Written by: Ayanna Chatman
Khadira is an incoming junior at a New York high school. This year, she launched kashmani, a fashion brand that includes everything from clothing to deco stickers. Her products are handmade, upcycled, and reworked, and I can personally tell you, everything from her brand is amazing. Khadira has always been into the arts, specifically visual arts, and plans to continue fashion after high school.
Can you briefly tell me about your business?
kashmani is a brand I started during quarantine. Ever since I was a kid, I have always been interested in fashion, art, and making things in general, so this brand is a dream come true. To make sure everything was both as ethical and sustainable as possible, I started by upcycling things from my closet, my mom’s closet, and also things that I thrifted. As I kept brainstorming and creating things I asked myself, “Why not start selling the stuff I make?” Everything I make is hand made or upcycled by me. I have been having fun freestyling on some products, while others are planned out. Overall I just wanted to target my products towards teenagers because I feel as though right now there are many trends for kids our age that can be hard to find. For example, on pinterest you will find cute tank tops but you do not know where to get them, so I wanted to make my brand both accessible and affordable.
Why did you decide to start a business?
I decided to start a business because growing up I did not see many brands that had models that looked like me. One of my main goals is to make clothes for people who look like me. I want a young Black girl, who is looking for clothes one day to see my products and say, “Oh, that model looks like me! I can try to base my outfit off of theirs,” and be inspired by seeing realistic models, which is another main goal: to make sure all my models looked like regular people I see in the street or people that looked like me. Also, I thought it would be nice to make something both attainable and affordable for teenagers, and not sell a basic graphic tee for 60 dollars; I wanted to make everything accessible for kids my age so that they could feel confident in what they wear. Finally, I wanted to give back, so I donate 10-20% of the profit I make.
What is the most challenging part of being a business owner?
Definitely battling being a teenager, mental health, dealing with everything going on with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as current events happening all over the world… The hardest part is juggling all the responsibilities of being a teenager in this day and age, and wanting to help people while looking out for myself. I feel I am very empathetic and I always want to help everyone one, but I always forget that I have to take care of myself first. Mental breaks and taking time for myself is one of the great things I am able to do because I am the head of kashmani, but it is definitely difficult at times to juggle everything at once.
What is the best part of being a business owner?
The best part is receiving support from friends, family, and people on instagram and social media who enjoy the things I make…. For the first drop a lot people bought many of the shirts I made, but when I started I was anxious that no one would like anything and that it would not do as well as it did. But just getting support from some people and seeing that they like what I make feels very rewarding.
Are there any brands or designers that inspire you?
There is no specific brand, but I’m inspired by a lot of things: Tik Tok, because I’m on the app most of the time and I find it enjoyable, especially in quarantine with not much to do. Seeing different fashion trends there has definitely been a good source of inspiration, as well as music. Whenever I’m working, I always have different playlists playing in the background, which helps keep me going. Also I’m inspired by what I see when walking around New York City. Whenever I go out and I see a cute outfit I say, “That’s cute, I might be able to take a part of that and use it as inspiration for the next piece I make.” But overall living in New York City has definitely impacted a lot of my designs and the things I make.
Do you feel represented in the fashion industry?
In 2020 I feel more represented, but growing up, not as much. Usually on the cover of magazines I saw white skinny girls with straight blonde hair girls, so it was hard to find people who looked like me. When I was younger I was not as confident as I am today, but because the fashion industry is changing, improving, and becoming more accepting every day, I feel more and more represented. I am very proud of the progress the fashion industry has made so far, but I definitely believe there is more change to be made in the future.
As a young Black entrepreneur and artist, why do you think it is important to invest money into Black businesses?
I feel like it is important to invest money into Black businesses because as a community it is good to help improve our own economy, and to get reparations and reclaim the wealth we had prior to slavery. Also I believe it is important to support people who look like you and may share the same struggles as you. To me it is a communal thing.
What advice would you give to other girls of color who want to start a business?
I would recommend planning out every single detail before you jumpstart into advertising and making your products. Make sure to plan out and follow the steps on how everything is going to go prior to your first drop. Also thinking positively, manifesting, if that is something you believe in, and making sure to stay inspired and consistent. I also suggest using social media––I have been doing shoutout-for-shoutouts with other small Black businesses from girls in New York City. One of the brands I worked with is called MILLEFLEUR….supporting each other and having each other’s backs… are things I find really important.
How do you define being an artist?
I define being an artist as someone who makes things either for their own pleasure or for other people’s pleasure. Honestly, being an artist is making anything that makes you happy or feel a type of way. Making sure you have a message that you want to share through your art, though I feel it is also important to make art and not have to explain it all the time. Honestly, being an artist is all about the creation of something, is the best way I would describe it.
How can our viewers reach your business and when should they expect your next drop?
You can reach my business at @kashmaninyc on instagram, and I will be making some Tik Toks soon to notify people about the next drop on August 25th. I’m going to be selling masks for school, earrings, purses, and shirts!
We hope you enjoyed reading the interview Kaleidoscope Teen Magazine had with Khadira! To keep up to date with Khadira and her business, you can follow her:
The kashmani website: https://kashmaninyc.com/