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Everything You Need To Know About The Black-Owned Knitwear Brand Taking Over Instagram

Fashion contributor Shelby Hyde chats with JBD Apparel Creative Director Saudia Islam about balancing motherhood, running a thriving business and where exactly she finds inspiration.

Chances are you’ve already come across JBD Apparel’s sold-out knitwear pieces on Instagram (Kim Kardashian West recently dubbed it her go-to for sexy separates). But in case you’re not yet familiar with founder Saudia Islam’s skillfully made collections, it’s never too late to become acquainted.

Formerly known as Jolie by Dia, JBD Apparel was founded in June 2017 under circumstances that are both unconventional yet admirable. The daughter of a master crochet artist, Islam learned to knit at an early age; she told Vogue that she even started a club in middle school designated specifically to the craft. But it wasn’t until later in life when the Philadelphia-based creative began using knitting as a way to cope with anxiety and depression that she even thought about it expanding into something much bigger. Three years later the business has expanded well beyond its initial handmade pieces.

In addition to having the help of knitting machines, the brand’s offering has since gone on to feature a longer list of confidence-inducing styles (think, T-shirts, tank tops, and sweatshirts), something that Islam never would have expected. “[The brand] has really done a complete 180 [degrees],” she tells ESSENCE over video chat. “And I’m very happy to see progress come from something that was so necessary to me and so close to me.” Today business is booming and the new mom is finally getting into her groove, which included being unexpectedly thrown into the throes of starting a fashion company. 

Much more than just a passion project, what started as a very personal form of self-care has morphed into a full-fledged brand. As a result Islam had to adjust accordingly, which included coming to the realization that most emerging designers do early on: You can’t do everything by yourself. “Up until just a few months ago, I was still doing the production, shoots, social media marketing, all of it,” she says. “But now that I have a team and everyone has their dedicated positions to give 100 percent, the business runs so much more smoothly. We’re progressing much faster than we would have, had I continued to try to do it on my own. And it feels good to know you have a group of people that have your back and will support you through this journey.” 

In addition to her team, Islam attributes the evolution of the brand to her mom, who she says has helped her every step of the way. “My mom is very hands on,” Islam explains. “When I’m not sure about something or have questions she’s the first person I call.” This makes sense considering her mom, Renee Hill, has quite an extensive career in design. Hill appeared on Season 17 of Project Runway and sits at the helm of her own brand, Harx4. As a mom herself, Islam takes pride in finding inspiration and spending time with her 7-month old son. “He’s very energetic,” she gushes. “But it’s that type of energy that really boosts my creativity and makes me think in so many different ways, because when trying to entertain a kid, you have to try a bunch of weird things. Your mind is always rolling.”

“It feels good to know you have a group of people that have your back and will support you through this journey.” —Saudia Islam

As for what we can expect next from the brand, Islam’s short-term and long-term goals include opening a pop-up shop during New York Fashion Week (COVID-related regulations, permitting) and one day dressing Beyoncé—because, of course. But the designer says more than anything, she wants JBD Apparel to become a household name. “What would be most impactful to me would be being able to walk down the street and see someone wearing my pieces,” Islam says excitedly. “That would be game changing.” 

Priced between $130 and $275, the crocheted designs are more popular than ever. If you’ve decided to invest in your own custom piece, you can place your order here for an expected delivery date through the end of August.