Last week, I paused my content to instead make space for posts on Black Lives Matter (BLM), as shared by content creators in the Black and Indigenous People Of Colour (BIPOC) community, and black-owned businesses.
No matter what we do, we all have the power to reduce injustices through educating ourselves on these issues, calling out racism when we see it, and changing the systems around us to better support those who have been oppressed, both explicitly and implicitly.
If you’re reading this, I imagine you’re all for the Black Lives Matter movement and for establishing fundamental human rights for black people everywhere. However, today I want to highlight nuances in the systems we live in every day that are still making life harder for people of colour.
As Aja Barber recommends: let’s keep our movements intersectional.
Why are there so few black-owned sustainable businesses?
In the sustainability space, I think it’s fair to say that the majority of business owners (and often, shoppers) are white. This is a marker of the oppressive system we live in, not of individual identity.
The reason we do not have more black-owned businesses, let alone sustainable ones, is because the systems we live in are set to benefit white people, chiefly men, while putting up barriers for people of colour, and women.
Yes, this happens even in a space that centres on putting people and planet before profit.
As I said in my post on sustainability during a pandemic: sustainability is an issue that can only be addressed when other, more pressing, human needs are taken care of: food, water, shelter, social connection, financial stability, etc.
It is therefore a privilege to be able to worry about the impact that we make on others, and on the planet.
Unfortunately, many systems make taking care of those simple needs harder for certain communities, especially for people of colour. That same systemic oppression continues in entrepreneurial endeavours, too.
Setting up a business is statistically harder for women and people of colour
Let’s take setting up a business as an example. Starting a business requires investment, lucrative professional connections, and a steady guarantee that all other regular needs can be met despite working furiously to get the business off the ground. Unfortunately, the current system we live in does not support the BIPOC community across those endeavours:
- According to Morgan Stanley, investments in women and minority-owned businesses are 80% lower than the median investment in businesses overall. This is despite research from McKinsey indicating that companies that have racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
- When black founders do look for investment, “they just don’t have access to traditional networks [compared to] “young-white-guy-from-insert-big-name-school” founders” according to Kathryn Finney, Founder of Project Diane, a biennial demographic study focusing on the state of Black Women Founders, and the startups they lead.
- And in the UK, there is a £3.2bn UK racial pay gap, meaning BIPOC have less opportunity to save money, let alone save enough to quit their jobs and start a business.
The good news is that these statistics are changing for the better. Minority-owned businesses are growing rapidly, often with women at the helm. The existing pay gap between White British and other ethnic groups is generally smaller for younger employees than it is for older employees, according to ONS.
But we’re far from perfect. We still need to show our support for black-owned businesses, and the black community generally. Do it as a shopper, an investor, or as a change-maker wherever you are in this system.
50+ Black-Owned Sustainable Businesses
For my part as a blogger, I want to start by sharing this list of black-owned sustainable businesses that are beating the odds and creating beautiful fashion, beauty, homewares, and more.
I put this list together alongside Audrey Migot-Adholla, Founder of Yala Jewellery, the first certified B Corp jewellery brand, and a woman who is leading the way in changing the industry from the inside with style.
AAKS (UK): Founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi, AAKS offers sleek hand-woven bags created by women in Ghana.
Aff and Jam (UK): Vintage and conscious fashion with handpainted accents and artwork.
Aliya Wanek (US): Colour-blocking womenswear label working with local contractors in the Bay Area to produce and dye garments.
Atijo Store (UK): Exclusively curated vintage, secondhand, and artisan items sold on Instagram. Just recently bought a pair of vintage YSL pumps from them for a friend!
Bakwai (Nigeria): Founded by Oyin Ilupeju, Bakwai works with local artisans in Lagos to create simple and stylishly designed bags.
Bare Boutique (Australia): Sustainable underwear brand by Kara Kupe, creating basics and underwear made with bamboo.
The Bear Scouts (Global): Sustainable fabric sourcing and development consultancy, co-founded by Dio Kurazawa.
Bmuse Vintage (UK): Pairing style and sustainability, Founder Brenda handpicks timeless blouses and other items in her vintage boutique.
Brother Vellies (US): Founder Aurora James set up Brother Vellies to create luxury shoes, boots, and heels, alongside creating sustainable jobs for artisans across the globe.
Breukelen Polished (US): Founded by Ariel Terry, Breukelen Polished is a line of 11-free, cruelty-free and vegan nail lacquers in rainbow brights.
Buki Akomolafe (UK): Contemporary high-end womenswear created by Buki Akomolafe. Her German and Nigerian heritage bring a diverse background of tradition, handcraft, design experience and aesthetic vision.
Chelsea Bravo (US): Chelsea Bravo founded her eponymous label in 2013, combining artistic freehand shapes across contemporary silhouettes in menswear and womenswear.
Chika’s (UK): Natural-ingredient snack company founded by Chika Russell, selling wholegrain rice crisps and flavoured nuts.
Duarra (UK): Founder Manitou Nsaka created Duarra to support Kuba artisans creating beautiful woven textiles in his native Democratic Republic of Congo.
Earth Toned Collective (US): Beautifully cut womenswear and unisex pieces made with organic, raw, recycled, and dead-stock textiles.
Eclectic Chique (UK): Nigerian accessory brand creating pieces made with vibrant designs and traditional printed fabrics, founded by Teni Majekodunmi.
EDAS (US): Modern eclectic jewellery, bags, and accessories, with each item one of a kind, and uniquely tailored to whoever chooses to wear it.
Eden Diodati (UK): Sustainable luxury jewellery line, founded by Jennifer Ewah, and working with a Rwandan cooperative supporting more than 5,000 widow and orphan survivors of the Rwandan genocide.
Elia Vintage (US): Chic, minimalist vintage picks with worldwide shipping.
The ESE Consultancy (UK): Strategic creative marketing and retail consultation provided by Emma Slade Edmondson.
Free As A Human (UK): Founded by Fashion Designer and Activist Anyango Mpinga, the Free As A Human collection raise awareness of human trafficking and forced labour in fashion, with 100% profits going to charity.
Galerie LA (US): Online sustainable department store founded by Celebrity Stylist Dechel Mckillian.
Gwen et Gloria* (France): Hand-selected modern vintage pieces sold on Etsy, available to ship to France, USA, Canada, and Brazil.
House of Aama (US): Founded by mother and daughter design duo, Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka, House of Aama is a line of timeless garments with references to the Black experience, 100% manufactured in California.
Jade Swim (US): Designer swimwear brand created by Fashion Editor & Stylist Brittany Kozerski, with all pieces made in California.
Kemi Telford (UK): Founder Kemi Telford creates joyful printed pieces created to be trans-seasonal and layered.
Kimono Rebel (UK): Black female owned fashion business, selling a curated selection of vintage haori, kimono, and furisode.
Kind Socks (UK, US, EUR): Colourful, sustainable socks made fairly and designed by friends of mine!
Kitty Ferreira (UK): Founder & Creative MD, Valerie Goode creates city chic garments which are produced exclusively in the UK.
Luxemore London (UK): All-natural premium haircare and skincare brand, founded by Annie Beatson.
MAMATER (UK): Ethical jewellery brand with sumptuous designs, founded by Marilyne Kekeli.
Míe (Nigeria): Lagos-based resortwear and fashion brand using natural fabrics and conscious manufacturing processes.
Narloa (UK): Plant-based skincare with a focus on aromatherapy and botanical ingredients.
Novel Beauty (UK): Organic, cruelty-free and vegan skincare brand created by Nneka Fleming.
OlaOla (UK): Textile design studio founded by Ola Olayinka, creating bold and unique patterned accessories, bags, and jewellery.
Omi Woods (US): Contemporary jewellery label founded by Ashley Alexis McFarlane, ethically handmade with fair-trade African gold and globally sourced conflict-free fine metals.
Omo Lola Jewellery (UK): West-African inspired jewellery created by three siblings, with pieces for men and women.
Organic Savanna (UK): Organic, responsible skincare brand handmade in Kenya by local women.
Qäsa-Qäsa (UK): Founded by Asian-duo Naeema Anjarwalla and Aniqah Moawalla, Qäsa-Qäsa offers a collection of ethical homewares and gifts hand-crafted in East Africa, with each item sold empowering artisans.
Retro Rhapsody* (US): Black-owned vintage store, selling chic vintage and designer pieces via Etsy.
Roop (UK): Founded by Natasha Fernandes Anjo, Roop offers sustainable handbags handmade with gorgeous vintage fabrics.
Sacko (Sweden): Black-owned sustainable fashion brand selling small batch plant-dyed items in sunshine colours, alongside handpicked curated second-hand clothing and hand-made accessories.
Sami Miro (US): Limited run womenswear and menswear made from upcycled fabrics and reworked vintage, made in California.
Sancho’s (UK): Digital department store stocking sustainable brands with ethics and aesthetics. Co-Founded by Kalkidan Legesse and partner Vidmantas Markevicius.
Secondhand Shawty* (US): Vintage finds for all shapes, sizes, styles, and genders, sold on Etsy.
Shekudo (UK): Contemporary footwear and accessories brand founded by Akudo Iheakanwa and made in Nigeria.
Sindiso Khumalo (UK): Sustainable Fashion & Textile Designer, Sindiso Khumalo creates her traditional silhouettes and striking prints while working closely with NGOs.
Studio 189 (US): Co-founded by Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah, Studio 189 is an artisan-produced fashion lifestyle brand and social enterprise, creating menswear, womenswear, and childrenswear.
Subrina Heyink (US): Beautifully styled vintage and upcycled pieces, alongside exquisite vintage bridalwear.
Terra-Tory Skincare (US): Safe, natural, and effective hypoallergenic skincare created with fresh superfoods and free from artificial and harmful toxins.
Washington Ave (US): Southern-funk styled upcycled vintage by founder Lakeitha Washington in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
We Are KIN (UK): Locally and ethically made slow fashion, made to order.
Wear Your Mask (UK): Founded in 2015 by Diana Ejaita, ethical fashion brand Wearyourmask mixes African textiles with minimalistic design.
Yard + Parish (UK & Canada): Online destination curating black-owned eco-luxe brands, with a beautiful aesthetic too!
Zou Xou (Argentina): Consciously-made shoes in classic, covetable styles, with worldwide shipping.
Learning from Black Creators & Anti-Racism Resources
As an addition to this list, I wanted to share links to the creators and organisations that have provided a foundation of learning for me on matters of anti-racism and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in recent times:
- Afua Hirsch’s book, Brit(ish)
- Aja Barber
- Black Lives Matter Network
- The Conscious Kid
- From Privilege to Progress
- Gal-dem Magazine
- Leah Thomas
- Mikaela Loach
- Mireille Charper
- Munroe Bergdorf
- Rachel Cargle & The Love Land Foundation
- Reclaim The Block
- Reni Eddo Lodge & About Race Podcast
- Slow Factory Foundation
- The Unapologetically Brown Series
- Yazzie Min & Stand For Humanity