Sharifa Murdock is not only chic, but she’s also in charge. As an entrepreneur, menswear retail expert, and co-founder of Liberty Fashion & Lifestyle Fairs, Murdock is rising to the top of the fashion industry. With very few women of color climbing the fashion ranks, it’s impressive to see power women making their mark in the industry. No heir to the fashion throne, Murdock worked her way to the top. Following her degree in fashion merchandising and buying from Wood Tobe Coburn, Murdock worked for well-known international fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton, DKNY, and Michael Kors.
Her latest venture, a co-partnership, is the menswear trade show Liberty Fairs, where she concentrates on curating and bringing new menswear brands to the forefront. This year the show featured notable lines from Billionaire Boys Club, George Frost, John Varvatos, and Brooklyn Circus among others.
In this interview with BlackEnterprise.com, Murdock talks about her personal style icons, the challenges of being an African American woman in the fashion industry, and her advice for aspiring fashion moguls.
How did you get started in the fashion industry?
At the age of 16, I landed my first job in fashion. It was at Atrium in Brooklyn, a store owned by Sam Ben-Avraham, who is now my business partner at Liberty Fairs. Afterward I went on to work at Donna Karan and Louis Vuitton, where I helped build their customer service department. Before starting Liberty Fairs, I was an original team member of Project, another contemporary apparel trade show.
What sparked your interest in menswear specifically?
To be honest, I was just kind of thrown into the menswear industry. At a young age I always knew I wanted to work in the fashion industry, but I never had any interest in womenswear. I was fascinated by how men styled themselves. After I started working at Project, it made me love to dress men instead of women.
What is the Liberty Fairs trade show?
Liberty Fairs is an apparel trade show centered around community and creativity. We curate the most forward-thinking brands and bring them together with the industry’s top buyers, creating a special platform for buyers to shop in a more focused environment.
What are the challenges of being a woman of color in the fashion industry?
I don’t think it’s about being a woman of color—it’s more about being a woman in general. And I don’t necessarily view anything as challenges. Everything is a motivation. As a woman of color, I want to work hard and prove to myself that I can make myself better as a person through my accomplishments.
What’s the greatest lesson that you’ve been able to learn as a result of your work in the industry?
Always stay ahead of the game. You have to stay ahead; you can’t sleep on anything or get too comfortable. The fashion industry moves at such a fast pace, and so do those who work in it. If you aren’t 10 steps ahead, you’re behind.
Who is your fashion icon?
Currently I love Miroslava Duma and Lupita Nyong’o. Miroslava has the best personal style, and Lupita’s red carpet looks are always spot on. Growing up I always admired Jackie O’s classic style. I also consider my father as one of my fashion icons. He was a very well dressed man who taught me something at a young age: Style is about quality over quantity. That theory sticks with me to this day.
What’s next for you?
Continuing to grow Liberty Fairs. My team and I are always working on ways to make the show more interesting and finding creative ways to keep the traffic and expectations of Liberty high.
Any advice for aspiring fashion moguls?
Find an amazing mentor. Mentorship was a huge part of my career. My mentor is my business partner, Sam, who gave me my first job in fashion. Everything came full circle for me, so I always try and pay it forward by creating opportunities for emerging talent and eager young professionals.