|George Floyd’s death and the events that followed, hit me hard. Wanting to do something that would make a difference, I designed and sold some Black Power pins. The proceeds were donated to a couple of different organizations but that just didn’t seem like enough. While typing the caption on an instagram post that recounted an experience I’d had, I hashtagged it “blackdesignerdiaries.” That’s when it came to me! I needed to create a space for Black Designers to share their stories, their struggles and their successes. I believe it will inspire change, if not in the fashion industry, it will create a space for conversation that will contribute to our healing and cultivate a community for us by us.|
My name is Dominique and I design a line of 3d printed handmade jewelry called Dominique Renée. Dominique Renée sassily explores personal experiences, ironies, lies, and truths. “Produced from a playlist of emotions” each collection is brought to life by a carefully curated playlist. Inspired by everything from heartbreak to loving again, alienation and self love, Dominique Renée seeks to empower women by creating pieces that are real and relatable.
I got my start while in college studying to get a degree in graphic design. Early on I realized that there was no way I was going to spend the rest of my life designing logos. While dabbling in things that interested me; nail art, sewing, and makeup, nail art clicked for me. My art started to turn the heads of everyone around me too. I was so passionate about it that I would stay up til the wee hours of the morning working on new designs. My tumblr account quickly grew a following. A reblog from Sophy Robson, resulted in another 800+ likes and reblogs. That’s when I realized my true calling. A love for fashion had always been part of my life but I didn’t think I had what it took to make a career out of it. The response I received birthed my decision to start a line of hand painted press on nails. Six months after premiering my first two nail collections, I expanded my line to offer jewelry.
Every single one of my pieces is inspired by something I’ve experienced firsthand. Whether it was heartbreak, falling in love or just learning to truly love me. Experiences make us who we are, which is why they are so important! I choose to design from that perspective because it’s real and relatable. I think it’s important for people to embrace their experiences both good and bad because that’s where growth and strength comes from.
As a black designer I’ve struggled with everything from lack of resources (you need money to make money), to lack of knowledge , (especially because I did not go to school for fashion or business) and lack of equality/opportunity. I spent years doubting my work and ability as a designer only to realize that I wasn’t the problem, the bias of the industry was.
In 2012 I was in the running for a major award which would have given me access to mentorship, funding and the ability to stock my products in an iconic fashion retailer. I made it to the final round but was absolutely CRUSHED when I lost it to someone whose brand…I don’t even remember.
When I first started designing jewelry my medium of choice was polymer clay. I knew that I wanted to eventually explore other options, but at the time it was something accessible and non-traditional, which I loved! At one point I was convinced that my material of choice was holding me back, but then saw my white counterparts advance, using the same material. I realized that wasn’t the case.
After years of preparation, I finally exhibited at my first tradeshow! My experience as a black designer and a first timer was not the same as those around me, even down to how I was treated by the organizers. It was a painful but eye opening experience.
I have learned that despite the difficulties, struggles and inequalities that are very much present within this industry; there’s still nothing I want more and nothing I’d rather do. Coming from a girl who has given up on almost everything else I’ve tried my hand at, that says a lot! In spite of it all, I am reminded of a proverb I held close to my heart when I started this journey; Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
My proudest accomplishment would be having my work included in the Nailed Exhibition, along with greats like Mikalene Thomas and Jamel Shabazz. I don’t think I completely understood the magnitude of it when it was happening but now looking back, I’m like Wow!
My advice to aspiring black designers would be:
Stay true to you.
When someone gives you advice or ventures an opinion, listen.
Develop thick skin.
Do your research.
Be creative with your approach.
Be prepared to work twice if not thrice as hard.
And don’t give up!
Welcome to Black Designer Diaries!