Through this journey of entrepreneurship, I have learned that my survival is hinged upon 3 things- remaining grateful, remaining humble and keeping in touch with a sister circle of women I aspire to be.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of interviewing one of those women. I was able to ask her the questions I ask myself but can’t answer.
I guess nobody ever told you
all you must hold onto, is you…
Introducing Shayna Greene, of Bag Lady Basics.
Give us a little about your background? When did you start designing?
I was born and raised in Trinidad, but heavily influenced by U.S culture, especially their music & style. I spent a lot of my vacation time in the U.S so I would usually shop there, but as I got older there were times that I’d be in Trinidad and needed something to wear, and would have to resort to a seamstress.
I’ve always had a very small frame, so it was very difficult for me to find clothes in Trinidad that fit me, especially as a teenager. It was common for many people here (Trini) to turn to their seamstress/tailor when they had an idea for an outfit they wanted to wear- that was before online shopping took off, and international shipping made modern style much more accessible to Trinidad.
In order to not have on the same thing as everyone else or “be different”, one would just resort to sketching something and carrying it to get made. I guess that’s when I started “designing”.
I had all of these ideas, from ever since, things that I now see on runways- that really make me kind of regret starting taking this long to launch my brand. I’ve also always had a tom-boyish style, started with sneakers, bandannas, my cousin’s baggy jeans and T’shirts, and as I got older, it evolved- no longer boyish, but relaxed and feminine, with a basic aesthetic.
Rather than study fashion, I decided to play it safe and pursued and earned a B.Sc in Marketing at Morgan State University (woop woop go Morgan! lol), but my frustration with not finding styles that I wanted continued to grow over the years. I started obsessing over street style blogs, and was mostly drawn to the European effortless sense of style.
What was the source of inspiration behind Bag Lady Basics?
The designs came before the name. I was brainstorming for a name- while teaching a class (unbeknownst to my students) in China, and the universe just whispered it to me after a while.
I’d always sing the song “Bag Lady” by Erykah Badu when traveling, mainly because I’m usually toting around three too-many bags with me. I also love the bag lady style of dress, that airy, homeless-ish type of style (Mark Kate & Ashley execute that style perfectly), but I also love basics, basic colors, classic shapes and style.
When I thought of a bag lady, I always thought of a woman without a home, to me it means being a modern nomad. Our garments reflect that airy effortless aesthetic, are practical and classic, but have that special something about it. The name BagLady Basics, was perfect for my already established style.
BLB does not consist of a collection or collections, but a collection of pieces I wanted in my personal wardrobe that fit my lifestyle. It’s for the modern woman, the go-getter, hold her own, comfortable in her skin and style type of woman. The aspiration to fully be that type of woman inspired the creation of the brand.
My dreams and aspirations along with places I’ve never been, people I’ve never met, the streets, designers I’ve never worn were all sources of inspiration behind the BLB brand. I guess our inspiration is kind of all over the place, but I guess that’s what it is.
The creation of BagLady Basics was organic, and will continue to evolve organically. There’s no telling where we can end up- literally.
Who are your style influencers?
Street style has heavily influenced me. There’s such an essence of f*#% trends, I’m doing me in the streets style-wise. Mary Kate & Ashley, their style and business acumen, Solange Knowles, her ability to always keep it cool and confident in whatever she wears, Rihanna, her bold and fearless approach to dressing, her ability rock menswear better than guys themselves. Victoria Beckham, her appreciation for clean lines, quality and perfect finishes. Gwen Stefani and her downtown cool. There are a few more, but I tend to go out of my way to keep up with these ladies.
Do you feel pressure to stand out in the fashion world?
Personally? Style-wise? No, I like to keep a low profile. Additionally, I feel as though we are at a point where everyone is trying to look different, so everyone ends up looking the same. Normal is the new different. I just do me, which is pretty normal- but not basic.
When it comes to our brand BagLady Basics, I did initially feel a pressure, but now I don’t. This entire thing needs to be fun and organic, I think once we keep that spirit, we would eventually “stand out” for what we are and what we are not.
What has being a designer taught you about people and your perspective on the world ?
1. People want options, and are willing to welcome something “new”, many times it’s just not there. Don’t be afraid of offering them that “new’ thing.
2. Style is a universal language, and can break communication barriers, and that’s the beauty of it. I have formed bonds with people who speak little to no English, all because we were attracted to each other’s style.
What is the greatest battle you face as a designer?
Having too many ideas, and not enough cash.
Is fashion the only artistic medium you use to express yourself?
No it’s not, I actually write a lot (most people don’t know that), but it’s a great medium for expressing oneself, especially when you have a million and one things on your mind, it really keeps me together. Maybe one day I’ll share.
Photographer: Sumanta Muth.