Earlier this year, shortly after the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the social-justice movement in America, Zerina Akers launched an Instagram account called Black Owned Everything. The longtime stylist, namely for Beyoncé and Chloe x Halle, wanted to create a platform that would highlight Black-owned businesses around the country. The idea was to highlight these independent brands, encouraging shoppers to buy from them and support them through the pandemic and beyond. Today, Black Owned Everything has over 200,000 followers and Akers is hard at work on expanding the initiative.
One step in that process is a new partnership with the Black-owned business Thrilling, an online marketplace for small vintage shops in the U.S. Founded by Shilla Kim-Parker in 2018, the start-up is an inclusive destination for vintage fashion, not only because it works with a huge range of BIPOC-owned businesses but also because of their wide size range.
Now Akers has curated a special collection of her favorite vintage pieces from Black-owned businesses on Thrilling. Launching today, the curation is inspired by the unity and self-expression of women in hip-hop during the 1990s, according to Akers. There are items that speak to that era from the ’80s too, along with designer gems like a vibrantly printed mock-neck minidress from the Emanuel Ungaro archive. Akers also found a rare Patrick Kelly button-embellished dress, as well as original Alexander McQueen earrings and a corseted Jean Paul Gaultier skirt suit. Everything will live in a dedicated section of the Thrilling website and be promoted via Black Owned Everything’s Instagram account.
Below, Kim-Parker and Akers share more insight into their new partnership and underscore the importance of recognizing and empowering Black-owned vintage businesses, now and always.
How did this partnership come to fruition, and why were you both excited to work together?
Shilla Kim-Parker: Zerina is a visionary in styling and design, and I knew that she was going to create something special and unexpected with her curated vintage collection. Thrilling’s mission is to support the viability and livelihood of small mom-and-pop vintage shops across the U.S., as well as help popularize vintage and secondhand shopping. Collaborating with someone like Zerina—someone who I’ve looked up to for years and someone who works on a global, blockbuster scale—is not just a dream come true, but it will also help shine a floodlight on our mission.
Zerina Akers: When Shilla and Thrilling reached out, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to highlight Black-owned vintage on the platform. I love what Shilla has created and how she has prioritized championing independent business owners, so it was a no-brainer to partner with Thrilling.
Can you explain some of the specific references that you looked to when curating this collection and why you’re inspired by female hip-hop and R&B from the ’90s in particular?
Akers: There was a different kind of unity and empowerment during this era, from video appearances to remixes, and there was also the acceptance of both femininity and masculinity. I wanted to pull from the essence of that, and with ’90s trends still unwavering, I thought it was a great opportunity to reach back for something current. I also made it a point to include a few other eras. You’ll find jumpsuits from the ’70s and cropped jackets from the ’80s, all of which contribute to the overall vibe.
Kim-Parker: The inspiration was all Zerina, but we all loved it immediately. Zerina always approaches her work with meaning and purpose. There’s a reference to history with every single look. For example, she was immediately drawn to the vintage, museum-quality Patrick Kelly pieces from our store partner IndigoStyle in Brooklyn. Not only are these pieces jaw-dropping, but Zerina loved the idea of celebrating a designer who was one of the most important Black designers in history.
Zerina has always centered and uplifted the Black experience in her work, so for her to curate a collection of vintage from the Black-owned stores on Thrilling’s platform is extraordinarily meaningful to our community on multiple levels.
Zerina, as a stylist and someone who loves fashion, why is buying vintage both inspiring and important to you? And what is your most treasured piece from your personal collection of vintage?
Akers: I haven’t gotten the chance to wear my most treasured vintage pieces yet, but I have two Christian Lacroix jackets and an original Thierry Mugler corset blazer that I love. Shopping vintage was always a hobby of mine—once a practice early on and then in college a necessity. I would buy ’80s prom dresses and cut them into cute party tops for the club. It gives you an opportunity to stand apart from the rest and to own things that are truly collectible and hard to find, all while shopping sustainably.
How and why do you believe that Thrilling and Black Owned Everything share the same ethos?
Kim-Parker: We share a passion and commitment to our larger community. Zerina’s work with Black Owned Everything is about shining a light and spreading the love to smaller Black-owned brands.
Thrilling is a platform for supporting small, local mom-and-pop vintage shops and helping them reach a wider audience. There are more of these shops across the U.S. than Starbucks and McDonalds combined, and yet most of the traditional tech industry has not paid attention to their needs. We are hoping to change that because we know that as a collective we are mighty. Together, we can raise the tide for all boats. We have always approached our work as community first, business second.
What is your favorite piece in the curated collection and why?
Akers: Hands down, the iconic Patrick Kelly button dress. This piece represents a full-circle moment of where both Shilla and I are in our paths of uplifting Black business. Patrick Kelly was a pioneer and continues to be a monument for many Black designers.
Kim-Parker: I can’t pick one! The ’80s oversized leather coat from our small store partner Installation Brooklyn. Please bury me in this. I am wearing oversized everything these days because it’s a stylish way to indulge in extreme comfort. This is a coat you could wear every day and still feel like you’re making a statement.