An Open Letter
I thought I’d reach out and give an update on where myself and the business are landing 7 months into the pandemic. I can’t believe it’s been 7 months already. I think no one can dispute that 2020 has handed our asses to us. The trauma in many forms has forced me into a survival mode that has started to feel quite normal now. There have been so many highlights and opportunities for the brand coming my way that in the midst of this pandemic, I feel very fortunate to add gratitude and excitement in with the anxiety, beat down, and moments of ice cream.
I was looking at Paloma Elsesser’s Insta, and she talked about struggling to celebrate her accomplishments, to which a friend told her, “you must find ways to be good in the good.” Since reading that, I say this line to myself from time to time because all the love, compliments, and “you deserve all the attention the brand is getting” has been kind of uncomfortable for me to accept. Growing up in a West Indian household, I was raised to be a hard worker and to know that the celebration came in just that. My Trini family didn’t want anyone to get a “big head” so while I may have been praised for my merit, it wasn’t something expressed too often. I’m becoming more aware that my upbringing has impacted how I process the newfound attention to the business. What feels comfortable for me is to keep my head in the work. What feels scary for me is to celebrate accomplishments for fear that they will be taken away. And even though I sincerely appreciate and want the attention, which leads to growth for the business, I seek comfort in returning back to the work - in keeping it moving. But, I’m working on this - the idea that an accomplishment can be a death sentence if you stop to acknowledge it. That hard work shouldn’t be the singular mode I run to in order to run away from the good. “Be good in the good.” Be good in the bad, too. But shit people, that’s a lot of work. :)
I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability across my life and business in general. With the attention to the brand, I’ve entered into a new phase of planning or projecting out what success could look like. I’d say pre-pandemic, I was more focused on the day-to-day operations. Nowadays, my focus is towards setting deeper intentions for the brand. And these intentions keep returning to sustainability. I want to have sustainable growth for my business and find a balance between demand and supply that doesn’t move into mass production. I want to highlight and collaborate with other BIPOC artists and makers so we move together. I want to cultivate a team around me where we trust each other and have family vibes. And I want us to make a comfortable living. All of this would be my idea of success.
Hope you’re doing well,
Artist Series: Soleé Darrell
I’ve been making jewelry my whole life - basically, I’ve been beading since I was a kid. After I graduated from college, I was working at a hair salon doing random front table work, and my mom asked me, “What do you want to do now with your life? You seem pretty unhappy." And I was. I actually just wanted to make jewelry so I found this place in Mexico called Sterling Quest where you can go there for as long as you want, and this guy teaches you everything you need to know. It was really affordable because I couldn’t afford to take classes in San Francisco and also pay my rent. I was able to go there for 6 months, and it was only $200/mth. You would get a full bench and a key to the studio so you could come into class everyday and just work. It was a really great opportunity to sit down with myself and try something new and take risks. I was in another country, I didn’t speak the language, and it was a lot of changes all at once, but I came out of it being very sure that I wanted to make jewelry as a career.
Part of my journey as well has been that I had gotten to the point where I had been working for myself for 4 years, and then I woke up one day and was like, "I don’t want to do this anymore." That was in September 2019. I turned 30 that August, and I don’t know what happened, but I really wanted to just start painting. I bought a canvas and I started painting, and the difference between the two [ jewelry ] just felt really healing to me. I just needed to take a break and let my mind just take over. I feel like I’m betraying myself a little bit because I spent so long on this journey to become a jeweler, but then at the same time I want to put just as much energy into something new.
I talked to my friend Mary who does Tarot readings, and she did a reading for me recently. She basically said that I just have a voice and I have things I want to say to reach as many people as I can, and naturally I would want to try to do this in as many mediums as possible. So I’m just kind of taking that in. We’ll see what happens, but I’m enjoying it.
I’ve been a creative person my entire life, and it just happens to be that I make my living off of jewelry, but I can do whatever I want to do, and that shouldn’t be killed. I’m so grateful for everything that I’ve been able to accomplish and all the people who have supported me, and I hope that those people support my growth in other ways as well. Ultimately, my main vision and goal in life is to live authentically and encourage other people to completely live authentically as well. Hopefully, by them seeing me do this, they can think, oh maybe there are other things I’d really like to try in my life that I haven’t gotten a chance to do yet and then do it.
- Soleé Darrell
About The Brand
Hello, my name is Aliya! I’m a speech therapist by day and womenswear designer by night and really love the two. I started my brand out of an intense need to express my creativity and deepen the relationship between identity and style. I’m very motivated to create garments that are as comfortable and as they are stylish so they become a second skin as we present ourselves to the outside world. A lot of consideration goes into color across collections as I’m very interested in the impact it has on a person’s mood and well-being.
It’s important for me to represent women of color in my work, especially black women as we are often viewed outside the standard of beauty. Growing up with this constant message made it hard to see the beauty in myself, and this has become my way of speaking to others who have felt similar. There is no standard of beauty, just beauty.
The brand’s mission is to uphold ethical and sustainable practices as much as possible from working only with natural fibers to paying a living wage to small batch production to using zero waste packaging. The life of a garment is at the forefront of my design process so that my customers are encouraged to wear my clothing often and for a long time.