Building your name from the ground up is difficult. Starting your own brand and sticking with it is even more of a challenging task. There are a few traits that play a role in accomplishing both but one of the main traits is consistency. Esther-Lauren is the epitome of someone who embodies the word consistent. With a Parisian background as well as immigrant parents, Esther was able to find her passion in fashion design as well as styling. The young creative used social media as a way to build a foundation for herself and since then has created all things women love such as clothing, accessories, shoes and more.
I had the chance to catch up with Esther-Lauren to talk about her design and styling world, life growing up in Paris, the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur and more.
1 – What was the experience like growing up in Paris, one of the capitals of the fashion industry?
I moved here when I was still young but my mother’s Parisian sense of style definitely followed me into America. Her old wardrobe influences a lot of what I wear. Berets, blazer, pressed button downs and slicked ponytails with minimal makeup was her go to look. On a normal basis, that’s what you’ll most likely find me wearing.
2 – With Paris contributing to your love for fashion, what else would you say added to those inspirations growing up?
I didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood so I would say my style growing up was a mix between urban and European influences. I would throw on bright colors and chunky jewelry with cardigans and ballet flats. I loved taking whatever was trendy at the time and adding my own twist to it.
3 – When did you realize you wanted to be a stylist?
To be honest, I never had any intention of being a stylist. I would just post pictures of my outfits on Instagram and people kept messaging me style questions. I would offer free advice all the time to strangers that would ask me for help putting together an outfit. People started offering me money to style them and that’s when I decided to offer it as an official service.
4 – Aside from doing stylist work, you also design your own clothing. What made you want to get into design?
I started designing clothing when I was about 5 years old. I was bored with my dolls’ clothes so I would make my own pieces for them. For as long as I can remember I always told my parents I wanted to be either a doctor or fashion designer. Like most immigrant parents, they supported the healthcare route which is why I wasn’t able to develop my skills until recently.
5 – What was the very first piece you ever designed? What was the inspiration behind creating it?
The first major piece I ever designed was an outfit for myself to wear at the African Student Union fashion show at Stony Brook University. I needed to wear an African print outfit, but I wanted to incorporate elements of modern day styles to it. I combined African fabric with a solid color fabric and magic was created. Till this day, people still ask me to make them that dress.
6 – Which profession do you enjoy more, design or styling? Why?
Design. I get a high from creating and wearing my own pieces. I love making clothes that fit me perfectly and compliment my features. I hope to get to a place where I can design full time.
7 – Social media has contributed to a lot of your success as far as building your name and brand. In your opinion, how important has social media become for entrepreneurs such as yourself?
Social media is super important. When people tell me they have a business, blog, podcast, or anything similar but aren’t on social media I automatically think they aren’t serious about their work. Social media provides a free platform to reach people from all over the world every single day. It also puts a face to your business which makes people feel more secure in giving you their money.
8 – What are some pros and cons of being an entrepreneur?
Let’s start with the bad news. The work is a lot and not always rewarding. You’ll put so much into something that you’re sure will blow up in one day and it doesn’t. I’ve sacrificed sleep, friendships, time, and so much money to create my own brand. If I told you how much I spent on Babes in Color alone your jaw would drop. It’s also frustrating because sometimes the people you call family and friends are supportive up until it’s time to actually buy something. That can make be super discouraging. The pros make it all worth it. It feels good being your own boss and being completely involved and hands on. I’ve always had a rebellious attitude so working for myself is a dream. Seeing people wear your clothes never gets old. I get so many questions from young girls about how to start your own business and brand that it makes me want to cry. I love having the knowledge to help other women accomplish their goals.
9 – You recently launched your own clothing and shoe line called Babes in Color. What inspirations did you use to put the line together? What was the creative process like?
My inspiration was black women. I wanted a line that represented us. My logo designer and I met at an event and bonded over the fact that there aren’t enough cartoon images of authentic, natural black women. I wanted the face of my brand to be a black girl with kinky hair available in several different shades so all black women could feel included. If you follow me on Instagram then you know I’m a huge fan of color so I wanted my brand to be as bright and colorful as my everyday style is.
10 – Fashion designers and stylist constantly get inspirations based on a wide variety of things when it comes to either designing a piece or putting together an outfit for someone. Where do you currently get your inspirations from?
Color. I love color. You’ll rarely see me in black. I start by figuring out what color I feel like wearing and work around that. Monochromatic looks have been my thing lately. I just love slaying one color from head to toe. I’m also really inspired by fabrics. If I feel like being sexy then my piece will probably be made of satin. If I’m in the mood to be edgy I’m picking up leather for sure. If I’m the mood to be girly then fur and super soft cotton are my go to. I try to work with the mood of the person I am styling but I also love pushing people out of their comfort zone.
11 – You pride yourself on being a black woman in a world where women aren’t getting as much credit as they deserve. In your opinion, why do you think that is?
Black women are the prototype. We are pop culture. The amount of things we have influenced is impeccable. I will never be ashamed of being on the creator side of creativity. I’m proud. Our ability to make lemonade out of the lemons life constantly hands us is my favorite thing about us. I’m so glad to be entering a position where I can potentially make life easier for other black women.
12 – From the designer side, what would you say is your biggest goal you’re looking to achieve? What is the biggest goal for styling?
My biggest goal for my brand is to be in a position to help others, particularly women of color. As my brand grows I want to hire more women of color and give back to charities that help women of color. Everything I do is for women of color. I want to use my position to elevate all of us. As for styling, I would love an opportunity to work with a celebrity or style a magazine shoot or music video.
13 – Who in the fashion industry now, designer or stylist, do you admire? Why?
I get this question a lot and the truth is I’m more inspired by other bloggers and influencers than I am by major designers. I find a lot of their content to be more refreshing and inspiring. I also have noticed that at times they end influencing the content of a lot of major brands. Some of my favorite influencers and stylists are Kahlana Barfield Brown, Ann Wynn, Alaia Ryan and Kelsey Ashley. I keep up with these girls daily and they definitely influence my style.
14 – What are some key tips for those living the entrepreneur life?
Be patient. I am still learning this. Good things take time. I struggle a lot with patience and my desire to rush things has gotten me in trouble more than once. I would also say don’t be afraid to spend money. I think a lot of people get scared about spending a lot of money on the business if they aren’t sure when they’ll get it back. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself how can you ask others to invest in you? You have to spend money to make money.
15 – What big plans does Esther-Lauren have for 2018?
I have some new designs coming out for Babes in Color which I’m really excited about. I’m also expanding the charity aspect of my brand to help as many people as possible. A portion of the proceeds from Babes will go to various women’s shelters in NYC but I still feel like I can be doing more. That’s all I can share for now but I will say stay tuned for some big surprises.