Black creators are setting the trends, moving the needle and informing where the worlds of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle are headed. In our series, Shop Black, we talk to entrepreneurs about their journeys, their brands and the realities of being Black business owners. Through ‘Shop Black’ you’ll be introduced to some game-changing style stars and have the opportunity to shop and support their work.
The white shirt is arguably the most classic, necessary and well-rounded piece in any given wardrobe. It pairs with pretty much everything and adds an air of sophistication to any outfit it touches. Rhonda Cole has tapped into this style staple and taken it to the next level. Sitting a the helm of a brand with the simple, ethereal, elevated aesthetic dreams are made of, the sky’s the limit for Rhonda Cole and the white shirt she’s perfected.
Name: Rhonda Cole
Location: New York, NY
Briefly tell us a bit about your journey to Rhonda Cole – New York.
I discovered the ease of wearing white shirts while working, as I wanted to simplify my morning routine of getting dressed. White shirts became my wardrobe staple. Rhonda Cole – New York was born out of love for white shirts. After years of working for a major media company the opportunity to start my business presented itself in late 2013. Realizing it was now or never, I resigned the following year. I left on a Friday and started developing my business on a Monday. I worked from home, prior to being invited by a friend to work out of her interior design studio. That same year, I applied and won my trademark, “Rhonda Cole – White Shirts Pure and Simple®”, without hiring an attorney. After spending roughly two years on research and development, I designed a semi-fitted, button-down shirt. Believing no one understands women better than themselves, I hired women based in New York to create patterns, samples, and technical drawings. After trials and tribulations, I was ready to go into production but soon discovered the high cost of producing a cotton shirt in New York City. I learned the hard way and delayed production to properly explore other options. Meanwhile, I designed a silk shirt with a self-tie and two additional styles. Armed with four designs, I started to develop my first website.
Describe Rhonda Cole – New York with a song title.
If I described Rhonda Cole – New York as a song title, it would be my “My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane. His music is timeless.
What’s the most challenging part of being a Black woman entrepreneur?
One of the most challenging parts of being a Black female entrepreneur is the lack of access to capital. It may take another few years or so but I’m determined to find an investor that shares my vision for my brand. I’m self-funded but to scale and properly market a business, access to capital is key!
What has been your biggest victory thus far?
My biggest victory thus far was the development and launch of my website. Photographed in the home of a noted interior designer with a monochromatic color scheme allowed me to achieve a clean, minimalist look that complimented my work. My daughter a film producer has an amazing eye and she created a site that best represented my brand.
What’s the one piece of advice that keeps you going?
The one piece of advice that keeps me going is to never give up and be determined to succeed even when the odds are stacked against you! If I succeed, I have the ability to help other women. My goal is to donate a button-down shirt for every button-down sold to women unable to afford professional attire for job interviews. It’s important to give back.
Favorite products from your line and why?
My favorite products are the Capella Silk Shirt and Baby Alpaca & Silk Scarf. The Capella was my second design but the first style I put into production. It was also featured on a character in HBO television series ‘Succession’. It’s beautiful as well as versatile and pairs with a variety of separates, including blue jeans. I also love my baby alpaca and silk scarf, as it’s lightweight but warm and makes a great travel companion. I never travel without it.