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Essence of Style: talking fashion, African brands, and mental health

Essence of Style: fashion, African brands, and mental health

By Nerdia Nadia

While at the 25th anniversary of Essence Festival, I chose to highlight black women whose style and spirit stood out. As you probably guessed, this was the hardest task ever! There were thousands and thousands of women at the festival that were just killing the game; it was overwhelmingly beautiful to witness and be a part of. I’m truly, truly honored to be among them. But this isn’t about little ‘ol me, so I’ll get right into it! I chose four very different women for each day of the festival and asked them three simple questions about fashion, inspiration and mental health.

The first woman I found was Danielle, @oof_iloveurhair at the Essence in Park event! She was such a joy to speak with and had an infectious spirit! I spotted her wearing a two-piece by Grass-Fields and immediately fell in love. Her natural curls were bouncing with every step in her Ramatu African Print set with minimal brown sandals.

What inspired this look?
Her look was inspired by the African print, bold colors and her connection to the Cameroon. Danielle’s husband recently discovered that he is of Cameroonian decent and once she saw that Grass-Fields was made in Cameroon, she knew it was meant to be! She’s obsessed with the brand and loves that the fabric is airy and light. She exclaimed that she was perfectly comfortable, even in the New Orleans sun. I’ve had my eye on this set for quite a while and she sure sold me!

Have you heard of Grass-Fields or African brands similar to them? If no, how would you like them to meet your market?
Of course we already know she has heard of Grass-fields, and her excitement over the brand was so sweet to see! She stated that the authenticity and quality of the products had her swooning.

How has fashion and the Essence Festival impacted your mental health?She explained that she is a new mom of a 15-month-old baby and this is her first time traveling. I had to interject to make sure she knew she was killing the game! She told me the festival, fashions and total experience was helping her to get back to herself. Her clothes made her comfortable while giving her an extra boost of confidence - she feels happy and loved and it showed!

Next, I found Demia, @thecoutureagency, at the Dream in Black stage in the Essence Convention. She was strutting around wearing this ethereal white and bronze two piece set, matching shades and her hair in a twisted bun. She was pretty much floating through the area when i spotted her.

What inspired this look?
When I asked about inspiration for her look she responded with three motivating phrases: Black Girl Brilliance, celebrating our elegance and Black Owned Business. At this point I was in awe! As if she couldn’t be any more perfect.

Have you heard of Grass-Fields or African brands similar to them? If no, how would you like them to meet your market?
Though she had not heard of Grass-Fields, she loves Chen Burkett! She wanted to become more aware of the brand via social media with the use of ads and hashtags.

How has fashion and the Essence Festival impacted your mental health?Demia expressed that this was her first trip to Essence Festival and that her mental state couldn’t be more relaxed! There was nonstop retail therapy that was created by us and in support of us, and those are the sweetest kinds of purchases. Confidence radiated all around and through her!

On the Saturday of the festival, I attended a day party not too far from the Superdome, which is where the hundreds of concerts were taking place. I had no idea that I’d find such a stylish and beautiful soul while sipping champagne. Angela, @muse_beauty, lit up the party with her pink floral suit, high bun and sneakers.

What inspired this look?
Her inspiration for her look took me by surprise when she said it was a cake! I love all things sweet, but I was a little confused. She explained that she was commissioned to bake a cake for the event and the inspiration for it came from a trip to the florist. She finds inspiration in almost anything and her creativity showed exactly that!

Have you heard of Grass-Fields or African brands similar to them? If no, how would you like them to meet your market?
Though she’s not as well versed in African clothing brands, she definitely wants to become more aware. She looks for more of an experience in the brands she chooses to shop from on social media versus just a product feature.

How has fashion and the Essence Festival impacted your mental health?Fashion and the festival had a super positive impact on her mental health! She relished in the possibility of dreams coming true. The numerous influential people that are so reachable and relatable makes her feel like she can accomplish everything she wants. There was so much positivity at once it’s difficult to not be motivated!

Lastly, but certainly not least, I found Amber, @burrcardi. We had a similar idea for the last day of the festival, getting a great brunch! Of course, the food in NOLA is amazing, but her sleek style caught my eye before the menu could. She was outside of the famous Willa Jean restaurant in downtown New Orleans in a simple, but chic jumpsuit with a color-blocked heels and an adidas shoulder bag. The combo took my breath away! It was subtle slay that deserved applause. Her spirit matched the chill vibe that her style expressed.

What inspired this look?
The look was inspired by convenience and comfort, so a jumpsuit was just perfect! She also shops through the ads and interactive posts on social media for her style finds. She likes the boutique feel of exclusivity for her style.

How has fashion and the Essence Festival impacted your mental health?When I asked about the impact the festival and fashion have on her mental health she exclaimed, “none at all.” She continued with explaining that being in New Orleans surrounded with people that are individual and judgement-free took away all the pressure. There was no pressure for her to get the look or look at what others are doing or wearing, but to just have a good time. She came down to be effortless and being surrounded by people that feel the same brought her a ton of peace.

I want to thank these ladies for sharing pieces of their time and stories with me! Their essence and style will stay with me and I hope to meet them all again. Each woman embraced me and left me feeling more empowered than when I began. If you’ve never attended the Essence Festival, I wish I could rewind time to make sure to see you there. Since I can’t, I hope to see you there next year!

By Nerdia Nadia

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