Black-owned streetwear brand Milano Di Rouge is more than just a multi-million dollar fashion empire with dope two-piece sets, sweatsuits, and jackets. It’s the brainchild of founder Milan Rouge to create a place where luxury meets streetwear, and who better to curate such a vibe than a Black woman. “I always was in love with streetwear,” Rouge Harris reminisced with ESSENCE about her relationship with the style choice. “In 2012, when I was dating one of my ex-boyfriends, I would literally wear all of his clothes. He had a bunch of designer clothes and I would literally wear them, add my heels to them and just make it sexy. That inspired me to create a unisex brand.”

In addition to creating a hub for Black female fashion enthusiasts, Rouge Harris has continued to use her high-quality brand as a platform for philanthropy. Milano Di Rouge‘s philanthropic efforts include donations of more than $50K within the first 6-months of the Covid Pandemic to mothers in need, an annual inner-city “Back to School Backpack” giveaway, and annual partnerships with local Philadelphia charities. Furthermore, for Small Business Saturday, Milano Di Rouge gave back $10,000 to small businesses and donated 1,000 of the brand’s sweatsuits and 25,000 pairs of slides to Haiti and other third world countries through the non-profit organization Soles4Soles.

Moreover, in collaboration with Black Lightning actress and Y-FEAR founder Nafessa Williams, Rouge Harris hosted a 20k challenge for women in need to donate $1,000 each to 20 women to help pay their bills during this past holiday season. Ahead, we spoke to the streetwear designer about the streetwear scene in her Philadelphia hometown, how to style your streetwear appropriately for the colder winter months, and advice she’d give her younger self before stepping into the fashion industry.

ESSENCE: How have you seen women infiltrate and dominate the streetwear style space?

Milan Rouge: I feel like we always were there, but I just don’t think that we just got the recognition that we deserve. Women have always loved streetwear and a lot of us had streetwear brands for like 10 years but now, with the current climate of everybody starting to appreciate women’s work, we’re being highlighted more, you know?

ESSENCE: You’re also a Philadelphia native. How would you describe the streetwear scene in Philly?

MR: Philly is all about streetwear. We love layers, we love sweatshirts, and we love dressing it up with heels and stockings. We’ve always been about the streetwear aesthetic and just making it our own.

ESSENCE: What are some key streetwear style tips for the winter that you’d give to anybody who’s trying to play around with their wardrobe this season?

MR: I think definitely layers. I feel like a trench coat is a staple piece to have this winter. [At] Milano Di Rouge, we have our Christian trench. Just being able to layer that over a sweatsuit and a vest underneath it doing denim – denim jeans, a denim jacket – and then layering it with the trench coat, I think that’s like a really cool style. Even sweatsuits, you can wear your sweatsuit with heels on. You can put it on with sneakers.

ESSENCE: What is your hope for the future of women in streetwear?

MR: My hope would be for us to be recognized more and be aligned with the Heron Preston’s and the Mike Amiri’s. A lot of women [and] their brands, they’re more so like luxury designers but we do have a few cool streetwear women designers that I just feel like should be seen and highlighted with the male designers [and] male streetwearers of the world.

ESSENCE: If you could give your younger self any piece of advice about getting into streetwear and venturing into the fashion world, what would you tell her?

MR: I would just say, “Stick to what you know.” Like stick to your gut instinct and do what makes you feel happy because that’s what… I think customers dig that. Create what you love and just wear… I get a lot of sales because I wear my stuff and I wear it faithfully because I create things that I actually love and enjoy. I would just tell my younger self the same thing. Don’t focus on competition or your competitors – just stick to your vision and just stick with your goals. Don’t worry about what no one else is doing.