Black Designer, Shaka King

Designer Shaka King–A Transparent Conversation

Designer Shaka King at Shaka King Menswear talks about the inspiration for his latest collection and the lack of opportunities for Black Designers.

According to Access by NKC: Black fashion designers have played an integral role in the fashion history, from Patrick Kelly and Willi Smith to Pyer Moss and Dapper Dan. However, these creative visionaries have not always had the moral and economic support that their white counterparts have.

This is a common issue that a lot of minority designers have in the industry. In fact, some brands that had the potential to be sustainable ended up having to close their doors simply because of a lack of funding, wholesale opportunities, etc. Think about it, how many black-owned brands hanging on the racks of Nordstrom, Barney’s, and Neiman Marcus. They’re disproportionately outnumbered.

Nonetheless, I think that in addition to racially discriminatory practices, celebrities and other lovers of luxury brands should do a better job at supporting black designers.

Shaka King shares his experiences as a Black Designer and lack of opportunities.

Shaka King - photographer Sadrea Muhammad-Model Carter
Photographer: Sadrea Muhammad


Where did you grow up? How did your upbringing inspire your design aesthetic?

Shaka King: I grew up in Miami, FL (born & raised). Growing up, I enjoyed going to thrift stores on Miami Beach and buying vintage clothing-especially winter coats and the costumes worn in old black & white movies. Also, watching my Dad when he was going out and the congregation at church.

Shaka King - Photog-Sadrea Muhammad-Model Marcus j. Smith-SKM FW 2021
Photographer: Sadrea Muhammad

Tell us about your latest collection?

Shaka King: My latest collection is a mixture of Dressy x Relax Casual (the SKM aesthetic.) There will be tailored garments in casual fabrics and casual silhouettes with tailored elements. Fall/Winter 2021 coats & jackets in pops of color-against a backdrop of all tonal grey or winter white-tops and bottoms.

Who is your ideal client?

Shaka King: My ideal client is a man(or woman) who is self-assured and stylish—one who appreciates clothing with an American feel and a European fashion edge.

Shaka King - photographer Sadrea Muhammad-Model Carter
Photographer: Sadrea Muhammad
Shaka King - photographer Sadrea Muhammad-Model Carter
Photographer: Sadrea Muhammad

What challenges do you face being an independent designer?

Shaka King: The challenges I face being an independent designer are getting people to take you seriously and respect your process. It can be difficult for some customers to separate the “chill at-home you” from “the professional you” being a home-based business.

Has social media hindered or enhanced your presence?

Shaka King: Social Media has enhanced my presence.

Do you believe Black designers are giving the same grace and promotion as non-Black designers?

Shaka King: I know we don’t get the same chances, breaks, opportunities, or passes to make a mistake. I speak from experience. I have been in several “dealing making/contract signing” meetings, where everything goes to the left once you start to inquire about compensation, ownership, percentages, etc.

Shaka King - photographer Sadrea Muhammad-Model Carter
Photographer: Sadrea Muhammad

How long have you been a designer, and what/who inspired you to become one?

Shaka King: I started in the early ’80s. Fashion designing is all I ever thought about or talked about growing up. My cousin made her clothing, and when I realized she was sewing them herself, I declared, “I Can Do That,” and sat at my mom’s sewing machine and started sewing: no formal training-no, nothing.

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you first started?

Shaka King: Starting out, I wished I knew “you can’t be all things to all people,” so stay true to your beliefs and like yourself more. Also, you are good enough and stop seeking validation from your peers in the industry.

Shaka King - photographer Sadrea Muhammad-Model Carter
Photographer: Sadrea Muhammad

Stay Social with Shaka King
Instagram: @shakakingmenswear

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