Antoine Manning is the 22-year old fashion designer who founded Homage Year, an emerging brand that was first established in 2014. Manning, who is originally from Bronx, NY, now resides in Atlanta, GA, where several young, Black entrepreneurs are making their mark. Being raised by two Jamaican immigrants made Antoine the first-generation American in his family. After his father’s passing, Manning realized life was too short to live anyone else’s dream, so he went after his own and dove into fashion design.
The emerging designer’s passion for design stemmed from his love in fashion. “I’ve always loved fashion, but couldn’t always afford it,” says Manning. The possibility of being told that something is unattainable drives him to disprove that narrative, which led him to designing his own outfits. “I like being the underdog,” he added.
Homage Year is currently an accessories brand that is known for its egg-shaped handbags that are offered in an array of colors. As Manning manages to quickly sell out each time he restocks the website, his supporters flood the brand’s Instagram comments anticipating the next drop. The young designer is on the verge of creating the next ‘it bag’ for fashion lovers and creatives alike. I remember walking down the streets of NYC and seeing the bag twice in one day — the distinct design and vibrant colors are hard to overlook.
Now that Manning is running an in-demand business, he’s been fortunate enough to work with a team of equally talented individuals. “I was solo until this year, and now I work with a small team of consultants that help me cultivate the best experience of the brand,” he shares.
Aside from the brand’s beloved bag design, the supporters also connect with it on an emotional level. “Homage Year was created to show homage to my people,” said Manning. Behind each bag, that is frequently introduced in a new colorway, is a message promoting a chosen virtue. For example, the two-toned green bag represents tranquility and the brown bag represents solidarity. Manning intentionally uses the brand to spark conversation and as a tool to progress his supporters forward. “We’re being what we want to see in the world,” he says. “And hopefully the people who receive the love and the care will do the same thing forward.”
Being the CEO of a rapidly growing business at the age of 22 can be intimidating, but Manning handles it well as he noted that his work style aligns with trusting his intuition. His ideas are much bigger than just selling clothes, he’s big on community and paying it forward. Within the next couple of months, Manning will launch an initiative under Homage Year that will fund at least five entrepreneurs who have great ideas and are in need of financial support. He hopes that they will continue the movement and pay it forward for the next entrepreneur in need.
Ahead, Manning connects with ESSENCE for a conversation on his journey thus far and all things to expect from Homage Year in the near future.
ESSENCE: How does it feel to have a team now and to see your business grow?
Manning: It feels really good. I feel almost validated if you know what I mean. There are people that take it seriously enough to invest their time into the brand. Like Antoine [Gregory], and Black Fashion Fair.
ESSENCE: It’s a ‘reap what you sow’ moment, because you’ve invested your personal time and vision into the brand. And now other people can also see the value in the vision.
Manning: Yes, exactly.
ESSENCE: As a brand that partakes in a deeper conversation through fashion, what are one of the main messages you are promoting through Homage at the moment?
Manning: Right now, one of the main messages is selflessness. Especially considering the time that we’re in and everyone being super sensitive. My goal for those that are a part of the brand and the community we’re establishing is to be more open and understanding of everyone else. Like ‘yea I matter, but also someone else matters’.
ESSENCE: Where do you envision your brand to be in five years?
Manning: Definitely expanding into RTW fashion. I would love to cultivate what we have with the bag with RTW. And also continuing to support our community with creative funding and humanity issues like homelessness. And overall to just be a change in the world, not just a brand and clothes, but let’s create things that matter that will last beyond my life.
ESSENCE: Where do you tend to draw inspiration from for the campaign pictures?
Manning: We try to fully capture the meanings behind the product. I’m very intuitive with my work process and it’s just trusting my team and the people around me.
ESSENCE: I think that shines through your business promoting virtues like abundance and tranquility and incorporating that into your business model by trusting your intuition – it literally speaks to how your success manifested. Anything else you can share on future Homage Year projects or releases for our readers?
Manning: Our short-term goals are creating ready-to-wear, giving back to our community, and just doing what feels good.