Maison Black, an online retail destination for accessible luxury fashion featuring products by Black designers exclusively, will launch Thursday.
Tori Nichel, founder and chief creative officer, developed the site to provide a platform for emerging and established Black designers to launch, showcase and grow their businesses. The business, Maisonblack.shop, is based in New York.
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“I created Maison Black to build an ecosystem that fosters design excellence and creativity for Black designers. I want to create a destination for discovery where Black designed products are accessible globally. It is our mission to serve the Black designer community in order to create access, exposure and longevity in the fashion industry,” Nichel said.
A graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology and Michigan State University, Nichel previously worked as a senior designer at Kenneth Cole, head designer at Tibi, designer of her own namesake brand and design director at Sears Holding Corp. before becoming design director at Kohl’s, where she is currently responsible for New York exclusive brands. She has also appeared on NBC’s “Fashion Star.”
To celebrate the launch and recognize the city that gave them their start, six Detroit-native designers will present their collection in a runway presentation called “Manhattan to Motown,” in Detroit tonight. They are Apotts (Aaron Potts), Kevan Hall, Isaiah Hemmingway, N’Gai (Nicole King), Truth (Sharryl Cross) and S. McGee Collection (Shawna McGee).
Following the runway presentation, the designers will be present and the collections will be available for purchase at a three-day pop-up shopping experience on Oct. 21 to 23 at Shinola in Detroit.
Asked how she selected this group of designers featured on the site, Nichel, who is also a Detroit native, said, “This special crop of designers bonded through quarantine and created an engaging community of support and shared ideas. Our collective Detroit connection bonded us. Our creative visions we have for the future inspired us. These phenomenal designers exemplify design excellence and embody community togetherness. They are just a few examples of designers the world should know about and I’m honored and humbled to present them to our home, Detroit.”
Maison Black is e-commerce only, and the site will handle fulfillment but doesn’t take an inventory position. Maison Black focuses on advanced contemporary and accessible luxury, with retail price points ranging from $298 to $2,600. She said she plans to roll out a digital magazine this year that will include editorial features. “We will focus now on the [docu-]series, ‘Black Behind the Brands,’ I created and executive produced. This will be Maison Black’s vehicle to share Black stories of the underrepresented, never recognized and amplify their contributions to a multibillion-dollar industry. We intend to disrupt the traditional retail space with game-changing digital experiences that are culturally inclusive for all and expressive.”
Discussing the criteria for being included on the site, Nichel said she’s looking for flawless execution and workmanship of product, manufacturing capabilities that can handle production quantities, and brands that fit into her seasonal fashion and lifestyle curation. The site will focus on women’s wear, select men’s wear, jewelry and handbags. The plan is to expand into home decor next year.
Nichel said her inspiration in founding Maison Black came from an inability to find Black-designed products, as well as the imbalance and lack of access to specialty and luxury retailers and inequalities in funding for Black designers. “Black designers need and deserve a platform and retail space that champions their design excellence and creative expertise while providing opportunity to expand their customer base and/or be a launch pad for their brands and collections. I want to help Black designers grow and scale their businesses. Maison Black is in the business of building legacies and ensuring staying power,” she said.
According to Potts, “Maison Black promises to be a community where Black style and creativity are supported in many ways. Not only does it allow for a retail outlet for Black creativity and entrepreneurship from individuals with proven industry experience, but it also provides a community for Black creatives to help and support one another through the process of creation and selling. And customers who specifically want to support Black talent now have a place to go for accessible luxury created and curated by Black talent.”
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