So it seems like I’m having my Solange moment, albeit without the amazing stills and angelic singing voice. Never mind. 2016 has been a challenging year in terms of equality, but there has been some light that can’t be ignored.
In this gift guide I’m celebrating some UK based black-owned businesses, that are paving the way by providing services for the African-Caribbean community and beyond (this article adds even more context). Technically I can also apply the term to myself, I’ve spoken about it a little in this video and posted about how I didn’t always treat myself as a business. As a black woman in the blogging industry, I can definitely relate to the struggles and highs.
This post isn’t just for Christmas really. These brands have amazing products that can be bought all year round and there’s plenty more to come. I’m excited and I kind of want everything for myself…
I love to hear about businesses borne out of friendship and the story behind Liha – Cheltenham and Hackney is no exception. Founders Abi and Liha both spotted each other rocking natural hair at University and stayed friends throughout their respective Olympic (!) and art publishing careers. Liha Beauty specialise in multipurpose, 100% vegan beauty products with a Yoruba and British twist. Their version of coconut oil contains the fragrant Tuberose flower, working as a facial oil or leave-in conditioner.
The struggle to find a decent foundation is real, as I explored a few weeks ago. Thankfully we have Melariche on the scene, a one-stop beauty destination for women of colour stocking brands you may not have heard of. Jackie Taiwo was frustrated by the UK shopping experience after moving from New York (I can only imagine the shock) and wanted to create something exciting and curated. There’s a few exclusives such as Swedish brand Maréna Beauté and others at a variety of price points. An IRL store needs to happen!
After listening to MDMflow founder Florence Adepoju speak at Stylist Live, I was so enamoured, I went straight over to her stand to buy the lipgloss she’d recommended (Ninety Four FYI). She’s been featured everywhere from Teen Vogue to The Telegraph and is changing the beauty industry from the inside with her highly pigmented lip products, which started out as a side-hustle in her garden shed. You can buy MDMflow directly from her site or it’s also stocked in Harvey Nichols, if you need to try the colours out.
Afro Hair & Skin Co
This is a beauty company I discovered via Instagram (see, the algorithm does have its advantages), which focuses on wellness and taking time for ourselves. The result? Meet The Afro Hair & Skin Co. there’s only three products at the moment (founder Ibi doesn’t want anything superfluous in the range), but they manage to address the needs of melanin-rich skin and afro hair with ingredients such as lemongrass and frankincense. The minimal branding is everything and there’s been some insightful press, from this Thandie Kay article to a review over on Sade’s blog.
Have you heard about London’s first cactus boutique? Horticulture expert Gynelle Leon opened Prick LDN six months ago, after working in forensic science, finance and fraud prevention (read more of her story here). Her aim is to encourage a plant revolution with her mix of unusual and more-recognisable varieties, which are actually pretty suited to those of us who live in flatshares and don’t really get gardening. The online shop is coming soon but you can get any succulent advice and gifts at her Dalston store. She’ll be open late on Christmas Eve.
Anthropologie, eat your heart out. Sapelle is a cosy lifestyle boutique nestled within a Portobello market arcade, bringing contemporary African design to a wider audience. You’ll find mini elephant sculptures made in Gabon, abstract cushions inspired by Mbuti patterns and the coolest hot water bottle known to man. The group was formed by four women in industries from finance to literature and their aim is to make an impact and educate on the diversity of African culture.
I met up with Kemi a few months ago over fried chicken (as you do) and she told me about her childhood spent obsessing over journals and sneakily reading her sister’s. Twenty years later, this passion has now evolved into Gazelle London and a range of notebooks adorned with African fabrics and wise proverbs on random pages. Everything comes beautifully packaged and 1.5% of profits goes towards helping vulnerable young girls in sub-saharan Africa. She’s also on Etsy.
Graphics and Art
What I love about Dorcas Creates, is that she reflects the diversity of blackness. In this interview with Gal Dem she talks about growing up with the feeling that ‘You have to be a certain way to be black’ and wanting to show ‘The shy black girl, the black girl who is into indie rock, the black girl who is into hip hop’ through her illustrations. I can definitely relate, thinking back to my fifteen year old self complete with baggy flares who could have done with some of her pins. She has an amazing Etsy store stocking everything from prints to #BlackGirlMagic tote bags and Christmas cards. Make sure you place your order by December 15th!
Excuse me whilst I go and pin everything from graphic designer Marssaié’s site. Her aesthetic is bold, clean, geometric yet elegant. I’ve emphasised how important a strong brand identity is for a blog design, so it’s worth getting in touch if you have any projects in mind.
Follow Marssaie on Instagram
Looking for beautiful calligraphy? Hair blogger Pelumi Rae founded The Letterwell a few months ago and I fell for her enchanting signs at a recent event. She offers free calendar printouts every month, plus inspirational prints and bespoke services.
If you’ve been looking for a ‘Dutty Wine’ card for a while, then you’re in luck. New Maroons uses typical Jamaican patois to adorn their cards, which is comforting to see in print (my Mum still refers to my 15-year-old sister as the ‘pickney’). If anyone wants to send me the ‘Rice to my Pea’ card, then that’d be just great.
Even though the first Gal Dem print issue is sold out, I thought I’d include it anyway since there’s plenty more to come from this platform highlighting the vast experiences of WOC. I would recommend this publication (as well as Black Ballad below or Melanin Millennials) for any girl who is finding life tough right now, especially you’re the ‘only one’ in a certain industry or space. Keep an eye out for events (I was gutted to miss their recent V&A night) and I hope it continues to go from strength to strength.
This online magazine sharing the diverse stories of millennial black women has been invaluable to me and they have launched a membership crowdfund to take their platform to the next level. Tobi Oredin is such an inspiration at the age of 27 and she is working tirelessly to make the voices of black British women heard. Think about how many times we hear about avocados and then how often you see a non-stereotypical black woman in a magazine and well, you get the jist. There’s less than two weeks to go so make sure you join!
Still stuck? My last-minute gift guide is also pretty handy!