Dontaya Bobb began her career in corporate sales, working for an international company responsible for consumer packaged goods. Her passion, however, was rooted in the world of fashion, so two years ago she took a leap of faith to leave corporate America and pursue her dream of being a stylist. While working with several fashion magazines and stylists, she found a few unsettling aspects of the business—like the limited lists of designers that stylists could pull from, particularly from the BIPOC community.
There weren’t enough connections to established or emerging Black designers, which left Bobb with a new mission—to find and work with more creatives of color. She began compiling a personal list of Black designers and creatives she wanted to work with, and organically learned of their difficulties and lack of resources. This led to the founding of Inkloo.
Inkloo is an inclusive marketplace for luxury designers. On and offline, they’re able to amplify designer work on its platform, which was created to serve as a full-circle solution for both the designer and the seller. Spotlighting emerging Black designers, its integrated creative business model offers accessible consumer tools to brands.
Whitewall spoke with Bobb about Inkloo, what her favorite emerging Black designers are, and how current events are positively impacting consumers’ values now.
WHITEWALL: When you were a styling assistant, what was missing that led you to creating Inkloo?
DONTAYA BOBB: At times, there were typically little to no creatives of color on sets with me, and there wasn’t a lot of effort put into finding Black established and emerging designers for future projects. As I reflected on these experiences and the industry, Inkloo began to take form in my mind. I decided to compile an ongoing list of Black designers to have as a resource and as I began speaking with some directly, I naturally learned about their pain points and lack of resources, which led me to see an opportunity in the market.
WW: How is Inkloo amplifying the work of designers like Leigh New York, Theophilio, and Nicole Shante on its platform today?
DB: Inkloo is the premier black fashion marketplace offering a curated selection of emerging luxury black-owned fashion brands to consumers who want to authenticate their wardrobe. Inkloo not only stands as an inclusive space in an exclusive industry, but it listens and provides solutions for our designer partners. We offer a sustainable marketplace, an integrated creative business model, customer customization and a competitive pricing structure to ensure the health and success of their brands.
We’re proud to work with three incredibly talented designers—including Morgan Johnson of Leigh New York, Edvin Thompson of Theophilio and Nicole Shante’s brand—to be a resource in the retail space and we look forward to welcoming more into the Inkloo family in the coming months.
WW: How does the made-to-order model and the ability to create custom pieces create a sustainable marketplace?
DB: Inkloo and our featured designer brands are incredibly intentional about our sustainability practices. Oftentimes brands manufacture products in excess that end up sitting in store and don’t turn a profit. As such, fabrics and materials are used and go to waste for pieces that don’t sell. Some of our designer brands operate on a made-to-order model, which allows these brands to make garments based on the number of orders received. This truly maintains a healthy balance between supply and demand allowing brands to invest in other areas of their business. And at Inkloo we’ve taken it a step further and offered custom sizing where customers can send in their personal measurements to get one of our items tailored made to their body shape.
WW: What does Inkloo’s creative business model offers to its designers? What serieves does it offer to help its featured designers?
DB: One of the offerings that we’re most proud of is Inkloo’s creative business model, which provides our design partners with services like editorial and e-commerce product photography, consumer analytics data, automatic inventory management, and more. For a lot of emerging designers of color, access to resources can be a barrier to entry, which ultimately can hinder the development, growth, and success of a brand.
At Inkloo, we aim to support our design partners by providing resources that help streamline their business models and/or elevate their assets. For example, we offer automatic inventory management that syncs our brand’s inventory levels with ours and vice versa. This automation is so critical in the retail space for so many reasons. On the backend, designers have more time to create versus manually managing inventory levels. And on the front end, it avoids customers from ordering an item that’s out of stock.
Additionally, we offer digital marketing and advertising support to raise awareness about new designer products or partners, email marketing, prepaid shipping labels for turnkey order fulfilment and access to manufacturing services for production completion.
WW: Tell us about Inkloo’s pricing model that works on behalf of the brand, and why this is important.
DB: Inkloo is designed to be a seamless, end-to-end solution for our designers. Every aspect of the experience is created with the success and health of their brands in mind. As such, our pricing model varies drastically from those of a traditional retailer. In massive e-commerce or brick & mortar marketplaces, the retailer takes a significant cut of the brand’s profit margin—at times up to 50 percent of retail margin. At Inkloo, we take a 30 percent commission and leave the designer with more money in their pockets.
WW: What are some of your favorite up-and-coming Black designers today?
DB: Black emerging designers are really taking over and it’s been incredible witnessing all their success. Two that stand out for me are Kingsley Gbadeges of K.nglsey and Dimitra Williams of Miitra. Gbadeges has created a unisex line of comfortable asymmetrical tanks and a brand that aims to celebrate black, queer, and femme bodies. In lieu of celebrating blackness, WIlliams has also beautifully constructed a silk scarf line decorated with bold prints and designs that amplify black voices.
WW: You have a very personal relationship with fashion. How would you describe your personal style?
DB: Although my wardrobe has completely transformed due to the pandemic, I will always get excited to wear a pair of bell bottoms. I would coin my style as sophisticated funk, pulling inspiration from the 60s and 70s when Black culture truly dominated the fashion scene. Whether handling business meetings or hanging out with friends, I can always count on the vibrancy from that era to bring me the most joy.
WW: How has the pandemic impacted the way you view inclusive versus exclusive marketplaces and the need for a space for designers of color?
DB: I believe that the pandemic and social justice movement that erupted last year caused a shift and an awakening in the general consumer about the challenges that Black and brown people face in this country. The fashion industry is widely known to be institutionally exclusive, often overlooking Black designers in retail spaces and consumers looking for a wider array of names and luxury inventory.
To me, this lack of representation ultimately leads to dissatisfied shopper experiences and an untapped market, which includes the very creatives who largely influence and lead the fashion industry. That is the foundation of Inkloo—to provide a community that acknowledges the importance and visceral role that Black creatives have as constant contributors and leaders in fashion and to provide shoppers and fashion enthusiasts alike who are interested in supporting the Black community with unparalleled access to a cultural online shopping experience that houses an array of black-owned luxury brands and fashion forward looks.