OK, kids—we’re now officially five weeks out from Christmas—and only a week from Black Friday (or, as we’ll be calling it here at The Glow Up, the Blackest Friday). But the pre-deals are already out there and in full effect as TGU rolls out our Wrapping Roll Call—our running list of our favorite Black vendors to visit this and every season (conveniently arranged by theme).
Speaking of visits, traveling is one of our favorite pastimes—and something none of us are doing much of these days (our poor passports and suitcases are literally gathering dust). Aside from seeing new places and cultures, we love hitting a marketplace or boutique in a far-flung locale and stumbling upon incredible finds that we—or a lucky recipient—can treasure forever. But just because we’re grounded for the time being doesn’t mean we can’t still shop the world—or the universe that comprises our own neighborhoods and cities, thanks to a number of Black entrepreneurs who’ve thoughtfully curated their selections to make an impact, locally and globally.
One such retailer is Love Dot, a Chicago-based digital marketplace that features a tightly curated collection of sustainable and handmade, ethically-sourced apparel and accessories from around the globe (heavily featuring African countries and Black artisans).
“Love Dot was a platform that was really designed for women like me,” says founder Nneka Ude. “[They] have a different flair and want to discover things that are part of how they live, and a huge part of how they live is travel—connecting the culture, this ability to be able to support and expand the definition of what is unique and what is actually coming from different parts of the world that we are exploring and love.”
The scope may be global, but the inspiration is deeply personal; Ude named the company for her late mother Dorothy. “Love Dot is meant to reflect all the places in the world that ‘Dot’ would have loved to experience but didn’t have the time to,” before cancer claimed her life in 2016, Ude’s site explains. And as COVID-19 is affecting economies—and especially entrepreneurs—at home and abroad, Ude recognizes new purpose in her growing enterprise.
“So many people want to be able to have items that have a story to tell behind them...and, you know, wouldn’t mind being able to also reach across to the diaspora to support brands and individuals,” she says. “And so for me, the international part is just playing the role that we’re meant to play. This world is super-small; everything that we purchase right now, it’s essentially purchased from global markets, whether we recognize it or not...Why not really think about how can we make sure that our dollars have an impact?
“How do we move away from the things that are actually killing our wallets and also killing the Earth and killing local economies to be able to reverse that equation and start to support growth in different markets?” Ude continues. “Really buying and investing in high-quality items that aren’t just stylish and one of a kind but also to go a long way toward supporting families and people and really driving people out of poverty and really elevating narratives around what fashion really is and what it looks like and what that talent looks like in different places?
Love Dot offers handmade apparel and accessories (including its own collaborative label). In celebration of our recent election, is offering 25 percent off the entire site through January 20, 2021, with the code “KAMALA.”
What other digital marketplaces have got the goods worth giving this (and every season)?
If you love wax prints and mudcloth, no doubt you’re already familiar with the seemingly endless array of African brands making accessible apparel, home goods, accessories, art and more. Honestly, it can get a little overwhelming, but we love the fact that these vendors span the continent—and if you’re a one-stop shopper, you will likely find something for everyone on your list. In fact, most things are so well-priced, you can afford to gift yourself, too.
If birds of a feather flock together, it’s no wonder we first fell in love with one of the incredible feathered statement pieces Kabria Cummings imports for Global Attic while she’d set up shop next to Love Dot at a female vendor co-op in Chicago. Like Love Dot’s Ude, Cummings created her global brand as tribute to her art and interiors-loving parents—and we’re now the proud owners of a growing collection of her gorgeous wares. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a Chicagoan to procure one of the online boutique’s “exotic treasures from around the world”; Cummings ships throughout the United States, kindly including convenient stands to showcase your finds. This weekend only, save 20 percent off Global Attic’s Thankful collection with the code “THANKFUL20.”
Likewise, Elysia Kaiem was inspired by her enterprising late grandmother and mother to launch her eponymous brand, where her “mission is to provide innovative, high quality products made in Africa.” Her offerings include home goods, accessories and even personal care products, each brand carefully selected for quality and infused with reverence for the continent (and don’t miss out on Kaiem’s discounted bundles).
Want to make a sustainable and socially responsible impact, as well as a cultural one? Mandika Home is proudly “in, by, and for Africa,” working exclusively with local artisans to bolster their communities through fair trade. The products they produce for the home are as beautiful as the mission, meaning you will truly get as good as you give.
Sometimes, philanthropy begins at home—and let’s face it, New York City is a world unto itself, its culture proudly influenced from those who have migrated there from around the globe. That’s why we’re low-key obsessed with this Harlem, N.Y.-based gift shop “promoting local makers, featuring a curated selection of special and meaningful pieces to gift and to keep.” Floral designer turned shop owner Katrina Parris and husband Mark Pinn’s impeccable taste, cultural pride and community ethos are evident throughout Nilu’s offerings, with special attention paid to Black makers, making this one of our favorite spots to shop year-round.
Across New York’s East River, Peace & Riot makes some noise in Brooklyn, fusing the African and Caribbean heritages of borough native Achuziam Maha-Sanchez and her Bronx-born husband Lionel Sanchez to offer a delightful and impeccably curated selection of home decor, gifts and accessories at a range of price point. In fact, there’s so much to love from this little shop, you may forget you’re shopping for someone else.
Souk Bō’hēmian is as exotic and eclectic as it sounds—just looking at their site might make you feel a little more glamorous and worldly. Best friends Morgan Ashley and Vanessa Coore Vernon launched the online boutique as part of The Bō’hēmian Brands, a celebration of the intersection of all things brown and—you guessed it—bohemian. “In all that Souk Bō’hēmian does, our goal is to introduce new and different cultures to our community,” the duo says—and their array of offerings for home, body, mind and spirit is so special, you’ll want all the things.
We first caught wind of The Folklore when Taylor Swift accidentally overstepped with her most recent record merch (which she quickly sought to resolve), but we keep returning to gawk the gorgeous designer clothing from Africa and the diaspora expertly selected by founder Amira Rasool. With a new partnership with Farfetch, the brand may be on the verge of going mainstream—but for the high fashion lover, The Folklore remains a truly special experience.
This Chicago staple didn’t get to host its legendary block party this year, but The Silver Room is still open for business, offering its ever-intelligent, unapologetically quirky and extra-Black aesthetic to all who enter—even virtually. “We are the intersection of art, community, and culture,” the store’s site reads. “Here, we value and encourage opportunities to bring elements and artifacts from around the world to your front stoop”—so much so, you can safely shop in 3D this year.