When it comes to independent fashion design, there are a few creators who have remained consistent. The funds and resources for black designers are limited — however, the small community of designers of color have managed to make a heavy stint in the fashion industry. One being Milan Harris, founder of Milano Di Rouge.
With a production house in Los Angeles, Harris also has a flagship store in her hometown, Philadelphia. “A lot of people just see the end results and they don’t really understand the process,” says Harris. There’s no blueprint on how to become a designer. But Harris’s attention to marketing, detail, and design are only a few reasons why she has maneuvered through the industry as an independent designer for seven years and counting.
ESSENCE got a chance to chat with the new mom about her label, her most recent fashion show, and more insight on the Milano Di Rouge empire. Read below.
ESSENCE: You recently threw a fashion show in Philadelphia, how was that experience?
Harris: Lots of love, tears, yelling. A lot of my team didn’t know I was pregnant so I had to double up on communication because I couldn’t be in places physically. It was a journey, it was a process. When it comes to the creative process, I am so in tune. When I have shows, I want people to feel, I want it to have a great impact. I don’t just do shows just for pure entertainment, I want people to leave the show feeling like, “If she can do it, I can do it too.”
ESSENCE: What is the importance of having your store in Philly?
Harris: We have been expanding and we hope to continue to expand. It’s just — I want my store to be symbolic to Philadelphia, like cheesesteaks. Right now my goal is to have this one flagship store and continue to grow that store
ESSENCE: What made you want to expand past E-Commerce?
Harris: I had opened up the store in 2016. Prior to me having the store, I had a warehouse. People would drive from DC, Jersey, Baltimore, and New York to come to my warehouse. Mind you, my warehouse was in the hood, it was one of the worst blocks in America, and these people were coming to my warehouse and just shopping with us. It made me think like, “Yes, it’s time for a store. Why not? I would be a fool not to open it. And if it doesn’t work out, what’s the worst that’s going to happen, I fail?’”
ESSENCE: How important is the quality and pricing of clothes to you?
Harris: What goes into the price is how much it costs for me to actually manufacture the item. Some of the prices that are more expensive are because it’s more detailed and there are more things that went into the thought process of this item. I have an entire team I have to feed. It’s a lot that goes into it and if you don’t have a business mind you might not think about it.
ESSENCE: What is next for Milano Di Rouge?
Harris: Something that I’m actually working on is the Milano di Rouge baby collection. People have been asking me for the baby collection for years and I would always tell them I’m not going to do a baby collection until I have a kid. I wanted it to be something that I truly loved and was dedicated to. I wouldn’t be truly dedicated to it if I wasn’t a parent. So now I’m sourcing the best fabric because I want the best fabric for my baby.