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.

Words have immense power, especially those rooted in oppression, and designers like Ashley Walker are banking on our ability to take that power back. Started in 2017 by the Howard University graduate, Leimert Park Threads is a reflection of Walker’s love for the Black diaspora. Using the loaded word “colored” throughout his line, Walker is not shying away from controversy. ESSENCE caught up with the designer at the 2019 Essence Festival to chat about his journey thus far and where Leimert Park Threads is headed.

Name: Ashley Walker

Location: California, USA


Instagram: @leimertparkthreads

Tell us a bit about your journey to Leimert Park Threads:
Leimert Park Threads started in late 2017 as a love letter to the culture. My mission has always been to raise awareness with people of color and to create an opportunity for conversation. When deciding to put “Colored” on a shirt I knew that it was controversial, but I also knew it could be a catalyst for a cultural shift. 

I chose the word “Colored” as an introductory clothing franchise for my brand because it represented an era within the black experience here in America when our community was at its strongest. We were self-sufficient and demanded civil rights – our equality was non-negotiable. The negative connotation for the word comes from the era, but it represents power. 

If we as a people could embrace a word like “Colored,” which is weighted with so much negative emotion during a time of strife, it could be a chance to clear some dark clouds and replace it with self-love and admiration for people of color around the world. 

Describe Your Brand with a song title:
If Leimert Park Threads was a song title it would be “Army Arrangement” by Fela Kuti. 

What has been your biggest victory thus far?
For me, my biggest victory has been continuing to push for forward once starting the brand. My clothes have been featured on Insecure, Chadwick Bozeman, Beyoncé, Lena Waithe and other influencers of color. The true victory for me is following through on an idea regardless of other peoples opinions and trusting that my vision for the brand is positive and necessary to move our people and our thoughts forward. 

Advice to aspiring designers?
My advice to young designers is:
– JUMP! You’ve got to be able to take the risk, be prepared to fail and get back up again. 
– Have confidence in your creativity regardless of what others have to say. 
– Surround yourself with a group of people who inspire you. 

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Who or what has been your biggest creative inspiration?
My biggest creative inspiration is the world around me. I can be inspired by literally everything and anything. 

Favorite pieces from your current line?

For Essence Festival I created a collection of repurposed French workwear. This was meant to be a commentary on people of color in the workforce. I decided to embellish the workwear with African fabric, beading and vintage table clothes featuring the mammy caricature adored and honored by changing her clothes and adding accents or royalty like headdresses.