In the midst of all that is going on this year, Black fashion curators have been able to monetize the fashion industry’s awaking. After a callout from industry insiders about the accessibility Black fashion mavens were given, there’s been an outpouring of support for designers of color.
“Lionne received a lot of positive publicity. As a Black female-owned business, I’m grateful because a lot more people are now aware of my brand,” exclaims Latoia Fitzgerald, founder of the brand. “Times like this have made people aware and reminded those who may have forgotten how important it is to support each other.” Launched in 2018, Lionne has become an emerging luxury fashion house. The items range in style but give a sultry aesthetic that includes lace, cutouts and sheer moments. “Keeping queens in mind,” the website reads.
Most recently, Lionne launched it latest collection, Royal Blood. Staying true the brand’s DNA, Fitzgerald updates wardrobe staples while upgrading her tailoring techniques and color selection.
ESSENCE got a chance to speak with Fitzgerald about the new collection, the outpouring of support and the challenges of launching a fashion house.
ESSENCE: Where does your love for fashion stem from?
Latoia Fitzgerald: I’ve always loved fashion. I was raised in a creative household. My mom made clothing and home decor for everyone in the neighborhood. I remember trips to the fabric store and arts and crafts store as a child. I fell in love with making clothes when I was 12. The first thing I learned how to make was a pair of pants. As a teenager, I took hours to get ready because I played dress up every time I got dressed.
What would you say is the hardest part about launching a fashion line?
The hardest part about launching a fashion line is the business side of things. Naturally I’m a creative person, but I had to learn to be a businesswoman. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs on the back end of my business. I’m still learning and having to handle things I don’t like to deal with. People say they want to start a clothing line but have no idea how hard it is and the intricacies of a fashion brand. If things aren’t together on the business side, your brand will suffer.
Who is the Lionne customer?
She’s the modern-day woman who’s on the move. She’s chic and classy but also edgy.
Was your business affected by coronavirus pandemic at all?
Yes! When COVID-19 came through and shut everything down, I looked at this as a new way to challenge my skills, especially as a fashion designer. Working from home on the Royal Blood collection, unable to get to the fabrics stores I’d normally go to, had definitely diverted designs and production. I had a different location and production planned for Royal Blood but COVID put a stop to that.
What was the creative direction behind Royal Blood?
Our Royal Blood collection contributes to the industry and the world at large. Keeping queens in mind, this collection doesn’t stick to the complex rules defined as “royalty.” Instead it balances edge and elegance with unique pieces. As an ode to our royalty heritage, many of the pieces are named after African Queens. All of which was inspired to celebrate Leo season.
What’s the feeling like when you put out a new collection?
I get nervous. Sometimes I second-guess my work. Sometimes I fear that people won’t be as receptive as they were with the previous collection. I always pray and have pep talks with myself like, “Toia, your work is fire. Stop tripping.” [Laughs]
What’s next for Lionne?
Just like 2020, so far, it will be full of surprises. The way 2020 is going I have no idea lol. I’m going to continue learning as a fashion designer and as a businesswoman. And because of that, my brand will continue to evolve. I’m excited to expand my creativity and discover what’s next.