Designer and ApparelMagic Grant winner Jamila Jones on building her brand

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Jamila Jones is a recipient of the ApparelMagic Grant for Emerging Designers of Color, a new initiative to encourage and empower promising fashion professionals.

The founder of the contemporary womenswear line Jamila Mariama, Jones is experiencing all of the highs and lows of first-time entrepreneurship during one of the most unpredictable times in recent memory.

After establishing the brand four years ago, Jones is now really getting started.

“I don’t want to waste time and hold back building my own brand,” Jones says.

Right out of the gate, she’s already gotten started getting into production, starting small and building an audience for her unique point of view, equally vintage inspired and fashion forward.

“I did a really small capsule collection a few months ago,” Jones says. “I did tie-dye crop tops and masks and sold them at my friend’s store.”

It’s this kind of scrappy ingenuity that will get Jones and her company far in the fashion industry.

The designer, whose corporate fashion job was a recent victim of the latest retail downturn, is optimistic even in a time when few else are.

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise,” she said. “That weight was lifted.”

With more time to develop her line and work on sourcing manufacturers, Jones is well on her way to building a successful brand with all of the challenges that entails. Already in development, Jones will debut a new collection for Jamila Mariama for Spring 2021.

“Especially with COVID, I’ve learned to be super flexible and take things as they come,” Jones says.

Identifying direct to consumer sales as her business’s pathway to growth, Jones weighs what was unheard of just a year ago as just another obstacle to overcome.

“I definitely want to build my online customer base,” she says. “because that’s important, especially if we run into another COVID situation.”

Graduating just four years ago, Jones is punching well above her weight with experience working in a range of different product types and an enthusiasm to experiment in even more.

That experience, however, has also showed her problems within the fashion industry as it exists.

“There have definitely been a lot of times when I’ve been the only black girl on my design team or in a meeting or even during internships,” Jones says.

Jones grew up in a creative, diverse environment, and she’s ready to realize the potential of better representation and inclusion within the industry.

“Now it’s so easy to know so many black designers, stylists, and models because of the internet and social media,” Jones says, “but when I was in high school, I found out everything through Teen Vogue magazine and TV, so it was limited. Now everyone is a lot more accessible.”

And in this slowly changing new world, Jones hopes to pay it forward, speaking excitedly about ideas on how she wants to collaborate with schools and nonprofits, empower women, and work sustainably. She is looking forward when so many of us are stuck on the present.

“I wouldn’t want this year to go the way it did, but it’s been eye opening for a lot of companies,” she says.

For more information on the ApparelMagic Grant for Emerging Designers of Color, the winners, and other resources for fashion businesses, please click here.

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