You may have first become familiar with Zerina Akers through her long and very successful working relationship with an up-and-coming artist named Beyoncé (or something like that). But the stylist, designer and influencer is a force of fashion in her own right, both forecasting trends and consistently sharing her growing independent platform with Black designers, labels and businesses—most recently via the instantly popular Instagram page Black Owned Everything. Soon to be launched as an e-commerce site with a handful of retailers handpicked by Akers herself (get on that mailing list, y’all), the growing list of black-owned businesses she has graciously promoted has been an indispensable bounty of resources for those of us seeking to keep our dollars in the community—including in the writing our very own Black Friday gift guide.
But far as Akers is concerned, Black Friday is far from over. Prior to the launch of her new site, the stylist brought her editorial eye to the Black-owned and curated digital boutique Thrilling, “to create a sustainable edit that reimagines and takes a new approach to Black Friday—the NEW Black Friday!” boasts a press release, which also reads:
Launching this December, Thrilling’s third-ever collaboration, titled, “Thrilling x Black Owned Everything – A Sustainable Edit by Zerina Akers” was inspired by the 90’s female unity in Hip Hop and R&B, the collection includes signature 90’s styles such as monochromatic dressing, sportwear pieces with athletic details, styles in animal prints and pop of color, leather pieces, bra tops, oversized suiting, and mini dresses, all ranging in price from $20 to $1,000.
Speaking with The Glow Up, Thrilling co-founder Shilla Kim-Parker explained how the collaboration came about—like us, she was obsessed with Black Owned Everything, and accordingly reached out to Akers to see if there might be some way to work together.
“This is a pinch-me moment for me, because I’ve long been such a fan of Zerina’s work, inspired by everything that she’s done,” said Kim-Parker. “You know, I think she’s a visionary in fashion; she is bold and innovative. And not only is her fashion and styling and designing kind of on another level—she’s always spoken directly and powerfully to the Black experience, to her Black community. And as a Black woman with a platform of many Black-owned stores, that’s super meaningful. And so for us, this is a dream come true to be able to work with Zerina, because I think, you know, everyone in our community is just so inspired and in awe of her.”
Kim-Parker further credited Akers with being “insanely gracious and generous and wonderful” in her collaboration with Thrilling, with hosts approximately 200 secondhand or vintage stores on its platform, most of which are BIPOC-owned. “She’s very passionate about lifting up the profiles of kind of smaller, independent black-owned brands and companies, “ Kim-Parker noted before giving a deeper perspective to the benefits of shopping used and vintage.
“We’re a mission-driven organization. So first and foremost, our priority is to support the viability of second-hand and vintage small mom-and-pop shops across the US.,” she continued. “The other part of our mission is to help popularize secondhand and vintage shopping and make it more of a habit. So, you know, I am really passionate about the environmental issues in apparel. And I think that we can all play our part because, you know, we are all activists; we all have control over our dollar, and we can vote with our dollars and choose to kind of invest in usually higher-quality items that will last you longer, but you can get for good value and also at the same time support local mom-and-pop shops.”
For Akers’ part, she focused much of her curation on Black-owned vintage shops on Thrilling’s platform, noting that in addition to being excited by the sustainable impact of the collaboration, it also provided her an unexpected opportunity to revisit the early days of her fashion career.
“Honestly, it was kind of a playdate for me because I got to kind of go back,” she laughed. “I went to college in Philly and New York, and I remember living in Philly as a college student and not having a lot of money, but in fashion school and wanting to still walk in class and give you a moment. I would buy, like, vintage prom dresses and then turn them into cool blouses and dive in and try to find all of these designer goods. So it was really fun curating this collection.”
But of course, the collaboration also adds a new dimension to Akers’ evolving work with Black Owned Everything, and to the broader discussion around what it means to shop responsibly. “I think the interesting thing about conscious consumerism is not only diversifying your spending in terms of business owners—the skin color of business owners—but there is now this pull back away from fast fashion, you know, on a very simple level, which interests me...really, there’s this way to kind of tap in what’s happening right now in fashion and be very current, but still shop vintage and sustainable. And you get this well-rounded conversation.
“I think shopping vintage is it at its highest point, because you’re not just sort of remaking; you’re literally reusing,” she later adds. “You know, you don’t have to then kind of spend the energy and the effort into even repurposing the garment per se...[you’re] literally taking something and giving it a new life.”
Always on-trend, Akers’ selection pulls from several eras of fashion, but she points out the ‘90s as one seeing the most resurgence, as of late—perhaps much to the chagrin of those of us who dressed through it the first time. “I think it’s hard for some of us to try to live through again,” she laughs.
No matter what the decade, in both Black Owned Everything and her new collaboration with Thrilling, sustainability remains the focus, because neither supporting BIPOC entrepreneurs nor protecting our environment should be considered a trend. (Notably, Black Owned Everything’s motto is: “For when the trend is over.”)
“We’re always so grateful and excited, you know, for people like Zerina who can help bring new people into the fold of vintage and sustainability and local shopping and let people think about them in different and new ways, so that’s always really exciting,” says Kim-Parker, adding a note of encouragement as we close a tumultuous but hopefully transformative year. “I think it’s OK to hold on to kind of all the grief and the frustration of the year but marry it with hope and the potential for change,” she adds, “because otherwise, I think it’s too easy to get paralyzed. And we’ve got to continue to kind of get back up and fight for a better day.