“African Prints are not a Trend for me” – Interview with the Designer of Accessories Label “YouLike IMake”
APiF: Please introduce your business and designs.
Sharmay Mitchell: YouLike IMake grew out of my desire to create the pieces of jewelry and accessories floating around in my imagination. They are made by hand and designed to be comfortable and light-weight.
APiF: When and why did you start designing with African Prints and Fabrics?
Sharmay: I only really started last year, so developmentally, I am a fetus when it comes to designing and I have lots to learn! I started designing with African prints when a friend of mine who designs clothes and accessories was customizing an African print dress for me, and encouraged me to try out making things for myself. Another friend gave me various off-cuts from outfits that had been made for her, and I started experimenting with making earrings.
I chose to use African prints because I love how the patterns recur and the fusion of bright, vibrant colors make African prints so appealing and eye-catching. As a child, I used to admire the tessellated patterns of the garish 70’s wallpaper and carpet at my grandmother’s house, which led onto my love of drawing intricate patterns and then progressed towards an affinity for African prints.
I particularly like Kente cloth and how each pattern and the colors used have meaning. At times, the vertical and horizontal lines remind me of the madras cloth pattern used in the traditional dress of some Caribbean countries.
APiF: How do u feel about the current African Prints/Fabric trend?
Sharmay: It is exposing a wider audience to beautiful prints and getting people interested and enthusiastic about following the work of designers that they might not have otherwise heard about or paid attention to. So in this sense, it is a positive. Unfortunately, the nature of a trend is to fall out of focus after awhile when people get bored or distracted by something different. However, African prints aren’t a trend for me.
APiF: Is African Print in the fashion industry here to stay?
Sharmay: Fashion trends are fickle; here today gone tomorrow, so I don’t know how long the trend will remain visible, say, on the high street. There will still be a market because people were designing and wearing African prints long before they became a trend.
APiF: What inspires u?
Sharmay: Plants and wildlife inspire me, for example the Lady Bug Earrings remind me of a ladybird in flight. I sometimes have dreams about things I would like to make and when I wake up, I either jot down a description of whatever it was or I’ll try and draw it before I forget completely. They are not always feasible, but I have fun trying to create them! I used to work in a jewellery and accessories store, and although it was a while ago, I think my time there probably encouraged me to take more interest in accessories in general.
Also seeing the work of other creative people inspires me too, not just designers, but writers, poets, musicians and others who display their creativity. I think I feed off of other people’s positive and creative energy, so I like to surround myself with, or at least follow the work of other creative and talented people. Which is part of the reason why I support the work of people like Gabrielle Smith (Iamthenublack), Issa Rae (TheMisadventures of Awkward Black Girl; Fly Guys) and a whole host of other people I follow on Twitter.
APiF: Fashion Finds: What is your favorite piece in your closet or collection and why?
Sharmay: I love my Foofie Flower Studs because they look like flowers blooming from my ear lobes. I like the idea of being able to wear flowers without having to worry about insects crawling out of them or that they will wilt. And of course, they look lovely with a matching flower clip in the hair, or attached to a bag or jacket. I also love my Baby Africa Earrings because they are cute; and what better way to showcase African prints than with the shape of Africa in earring form.
APiF: How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience?
Sharmay: In August, after watching this incredibly funny YouTube web series for several months, I sent some of my earrings/studs to Issa, The Misadventures of Awkward BlackGirl, and she kindly featured two of my studs in episode six of the series.
Since then, YouLike IMake has attracted much-welcomed attention from across the pond i n the U.S. I wrote about this in a bit more detail on my blog, YouLike IBlog, where I write about some of the interesting things I do, which are usually related to the things I am making or inspired by.
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have also been really helpful in attracting visitors to my website from all over the world. I didn’t know anything about Twitter a few months ago and didn’t really appreciate how useful it could be until I started using it and understanding what it was all about.
APiF: How did you come up with the name for your business?
Sharmay: I used to decorate my plain t-shirts with free-hand fabric paint designs and design greeting cards for friends and I had posted some of these on Facebook. Some friends were “liking” the photos on Facebook and I think I responded with something along the lines of: “If you like… I can make them for you, too”, and that’s where the name came from. I thought YouLike IMake sounded catchy and memorable.
APiF: Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
Sharmay: I still feel like I am in the infancy of what I am doing and there are lots of things I still want to do and learn, so I don’t see myself as being in a position to be giving others tips with any real authority. However, I would probably say take up opportunities that come your way; if the decision turns out to be a bad one, at least you can learn from it.