Entrepreneurs in Fashion - Black Enterprise

Entrepreneurs in Fashion

Check out today’s brightest stars of style. Fashion forward and business savvy, these entrepreneurs and innovators set many of today's trends, from behind the scenes to the boardroom and beyond.

Bunmi Olaye

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Diversity and inclusion. Those are words found on the mission statement of clothing label Bunmi Koko. Olaye, a former fashion stylist and illustrator, is the creative director of the luxury, ready-to-wear line. Olaye previously worked with prestigious fashion houses including Prada and LVMH, and under the direction of the acclaimed designer Alexander McQueen. Her education includes degrees from London College of Fashion and Kent Institute of Art & Design. A featured designer at the Spring 2012 Arise show, Olaye's collections have been inspired by the Efik tribe of her native Nigeria.

Ugo Mozie

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Image consultant and designer Ugo Mozie has been making waves in the fashion industry since landing in New York in 2009. Mozie’s knowledge of and passion for fashion can been seen in magazines such including Elle, 360, and Arise. He’s crafted the images for celebrities including Dawn Richards (of Diddy Dirty Money) and Diggy Simmons, and credits his home of Nigeria for much of his style inspiration. Mozie’s unique sense of style and fashion flair inspired him and his partner Quinn Aston to create their own line of men’s clothing, under the name Aston Mozie which debuted in 2010.

Deola Sagoe

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Couture designer Deola Sagoe is known for her lively and colorful designs. The award-winning designer has an affluent fan base with celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Lydia Hearst. Her Nigerian background has been a major influence in her collections which include hand-woven designs and traditional African elements. Her designs have masculine touches, yet she remains feminine in her aesthetic. Sagoe’s three daughters are following in their mother's footsteps with their own label “Clan,” debuting "The Rampage" collection in 2011.

Chris Saunders

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Chris Saunders is a South African-born photographer and filmmaker. Saunders began his career in advertising and transitioned into fashion, shooting for fashion magazines like Dazed & Confused and Heat Magazine. Chris continues to shoot major advertising campaigns and past clients have included United Colors of Benetton for which he won a yearlong grant at Fabrica, Benetton’s research facility. Saunders is also a regular contributor to the fashion blog, Team Uncool.

(Photo by Chris Saunders)

Barbara Mensah

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African makeup artist Barbara Mensah was raised in Ghana by a grandmother “who never left home without her red lipstick or nail polish.” It was she who gave Mensah an early glimpse into the world of cosmetics and the art of make-up. Mensah has had a varied career within the fashion industry and has been mentored by renowned make-up artists including Beryl Barnard and Kevin Fortune. Holding a bachelor's degree in fine art, Menseh has always had a passion for painting and incorporates her knowledge and gift in makeup artistry.

(Image: Barbara Menseh/Facebook)

Kingsley Cooper

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Founder and executive director of Caribbean Fashion Week, Kingsley Cooper is credited with launching the modeling careers of today's Jamaican superstars, from Jaunel McKenzie to Sedene Blake. Cooper is also the founder of Pulse Model Management, which is listed on the Jamaican Stock Exchange.

Cedella Marley

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Daughter of the legendary Bob Marley, Cedella Marley is CEO of the Tuff Gong International record label, as well as a musician and author. Marley’s Catch a Fire fashion label, named after her father’s first album, is worn by the likes of Gwen Stefani and Angela Bassett and debuts its “High Tide” swimwear collection at CFW 2012. Also, Marley’s Puma-commissioned designs will adorn the Jamaican Olympic team during the London 2012 games.

Orain Barrett

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As the face of Polo by Ralph Lauren, Barrett also has campaigns for Abercrombie & Fitch and Pepe Jeans under his belt. The model was recently featured as Rihanna’s love interest in her "Man Down" music video.

Jeneil Williams

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Discovered in Kingston, Jeneil Williams became Karl Lagerfeld’s muse and has worked with major brands including Lanvin and Vivienne Westwood. Williams also graced the cover of Italian Vogue’s iconic Black Beauty issue.

Photos: Kingsley Cooper, Oriane Barrett (Oliver Morrison); Cedella Marley (Marley); Jeneil Williams (Giovanni Powell)

Tyra Banks

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In February 2011, Tyra Banks set a major goal for herself: to attend and graduate from the Harvard Business School. The former swimsuit model and entrepreneur enrolled in a management leadership program at the Ivy League institution to strengthen her business skills, and graduated this February. Born in Inglewood, CA, Banks, 38, has cultivated a catalogue of endeavors over the past 20 years that’s far beyond her runway beginnings. In fact, the Daily Mail recently ranked her among the richest supermodels in the world with a reported net worth of $90 million.

Christen Rochon

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After noticing the vast amount of time she spent scouring the Internet for fashion, entertainment, and technology websites separately, 32-year-old Detroit native Christen Rochon seized the opportunity to merge the three cyber worlds into one. The result was DivasAndDorks.com, the one-stop destination for women who love their gadgets just as much as their gossip and Gianvito Rossi shoes.

(Image: DivasandDorks.com)

Bisila Bokoko

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CEO and founder of Bisila Bokoko Embassy International and Bisila Bokoko Africa Literacy Project, is a consultant and brand ambassador who has worked with fashion brands including Pikolinos, helping to connect Maasai women with career paths and global reach via the companies shoeware line. She also works as an ambassador and strategist with StandSeven, which offers products with a positive social impact that are created by master artisans in Bosnia, Kenya, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Brazil, Belize, Mauritania, Angola, France and UK among others.

Claire Sulmers

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In August 2006, journalist Claire Sulmers took her passion for fashion and created The Fashion Bomb, a blog delivering daily doses of savvy style featuring women of color. Filling a void in the market, she uses her background in media and flair for trend-spotting to provide insights on celebrity fashion, international industry events, and highlights everyday women who share her love for all that’s fabulous, unique, and in style.

Image: File

Louie Greaves and Anasa Greaves

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Brother-sister designers Louie Greaves and Anasa Greaves will debut their Spring 2011 collections during this year’s Fashion Week as part of the Academy of Art University show. Recent graduates, Louie will present his men's wear collection and Anasa is a collaborator for a women's wear collection. Anasa plans to move to Los Angeles to begin an internship at BCBG Max Azria and hopes to one day open her own boutique.

Tracy Reeses

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The Vet: Tracy Reese's designs have become a staple in the fashion industry with their bright colors and unique patterns. A board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA), Reese has expanded her multimillion-dollar brand from apparel to shoes, accessories, and home goods. Her three lines, frock!, plenty by Tracey Reese, and her namesake line, are sold in department stores and boutiques in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The designer has collaborated with top brands.

Monique Pean

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This 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition winner's pieces have been worn by style icons including First Lady Michelle Obama, Kerry Washington, and Angelina Jolie. Monique Pean, a Washington, D.C. native and former Wall Street professional, creates fine jewelry made of eco-friendly and sustainable materials.

Audrey Smaltz

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The Backstage Genius: Audrey Smaltz, CEO of The Ground Crew, began her career as a model and later became commentator for the Ebony Fashion Fair. Today, her company provides indispensable backstage management during international fashion shows and other events, with clients including Vera Wang, Donna Karan, and Michael Kors.

Misa Hylton

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With over 20 years of experience working with such celebrity clientele as Sean “Diddy” Combs, Mary J. Blige and Kimora Lee Simmons, stylist Misa Hylton has turned her passion for fashion into a lucrative career. In addition to running her image consulting company Chyna Doll Enterprises, the savvy businesswoman recently announced the launch of her plus-sized clothing line, Madison Star. Here, Hylton shares a few tips for those wishing to follow in her fashionable footsteps.

Brandice Henderson

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As founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR), Brandice Henderson is making it her duty to provide the resources, opportunities and knowledge to rising fashion creatives to help them thrive in the industry. HFR shows raise exposure for minority designers and helps connect them to retail brands, media, and buying houses, providing resources for designers to maximize the business behind the industry.Recently, she expanded the brand the Harlem’s Fashion Row University (HFRU) concept earlier this year as a way to properly equip students for a successful career in fashion.


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Physically flawless, Iman is an iconic supermodel and business powerhouse. Her beauty company has thrived for more than a decade, and Iman, who graced Black Enterprise September 2006 cover, has been successful at diversifying her personal brand, launching fashion and home fabric collections and hosting TV shows alongside heavyweights including designer Isaac Mizrahi. The mother of two, has called Iman Cosmetics “her baby” and has referred to the company as a prized legacy. (Image: Iman Cosmetics)

Olori Swank

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When you hear UGA Biology, Psychology, Pre-Med honors graduate, blue-haired and thigh-high boot wearing celebrity stylist doesn’t exactly come to mind. That is until you’re introduced to the brand that is Olori Swank. Swank took a year off before attending med school and in that time she met “MeMpHiTz,” former V.P. of A & R at Jive Records. He asked her to style a new signee much like she dressed, and from there, the rest is history. The blue-tressed beauty has styled entertainment’s hottest celebs, including T.I, Keyshia Cole, Lance Gross and Teyanna Taylor.

Blake Von D

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Blake Von D is a fashion blogger and stunning beauty with over 25,000 Instagram followers. The 27-year-old Spelman graduate with a Master’s from NYU and a year left of law school at Tulane University epitomizes brains and beauty. Whether searching for deets on that gorgeous Jones New York Coat, or for a more in depth pick-me-up via one of Blake’s personal stories, her blog Blake Von D… Style & Grace has become a popular hangout for the girls who have an equal appreciation for both style and matters beyond the surface.

Shun Melson

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Shun Melson’s roster includes the likes of Monica, Ledisi, Ludacris, Jennifer Hudson and Tyler Perry. She got her start in high-end retail and still incorporates that same quality customer care into her stylist services. The style maven provides wardrobe assessment consulting, closet organization, shopping assistance, personalized look development, personal fittings and cross-country shipping. Shun launched FaSHUN 101, a series of classes where she provides aspiring stylists introductory courses on the business.

(Image: Facebook)

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