If you’re anything like me (or the majority of The Root crew), the stresses of self-isolating are already taking their toll—we’ve been stress-eating, panic-buying and lowkey freaking out, in general—and we’re the lucky ones. If you are one of the few who has the luxury of working from home and still collect a paycheck while in your pajamas, you, too, are among the privileged in this pandemic. You might be feeling stir-crazy, but nevertheless, you’re significantly buffered from both the transmission of COVID-19 and the already devastating economic fallout it has wrought—including 3.3 million unemployment filings in the past week alone.
Many aren’t so lucky; aside from essential workers who are putting themselves at risk daily while the rest of us (hopefully) stay indoors, retailers are feeling the weight—and black-owned retailers, in particular. As writer Kimberly Adams reported for The Glow Up on Tuesday, while black business owners comprise only 4.3 percent of the nation’s 22 million, they tend to operate more face-to-face businesses than most, meaning they are in particular jeopardy as this public health crisis continues.
Black businesses also tend to face bigger challenges getting funding, meaning that the capital they use to launch is usually self- or community-generated, and there is little recourse when calamities like the coronavirus hit.
What does this have to do with the rest of us? Well, while retail therapy may seem terribly irresponsible, self-indulgent, or just plain selfish during our current crisis, there’s nevertheless a deeply philanthropic aspect to doing so, as Vanessa Friedman pointed out in the New York Times on Thursday.
Yet shopping during a pandemic seems just the other side of wrong.
There are people who are terribly sick and dying because of the new coronavirus. People losing family members. People losing jobs. Shopping is so … self-indulgent. So unnecessary. So, as one reader wrote to me, “shameful.”
Maybe. But it is also an essential part of our economy; retail an enormous source of employment and creative expression. In some ways, the state of shopping is a sign of the times.
When you see “25 percent off,” instead of seeing “DEAL,” you should actually see “WARNING.”
And also “HELP.”
And because black retailers tend to need more help than most, as we continue to self-isolate in hopes of “flattening the curve” The Glow Up will be doing our part to promote black retailers who are conducting business online, in hopes of keeping them, their employees and their sub-contractors afloat. (Sidebar: if you’re wondering which of your favorite bigger-box retailers are still supporting their staffs during this crisis, Retailed has put together a list of 20 names to support.) While we wish this list included the hair and nail salons, restaurants, bars, local mom-and-pops, daycares and more affected by COVID-19, hopefully, we’re helping where we can—and giving you a little less guilt, if retail therapy is one of your (understandable) coping mechanisms in this crisis.
This Brooklyn-based enterprise offers an array of excellent products for hair & body worth indulging in, but while you’re perusing the collection make sure to put an order of their Purifying Hand Sanitizer (available in 2.5 oz. to gallon sizes) in your virtual cart—buy 2 and get 1 free! Better yet, subscribe; Karen’s ships globally, but if you live in Brooklyn, you can get same-day delivery.
We’ve long been fans of satin-lined headwear—and the black-owned innovations like Grace Eleyae’s Slap Cap (which many of our first responder naturalistas have been relying upon in recent weeks) and Loza Tam’s chic turbans and wraps that have been saving our tresses for years. But now that many of us are literally rolling out of bed and into work, African-printed wrap bonnets from Newow Headwear have become our new jam, allowing to literally look like we “woke up like this” while attending those early-morning Zoom meetings.
Speaking of low-maintenance, camera-ready hair, there’s never been a better time to invest in a textured ponytail, wig or extension set from Heat Free Hair. Personally speaking, these 100 percent virgin hair units got me through a lengthy textural transition last year, as there’s no doubt a lot more of us joining #TeamNatural while our salon of choice is closed, HFH has the goods to keep you looking good in your virtual workplace.
Yes, we’ve long been fans of The Lip Bar’s indelible lip colors and ever-expanding offerings, but while many of us are now working remotely, there’s never been a better time to try out one of the brand’s Fast Face Kits ($99), which provides everything even the most novice makeup user needs to be virtual meeting-ready all day in five minutes or less. Zoom, indeed.
You may not feel comfortable going out to the market, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the variety of a virtual marketplace. If you’re an established makeup lover, Sephora and Ulta may be your go-to’s, but you can support a bevy of black beauty entrepreneurs by shopping at Marjani Beauty, the 24/7 brown beauty marketplace with international shipping. Staying at home doesn’t have to mean letting your beauty routine go; use the time you’d usually spend on your commute exploring new beauty and skincare brands designed with us in mind.
Similarly, if the reality of a global crisis has gotten you more attuned to issues of sustainability, Blk + Grn is not only working to sustain our environment but also black businesses. During an uncertain time, their curated collection of household and personal care products from all-natural, all black-owned brands—including emerging names and established faves like Oyin Handmade and Honey Pot—may help make you feel more secure at home and about your potential impact on the world.
Since being purchased by Procter and Gamble, Bevel may no longer be one of the smaller companies on our list, but it’s still co-owned and helmed by black entrepreneur Tristan Walker—and still the best bet for folks forced to shape up at home while self-isolating, as its trimmers are designed for us, by us. Add to that an entirely new unisex-friendly line of body care, including an aluminum- and streak-free, 48-hour-strong deodorant (don’t ask me how I know it lives up to that promise), and you’re ready for a well-groomed lockdown.
Days spent at home may have you leaning a little heavily into your loungewear—or worse yet, only dressing from the waist up to accommodate those laptop cameras. But there’s no reason you can’t be comfortable and chic while at home; two of our favorite black female designer-retailers have mastered the art of both. Whether you’re copping one of Martine’s suite-to-street-ready kimonos, jumpsuits or loose-fitting dresses or a jersey design from Onion’s Whitney Mero that is as ridiculously sexy as it is stretchy (with new designs on sale daily), these are styles you can be at ease in while awaiting better days to come.
Tees and sweats more your speed? Staying home means more opportunities to stay woke with Melanin Apparel, a black-owned and operated shop with a consistently conscious bent. And while COVID-19 is no laughing matter, the brand is encouraging those of us lucky enough to be healthy during this time to retain some of our humor—after all, Hot Girl Summer 2020 is likely already canceled.
If I’m honest, it’s been a long time since I kept a journal. (I don’t know, maybe it’s because I already write all day?) But the stress of the current moment has definitely compelled me to resume those daily self-check-ins. I first became aware of self-care product site Under the Sunlight through one of their beautiful and brown women-centric Masterpiece Notebooks ($15) an inspiring place to process our complicated feelings...or simply wax poetic. But the site’s offerings don’t stop there; if you’re feeling short on inspiration, consider their Art of Being deck ($35), 52 premium quality cards that help infuse each week with new energy and purpose.
Speaking of inspiration, lifestyle brand AphroChic is doing its part to remind us of the beauty in the world. If you’re in the mood for a little decorating while spending time at home, check out their incredible housewares, which include pillows featuring their custom prints. But if you’re unable to splurge, AphroChic is offering digital issues of their new magazine, now three issues strong, for free. Celebrating art, aesthetics and ideas from across the African diaspora, these collectible quarterlies are worth returning to again and again—and are not to be missed.
Whether you’re isolating alone or with some enticing company, all of us deserve to feel better during this time—and a little sexual healing can go a long way. Oakland-based Feelmore Adult Gallery has everything you need to satisfy your urges, release tension and even do a little healthy experimentation—no matter what your pleasure. After all, you got something better to do?
Got a black-owned business efficiently operating online or one you think we should know about? Let us know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org.