APiF: Please introduce your business and your designs.
Maya Gorgoni: Royal Jelly Harlem (RJH) is a NYC based, Mother/Daughter design team offering clothes for men and women, accessories, a RJH homeline and as a new addition the children’s line Jelly Bees. We are specializing in vintage silhouettes using all 100% Cotton, African textiles.
APiF: Love the name of your label – can you explain it?
Maya: Growing up I was always referred to as ‘Maya the Bee‘, after the international cartoon based on a Bee and her Bumble Bee sidekick and her fabulous adventures! I always knew a Bee would be in the logo and Royal Jelly is fun and catchy as well as good for you! It is also what is fed primarily to the chosen Queen Bee of the Hive and what makes her big and fertile. Harlem was added since it has been my new neighborhood and where I found my creativity for the last 4 years.
APiF:How does your heritage inspire/influence your designs?
Maya: I am mixed race born to an African American Mother and Italian Father. I grew up between NYC and Italy and always traveled since I can remember. Growing up in Soho around crazy artists of the 80’s definitely opened my eyes to make note and pay attention to detail. I was however inspired by my visits to the African continent since 2005, where I fell in love with the beautiful artistry of African textiles. I was immediately drawn to the colors and design, as it reminded me of the splash and splatter of artist Jackson Pollock, amongst others. Working to maximize the fabric and placement of the textiles repeat pattern, resulted in the Genevieve Jackson – one of our best sellers. The silhouette is classic 50’s inspired swing, shift dress. One of my favorite style dresses and also most flattering on women of all shapes and sizes.
APiF: If your label would be a person, what kind of person would it be?
Maya: I hope my label speaks to all, but the loudest to: The bold, fun, fabulous, bodacious, beautiful, fearless and confident people of this world!
APiF: What is your professional background?
Maya: No proper training or fashion school. Just always been a Fashionista with an eye for different and new ways of remixing classics, Uptown/Downtown, hi/lo and love of all things Vintage!! As for College, I double majored in Psychology and Italian, graduated from Binghamton University class of 2000. Prior to starting RJH in February 2011, I traveled the world, lived in Rome for a year and worked in the Luxury Boutique Hospitality industry.
APiF: How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience?
Maya: The awareness of the global audience and their worldly sophistication understand our designs, which is making marketing to them easier. It also helps that Fashion as a whole is focusing a lot of attention to prints and African designs in general. The internet, all social media and E-commerce obviously help make us more accessible to everyone as well.
APiF: Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
Maya: Have a vision and follow it. You won’t be able to do it alone! Ask for help and share the journey with friends, loved ones, and family. They will be the ones to help you chase that vision. I am still lucky to have them all running alongside me.