According to Nielsen’s 2017 consumer report, African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic, Black women are 16% more likely than non-Hispanic white women to have purchased costume jewelry within that year, and 9% more likely to have purchased fine jewelry than non-Hispanic white women.
Despite this, Black women-owned fine jewelry businesses have been long overlooked until 2020’s social justice reckoning, when the world decided to spotlight Black founders. Neumi Anekhe was one of them, and it shifted her life forever.
At the time, her company Oma The Label was focused on creating premium apparel, but COVID-19 forced her to pivot.
“I wanted to create great body suits because I felt like there was a gap in the market,” Anekhe tells ESSENCE. “And then during COVID we were actually about to launch our silk collection that we’d worked so hard on, but everything changed because our manufacturer unfortunately went under.”
Due to operational issues, the collection was cancelled. She was aiming to launch a jewelry component that fall featuring just one piece, but rushed the design of more to meet the new demands of pandemic-era consumers.
“Most people weren’t buying clothes as much, but they were buying a lot of jewelry, makeup or whatever they could look good on their Zoom calls from the neck up.”
The jewelry line started with a few pieces and in less than three years has quickly expanded to include six collections, many of which being featured in major publications like ELLE, Glamour and Marie Claire. It was a mention in Harper’s Bazaar that shifted everything.
“A friend of a friend who was an editor wrote a piece about Black-owned brand to follow during COVID times and beyond. From there, my brand got in the hands of some influencers and it was up from there.”
She says the brand’s growth has been meaningful to see, especially since the fine jewelry space has been largely racially homogenous.
“When I started in 2018, there weren’t that many Black owned brands in general, especially in the jewelry field. So, yeah, it’s been fun to be able to just create pieces and be one of those brands that can add diversity in a space that there isn’t much in a category in general, that doesn’t have that much diversity.”
Oma The Label was selected to participate in The Workshop at Macy’s, the retail industry’s longest running accelerator program dedicated exclusively to diverse-owned enterprises. Those accepted into the program attend a four-week course and are featured in a pop-up shop on Macy’s.com.
“The pop-up shop is a great way to feature these brands while we’re hosting The Workshop at Macy’s,” Michelle Wang, Macy’s vice president of retail diversity strategy said in an earlier interview with Forbes. “After the graduation, we invite participants to onboard and we introduce them to as many industry buyers as possible, until they complete the program.”
“Having partners like them is really important,” Anekhe tells ESSENCE. “At Oma The Label, we prioritize inclusivity and there will always be space for us here.”
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.