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Brands to Watch
Black Women-Founded Brands To Support All Year Long
Black Women-Founded Brands To Support All Year Long
by The Luupe
In celebration of Black History Month, The Luupe spotlights brands and organizations we love, believe in, and think you should (always) support.
The following brands (and a few non-profits!) are a wide spectrum of some of today's most inspiring founders, ideas and products. From skincare innovators to heirloom mini-popcorn purveyors and a non-profit supporting survivors of domestic abuse, these are just a few that we're keeping our eye on right now and beyond.
Feel like we missed something special? Drop us a note
Alon Uko founder Gbemi Okunlolo believes "a woman should work with their qualities within, to edify her beauty without." She has created Alonuko to work with the female form, not to hide imperfections or flaws but to accentuate desired features.
Gbemi Okunlola learned to sew when she was eleven, creating gowns from home, becoming and an expert in luxury women's fashion and bridal wear. She launched Alonuko in 2013 as a Luxury British Bespoke brand with designs that emphasize sophistication, confidence, and individuality. Gbemi says "a woman should work with their qualities within, to edify her beauty without," creating Alonuko to celebrate all aspects of the female form.
Founded by Jay el Alexander, “Black Girls Run'' champions fitness among Black women, and serves as a “resource for runners and gym rats alike.” They share advice and commentary on staying active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to limit chronic disease. They organize a regular IRL and virtual events encouraging running and active lifestyle, including a virtual challenge coming up on Feb 28th in partnership with Saucony.
Black Girl Sunscreen came out of the need and desire to protect Black women’s skin stylishly and on their own terms. Shontay Lundy founded the brand in 2016 with a single 30 SPF lotion infused with natural ingredients formulated for women of color. Since then, BGS has three product lines and can be found on the shelves of Target, Ultra and beyond. “For years, sunscreen has been tailored to light skin individuals, leaving behind a visible white-residue on our darker skin sisters. Blotchy makeup and white residue were enough to keep people from truly enjoying a beautiful sunny day.”
The Body: A Home For Love (founded by Luupe photog Deun Ivory)
© Deun Ivory / The Body: A Home For Love
Founded by Luupe photographer Deun Ivory, The Body: a Home for Love is a 501(c)3 non-profit and wellness membership space advocating for how Black women heal from sexual trauma. Guided by the motto of “healing through joy,” the organization takes a creative approach to provide trauma-informed care, community, wellness and a safe space for healing. “We are dedicated to making the world a better place for Black women” They also partner exclusively with Black women practitioners to guide restorative workshops, creative sessions and experiences.
Bread makes hair products that cater to “curls, fuzz, frizzy bits, bangs, braids, bantu, other bits,” with the goal of haircare being fun, joyful and empowering. Thinking of haircare like “bread,” - a simple, accessible staple of our lives, their kits, referred to as “bread baskets” include the essentials people with non-straight hair need for simple hair maintenance. kit 1- wash is the full bread basket, with all the essentials you need for a routine clean. Much of Bread’s philosophy was shaped by founder Maeva’s experience growing up in a hair salon. Her mom ran a braiding salon in Perth, Australia, filling Maeva’s childhood with the “smells and sights and textures made for the styling and cultivation of womanhood.”
Brooklyn Tea looks at tea consumption and production as a vital, natural, healthy and essential part of life, culture and spirituality. And they believe it should be accessible for all. The brand creates organic, and fair trade teas whenever available and provides free expert-level tea education to the communities they serve. With a focus on sustainability and social responsibility, they recently partnered with Tahuti Ma'at to provide compost for their beautiful community garden in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Tehuti Ma’at fosters political, social, and economic empowerment through healing, awareness, and implementation.
Brown Girl Jane
Brown Girl Jane is a collection of plant-based wellness, skincare and fragrance products that “helps bring balance and healing to the body, mind and spirit for our badass sisters.”
The brand was founded by Malaika Jones, a Harvard Business School graduate who Entrepreneur Magazine named one of the most powerful women of 2020. After spending years in finance, she left Wall Street when her youngest child was born to help guide minority-owned and women-led businesses, eventually founding Brown Girl Jane.
A painting of ECG-inspiration Estelle aka "Big Mama" and a photo of Estelle Colored Glass founder Stephanie Summerson Hall
The luxury brand Estelle Colored Glass produces pastel colored hand-blown and speciality made glass cake stands and stemware. Described as “Jewels for your table,” pieces are original commissioned from glass artisans in Poland at a glass making company with a rich 100-plus-year-old history. With the aim of starting a “revival of colored glass that is reminiscent of a past time,” the collection is inspired by founder Stephanie Summerson Hall’s grandmother, Estelle’s love for antiquing and pursuit of small treasures in her South Carolina towns.
Harlem Candle Company founder Teri Johnson
The Harlem Candle Company, founded in 2014 by travel and lifestyle expert Teri Johnson, is a luxury home fragrance brand specializing in scented candles inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, jazz icons like Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington, and the poet Langston Hughes.
Jungalow started in 2009 as a design blog in founder Justina Blakeney's tiny, plant-filled living room. SInce then, it’s grown into a lifestyle brand and source for : "jungalicious design goods and inspiration." This includes an international curated collection of home decor products, often with an exclusive, rotating selection of high quality, limited edition art prints.
Their mission also incorporates a range of progressive, sustainable initiatives, including “Trees For The Future,” planting over 65,000 trees with the goal of helping the environment and providing food security and income to communities that rely on trees in Africa. Jungalow also donates percentages of profits to organizations like ACLU, Black Lives Matter, Girls Who Code, Girltrek, The Rainforest Alliance, The National Organization for Women, The Downtown Women's Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.
Mari by Marsai. Photographed by Alena Saz. Produced by Tracey Woods
“I'm an artist at heart, and expressing myself through nails has always been a huge source of creativity for me,” says founder Marsai Martin. You might recognize her from her role on the acclaimed series Black-Ish. Just weeks ago she launched Mari by Marsai, her luxury, cruelty-free brand offering press-on nails. “Having a fresh set of nails makes me feel like I am empowered to take on anything and I've created these designs to share that feeling with you.” At just 17, she’s won 11 NAACP image awards, two SAG award nominations and the title of youngest Hollywood producer for the movie Little which she starred in with Issa Rae and Regina Hall. The Luupe's photo director Tracey Woods produced their recent visuals with photographer Alena Saz. Woods says "I am excited by the Mari by Marsai brand, because it is classic and edgy at the same time and speaks to different age ranges." We can't wait to see how it develops!
Pear Nova founder Rachel James photographed by Akilah Townsend for Square
Pear Nova was founded in December 2012 in Chicago, IL by Rachel James, boring from her passion for art and elegance. Focusing on the intersection of fashion + beauty, James is inspired by “world wonders, runway designers, and remarkable women.” Pear Nova also offers self-care products in addition to nail care, and Pear Nova Studio opened its doors in 2019 creating “a physical space for women to feel safe, pampered, and beautiful.” Beyond wide press acclaim in magazines like Allure, Essence and Harper’s Bazaar, the brand was also highlighted in Square’s “The Future Is…” campaign, highlighting Chicago’s Black-founded businesses to watch, and photographed by The Luupe’s own Akilah Townsend.
In 2011, Pipcorn co-founder Jennifer Martin’s brother Jeff was helping her move apartments and found a bag of mini heirloom popcorn kernels in the back of a cabinet and popped them up! They were immediately hooked, and came up with the idea for Pipcorn, launching the company a year later with small savings and big dreams. They quickly went from selling small bags at local farmers markets to getting funding and support from Oprah and Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank! Key to their brand is supporting family farmers who have been growing them for generations. They’ve also expanded their product line in to ships, cheese balls and more, while keeping ingredients simple—”like non-GMO sunflower oil, organic cheese, orange color from paprika and no artificial anything.”
This Chicago bookstore is committed to nurturing the connection between literature, art, and the pursuit of knowledge; while also using the power of words to better our community. One way they do this is their “#cleartheshelves” project, inviting Chicago Public Schools students to the store every month to take home whatever books they’d like. Semicolon, like Pear Nova, was also included in Square's campaign, photographed by Akilah Townsend.
The Sixes' founder Franci Girard
“Made for tall women. By Tall women.” Living the brand's tagline, Franci Girard created The Sixes to give tall women like herself what she calls #fashionfreedom. Having struggled finding clothes that fit for most of her life, she “wanted to dedicate this brand to those of us who are 5’7” and up, who love fashion, and who’ve been excluded from major style moments because of their height.” After a career as a professional volleyball player in Europe, and spending five years at Goldman Sachs, she went back to school, getting an associates degree from Parson’s School of Design, and then later went on to obtain an MBA from Harvard Business School. Armed with a strong mix of fashion and business, she launched The Sixes, “a collection designed with you in mind. Where other brands fall short, I’ve got you covered!”
The Sephora-exclusive brand sells products that help lighten scars, and ____ “I grew up with the condition post-barbae folliculitis which made me really embarrassed,” co-founder Olamide Olowe told The Cut in a 2020 interview, “I didn’t wear a swimsuit until college.” Co-founder Claudia Teng experienced severe eczema and was embarrassed to use many topical serums.” The two bonded over their shared experience and founded Topicals to help others deal with similar conditions, with a “fun” goal of good design, braking form the often sterile, alienating look of most topical ointments and salves. “We want to evoke the nostalgia of TV commercials and old-school skin-care ads…” Teng added. “We want to remix it in a way where the popular girls now have skin conditions, and it isn’t taboo to talk about.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Luupe is a one-stop production company that is raising the bar for professional brand imagery on a global scale. With a highly curated and diverse network of professional women and non-binary photo and video creators across 65+ countries around the world, we are reinventing how brands produce original, local, and authentic visual stories that connect with a global audience. Our mission is to champion and amplify diverse perspectives from around the world — in front of and behind the lens.