time?
CD: I haven’t reached my pinnacle, [but] it feels amazing to get the business started from an idea on a vision board to the accomplishments I have made today. In business, we expect instant results. We want to just press a button and be instantly successful in business, but unfortunately, this is simply not the case. So keeping this in mind, GAGG is making great strides.
DM: Yes, it is! What gave you the idea to start GAGG Shoes?
CG: I started GAGG for a couple of reasons. I LOVE shoes. I’ve always wanted to have my own shoe store. [I remember] my mom and I wrote a rough draft for a business plan [back] when I was in high school. I spent $50,000 on my LSU education only to end up working as a beverage server in the casino, I make at least 5 times more money serving drinks than what a news reporter would make starting out. In short, bills were heavy and I couldn’t afford to follow my dreams as a TV personality, so I settled for the big bucks of cocktail waitressing. I loved the money, but hated the company. I mashed the gas on starting up GAGG by first conducting research. GAGG became my way out. After working at the casino I realized I never wanted to work for anyone again. I want to be my own boss and make my own rules. Also, being from Dallas, TX, I noticed that fashion in Lake Charles was scarce.
DM: One thing I love about GAGG Shoes is how moderately priced the shoes are, how important was it to have a company that provides affordable fashion?
CG: I grew up kind of poor. I am the product of a single parent home of four. Even though I am the only child of my mother to attend a major university and graduate. I didn’t have any support in college. I worked part-time and took 18 hours so I could finish quickly. I couldn’t afford to shop and be cute. Luckily for me being busy with school and work I never had to hang out and party like a real college kid anyway; But the point I am making is that it is important to make my products affordable because I know the struggle. Not only that, I have to be price competitive with online retailers such as Amazon and Fashion Nova who both carry some of the exact same products we carry. People are more likely to purchase from these two retailers because they have a bigger and more reputable brand.
DM: Very true. Let’s talk a little about your journey as an entrepreneur, and a small-business owner. I’m sure it can quite challenging at times, what has your experience been?
CG: It has been a challenging game of trial and error. There is a lot of work that goes into growing your business and some key traits that cannot be left behind, like endurance, passion, persistence, drive, motivation, commitment, patience… the list goes on. All of these things are so important because without them, you’ll quit, give up, get frustrated and walk away. There will be times when you put a ton of time, energy, passion, and pure hard work into growing your business, and nothing will happen, not right away anyway. That’s because growing your business doesn’t happen overnight.
DM: You’re a very fashionable girl, how would you say your style is reflected in your company?
CG: My style is the epitome of my company. While I am not the designer of the products I sell, I hand-picked each style. Every product we carry is something I would wear. In other words, I literally wouldn’t sell you something I wouldn’t wear myself. [Even] my favorite color pink [is incorporated] in my logo.
DM: I love that. I’m always more willing to shop with a company if I can see the owner’s personal touches throughout the brand. So what’s next for the GAGG Shoes Brand?
CG: This fall I plan to add accessories and handbags to the collection! [Longterm] the goal is have a storefront. If God says the same GAGG will have a storefront in the [near] future.
To learn more about Candice Grace and her shoetique GAGG Shoes visit: www.shopgagg.com!
Brittany Eve is a New Orleans creator and writer, she holds two degrees: one in Marketing and the other in English, and like myself she is a self-proclaimed jack of many trades. She is the owner of Modern Renaissance Woman, LLC and the founder of The Loc’d & Curly Hair Affair, an event dedicated to bringing the natural hair community together.
Brittany and I go as many New Orleanians would say, way back. We attended high school together (shout out to that Purple and Old Gold). As the years grew, and we followed each other on social media, I realized she and I ideals aligned. We’re both black women that recognize the importance that lies within black beauty, and the sanctity that comes when you begin to appreciate your blackness.
When Britany announced she was producing an event dedicated to black hair and black beauty entitled “The Loc’d and Curly Hair Affair,” I knew I had to not only attend it but feature her on DATC. Enjoy our interview below!
DM: So the event is only one week away how are you feeling?
BE: Honestly, I am a nervous wreck, lol. I have coordinated/ produced events before but this is my baby. I feel the way my mom probably felt when she dropped me off for the first day of school; I’m excited and proud to present this event to the world, but beyond nervous of how the world will receive it.
DM: What made you want to produce an event such as The Loc’d and Curly Affair?
BE: The idea for this event was created over brunch with a close friend of mine. We were talking about what goals we wanted to achieve for the year and some how shifted the conversation to my hair (my favorite subject, lol). I spoke on the lack of representation of locs in the natural hair community and how there needed to be something that united curls and locs instead of separating them. After my mini rant, my amazing friend said something along the lines of, “Why don’t you create that space?” I thought about it, sipped my coffee and my mind was made up. Now it’s five months later and the Loc’d & Curly Hair Affair is here.
DM: As you mentioned earlier, you’re not new to producing events, but how does this particular event differ from your past ones?
BE: This [event] is my baby. LCHA differs because I have literally lived my life through curls and now with locs. This event is a medley of everything I love, event planning, natural hair and people of color. LCHA is more than something for me to do, it is a platform that was created to help others learn to celebrate loving themselves naturally.
DM: Speaking of loving yourself what was your experience like growing up as a dark-skinned black girl in New Orleans?
BE: Growing up in New Orleans was a life changing experience. A lot of people don’t know, but I moved to New Orleans when I was 7 from Las Vegas where there were mostly Caucasians and Hispanics. So being home, in N.O., I felt like I belonged. Of course, there were moments when kids would tease me about being “too dark” or having “nappy hair” when my new growth was coming in, but my mother always let me know that I was beautiful. She always raved about how pretty my brown skin was. She was/is my constant reminder that no matter what anyone says or thinks, I am a beautiful black queen.
DM: I totally understand that, my mom always reinforced how my skin was beautiful as well. As a New Orleanian, how important is it to have an event such as this one, and others like it around the New Orleans area?
BE: It is very important to have these events because it brings a little light to shine within the city. These spaces help people to let go of the outside noise and just breathe. We need as many outlets as possible to let loose and show love.
DM: I agree. New Orleans is a hectic city, we all are in need of a space where we can just be sometimes. So what can people expect from the The Loc’d and Curly Affair?
BE: I want everyone to expect a celebration! This will be different from most natural hair events. I’ve partnered with amazing people to bring this event to life. The talented DJ Legatron Prime will be spinning black girl magic, Baby Bangz Salon is gracious enough to be on the panel discussion and answer questions, there will be live demos from Ed, my stylist and Queen’s Crown, vendors from all over the city and many more goodies. I also can’t express enough that this event is for EVERYONE, men that includes you too. I can’t wait for everyone to experience this.
DM: It all sounds so exciting! What impact would you like this event to have in society?
BE: I want this event to catapult a change in the natural hair community. I want this to get people excited about who they are and wanting to support others that are just like them. My goal is to take this celebration on the road. I want to travel to different states, especially HBCUs, to share this experience with others. Then make the Loc’d & Curly Hair Affair brand worldwide. I promise it will be a household name.
DM: I’m confident it will be a household brand very soon. Any future endeavors you would like to share with the DATC readers?
BE: Yes, this is just the start of the Loc’d & Curly Hair Affair brand. I have a lot of ideas cooking up for more LCHA affiliated events, possibly releasing merchandise for the new year and making sure the annual Loc’d & Curly Hair Affair continues to grow bigger and better every year.
*The Loc’d and Curly Affair will take place this Sunday, June 4th at the Propeller Incubator for 3pm
To learn more about Brittany Eve and The Loc’d and Curly Hair Affair visit: www.facebook.com/MRWLLC instagram: @locdandcurlyhairaffair @_brittanyeve
It was no surprise to me when I recieved a call from Julie Branden back in December to be a part of Fashion Week Lake Charles (FWLC), an event she was entirely producing and coordinating by herself. I’ve known Julie practically my entire life, and as far back as I can remember she has always been a fashionista and what I would call an all-around fab girl. Originally a New Orleanian, Julie Branden found herself in Lake Charles, LA due to the displacement of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. “Lake Charles has the potential to be a huge fashion destination,” Julie said to me at the FWLC casting call back in January. Something I would have to agree with, the city is filled with exquisite hidden boutiques, and fabulous up-and-coming fashion designers. (Click here to view my interviews with Lake Charles-based designers Indrea Gordon and James Porter.)
Of course when people think of fashion, Louisiana is usually not correlated with it. However, Julie Branden intends to change that and put Louisiana on the map for great fashion, and grand style. As the owner of Vivid Image Consulting Salon and Styling Studio, and the only certified image consultant in Louisiana, Julie is the perfect candidate to take on that task. Be sure to read my interview with Julie Branden below!
FWLC is just a few days away! How are you feeling?
Crazy…nervous…making sure I don’t fall flat on my face. *laughs*
What made you want to start this event?
I wanted to introduce Lake Charles to the fashion world I know, and since my granddaughter Gabbi has junior diabetes I figured this event would be a great platform to bring awareness to this dreadful disease.
I know the theme of FWLC is “Beautiful Chaos.” Why is that?
When diabetes hits your household it causes chaos, and we all associate fashion with beauty…cue in the event name.
What can attendees of Fashion Week Lake Charles expect?
All around fabulousness! It’s a total of 12 shows, and there will be something for everyone. Womenswear, menswear, swimwear, and even kidswear. During the show’s intermission we will have a silent biding taking place. And I’m even going to be bringing a little of New Orleans to Lake Charles!
What designer’s showcase are you most looking forward to?
Barbara Ndrake! She designs fascinators. She’s actually flying in all the way from Nigeria for this event.
Being a fashionista yourself, do you think you will ever get into designing? I know you can sew.
*Laughs* No, I’m busy enough! But I do feel I’ve passed that down to my granddaughter Laci. She’s super creative.
What is the outcome you would like to see from Fashion Week Lake Charles?
I want people to put Lake Charles on their radar when it comes to fashion, we have a lot of talent here but no one knows it. More importantly, I want to turn junior diabetes from “Type 1 to Type none.”
Fashion Week Lake Charles festivities begin this Thursday, with the “Patron Launch Party,” taking place at the Blue Martini Lounge. The fashion showcases will be Friday, April 15th and Saturday, April 16th at the Isle of Capri Casino and Resort. To purchase tickets click here.
I will be bringing you all the behind scenes coverage of FWLC right here on my website, as I will be serving as the red carpet correspondent for this superb event.
To learn more about Fashion Week Lake Charles. Visit www.fashionweeklc.com
A native of Lake Charles, LA, James Porter is a Lake Charles-Based fashion designer, and the owner of the ready-to-wear line, James Allen. James Porter, a self-proclaimed “newbie” to the world of design, has only been professionally designing for less than 5 years. However, James says he always knew he wanted to be a designer, even back when he was in high school he always loved sketching. Recently, his passion for design came back in to full force, and he decided it was time for the fashion world to know his designs…and his name. After playing a bit of a round of phone tag with James Porter, I finally got the chance to speak with him. James Porter will be one of the featured designers at the first annual Fashion Week Lake Charles (FWLC), beginning next Friday. Be sure to read my interview with him below!
How do you feel being a Louisiana native has influenced you as a designer?
The nature…the energy…there are times you can be walking by a store and it gives you a hint of an idea here. The music, the food, the things we are known for…the fleur de lis. I want people to know I am from Louisiana. I’m Bayou Bound. *laughs*
Where did you gain the skill of sewing from?
[A few years ago ] I moved back from Baton Rouge and I decided to get back into sewing. I started taking classes at The Sewing Company.
Who would you say inspires you to design?
Well my teacher at The Sewing Company, Ms. Woods inspires me. I have good friends that I work with, and they are some of my biggest inspirations [as well].
How did you get involved with FWLC?
Actually a friend of mines tagged me in a Facebook post talking about the upcoming event.
I remember you mentioning this is the first time you are participating in an event of this kind, how are you feeling?
I’m super excited…but with a touch of anxiety.
Describe your designs in one word.
Confident. My ultimate goal is for my clients to feel confident in the clothing.
What makes your designs different from other designers?
I actually care about my clients feeling comfortable. My designs are created to fit multiple body types. I’m so tired of seeing people wear clothing that is just not good for them.
What is the legacy you to want to leave behind as a designer?
Recently I’m a huge fan of Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen, even Ralph Lauren, I want James Allen to be in it’s own class by itself, just as these designers are. I want to see a celebrity couple wearing my designs on the red carpet. I want this company to be timeless and last as long as possible.
Make sure to catch the fabulous designs of James Allen and other wonderful designers next weekend at FWLC. To purchase tickets for the fashion extravaganza click here!
To learn more about Fashion Week Lake Charles visit www.fashionweeklc.com
Originally from Monterey, CA by way of Crowley, LA, Indrea Gordon is a Lake Charles-Based fashion designer and the owner of the fashion line Quad Clothing. Quad Clothing Company offers women’s couture as well as ready-to-wear pieces, and her sub label Kiddy Quad is a high fashion children’s line. A graduate of the renown Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in San Francisco, Indrea Gordon has been in the fashion industry for over 20 years. When asked who is her biggest influencer, she simply says “Children.” An answer that I can definitely attest to, Indrea has a program entitled “Fashion Without Limitations,” which specializes in helping children with disabilities. Indrea Gordon will be one of the featured designers at the first annual Fashion Week Lake Charles. View our Q&A below!
When did you first realize being a fashion designer was the right career path for you?
When I realized I could change lives with my craft.
What inspires you to design?
Children. They see the gifts and talents and beauty in you better than anyone else does. They help you identify who you are and their opinions of you sometimes will blow your mind.
How has your upbringing affected you as a designer?
I am originally from Crowley, Louisiana but I grew up in Monterey, California. I have the edginess of coastal culture…I have the richness of the bay area and just enough country to top it off and give it the wow affect!
All of these areas play a pertinent part in the creative aspect of me being a designer, all of the different cultures influence my style and I’m always thinking about these cultures when I am creating. I am constantly thinking what would my clients on the coast like vs what would my folks down south like. There is quite a difference.
Who would you say are your muses?
I would say my go-to muses are a few of my models and my two assistants. They encourage me and they always look amazing in my clothes. When I see my luxe on them it inspires me to want to be more creative and to try new things. Each one of them has a different personality, so I get to dress each of them differently and if I can capture their personality through the garment that they’re wearing I have accomplished my job.
Describe fashion in one word.
What is the legacy you want to leave behind in the world of fashion?
I want people to know me for making a difference in peoples lives through my garments. I want people to remember how they felt when they wore a piece from Quad, and I want people to remember the experience when shopping at Quad. I want them to remember how each employee encouraged them and gave them a complete look so that they were able to walk away with more than just a beautiful garment.
Besides Quad Clothing what other business ventures do you have going on?
I have a gourmet popcorn business, and I also have a fashion program for special needs children called “Fashion Without Limitations (FWOL).“
Be sure to catch the exquisite designs of Indrea Gordon at Fashion Week Lake Charles, April 13-17 in Lake Charles, LA., and at New Orleans Fashion Week tomorrow, March 18th at the Board of Trade located in New Orleans, LA!
To purchase tickets for Fashion Week Lake Charles (FWLC) click here!