You might hear more about fashionable designer Autumn Adeigbo than ever before, but she’s not an overnight success. A graduate in economics from Spelman College and fashion design from Parsons School of Design, Adeigbo founded her namesake brand in 2016 after years of preparation and persistence.
The designer was first inspired by her Nigerian mother, who sewed her clothes when she was little. After being kicked out of boarding school with a strict dress code, her love of fashion – and pushing her limits – solidified.
Before launching his eponymous brand, Adeigbo cut his teeth by interning at Betsey Johnson, then working in retail at Anna Sui and Paul Smith, and assisting stylists like Andrea Lieberman, Leslie Fremar and Rebecca Weinberg. But it wasn’t until she worked as a hostess at a New York City restaurant that she got her first seven dress designs in front of top fashion editors.
âOut of 50 or 100 pitches, an editor would put my creations in the magazine. That’s really what made me realize that I had a product that was interesting enough to stand out, âshe told FN.
Today, her conversational dresses have caught the attention of big names in fashion such as Tommy Hilfiger and Tory Burch. (In 2019, she was named a Tory Burch Fellow of the Tory Burch Foundation.) Other famous fans include Mindy Kaling, Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington, and Busy Philipps.
His shoes are also making the headlines. What started as an exciting project for Fall 21 has grown into a category that has the potential to generate significant sales for the brand.
âI don’t see why we also wouldn’t be able to find our audience with our shoes as long as we design in a way with integrity that really fills a market gap,â she said, noting that the Spring ’22 will bring an expanded footwear assortment.
It all started with a hoof. Adeigbo said the launch of this initial style came from remembering her favorite pair of shoes she owned as a teenager: a pair of clogs from Clark. “[Designing shoes] was like a kid in a candy store to put it mildly, âshe said.
As part of the drop line, Adeigbo designed an ankle strap clog that featured her mixed-assembled crystal buckles. Then, last month, a similar style by Jeffrey Campbell was made available at retailers, including Nordstrom. Adeigbo called Jeffrey Campbell for rocking his look that hadn’t even hit stores yet.
“It’s thit’s easy to blame companies, but it only takes one person to make a decision and everyone else on the team might not know the full range of what’s going on, âsaid Adeigbo on this subject. âIn the fashion industry, we all borrow from each other. It’s not the first time, but it was so blatant that I had to call him. We are all inspired by each other, but you have to put your own stamp on it. (After the situation was revealed, Nordstrom – which offers Adeigbo accessories – and Jeffrey Campbell withdrew the product.)
Last year, Adeigbo, then one-woman show, secured $ 1.3 million in institutional investments. It made headlines as the first eponymous black designer-led fashion brand to raise more than $ 1 million in venture capital. In September, it secured nearly $ 3 million in additional funding, led by venture capital firm Offline Ventures, bringing its total investments to more than $ 4 million.
Since then, the luxury brand has been offered at retailers Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, in addition to Nordstrom, Shopbop and Rent the Runway. It also has its direct-to-consumer e-commerce channel which is only powered by organic traffic and without ads. With these funds, Adeigbo plans to deepen its retail partnerships, grow its DTC business and seek physical opportunities.
âNow we have the capital to run. Now it’s time to hire. It’s about tightening all the loose nuts and bolts a little bit more and making it a well-oiled machine by getting the right people doing the right things in the organization, âshe said.
Raising these funds has not been easy, however.
âI wrote my first business plan in 2009 and presented it to my boss in the restaurant where I worked,â said the designer. âI have been rejected left and right. And then finally, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, people got very passionate about supporting black founders and black creatives. “
While BLM may have been the catalyst for Adeigbo’s recent growth, she said her skin color shouldn’t be what puts her in a different category from other designers.
âWhen we really see progress it’s when we stop dividing people by skin color. Period, âshe said. âDo I love my culture and is that an amazing part of who I am? Absoutely. In terms of creating a path for other black creatives? I think this conversation is important because the playing field has not been level. But, for me, don’t do me a favor by calling me a black designer. I didn’t come here because of the color of my skin. I came here because I am talented, educated, because I work hard and because I am kind.
Adeigbo is closing 2021 on a positive note, but it is only scratching the surface. âI don’t consider myself successful. I just started. âPlus, becoming a billion dollar brand is not out of the question.â Because why not? âShe said.