Is Our Self-Worth Tied Into Our Designer Pieces?

“As the luxury trend for Black women increases in attainability, it furthers the conversation about what that lifestyle means today.”

The Black Girl Luxury Movement on social media sparked a debate on whether the campaign is just a fad for the timeline. For some, it’s a glimpse of one’s lived experience; for others, it’s presumed to be the aesthetic of an upscale lifestyle we see craved by many. Still, the opulent trend can be attainable without labeling it with a price tag or look. Recently, a TikTok creator sparked discourse after making a video comparing two luxury coat brands, Mackage and Rudsak. “Rudsak is the grown woman Mackage,” she says. The video started a frenzy in her comments after people were rubbed the wrong way.

She later made a response video addressing the comments flooding her account. “Literally when I see somebody with a Mackage, I be like, ‘oh, that’s their first four-figure coat,” she says. “This is my fifth four-figure coat, and I have a Mink. I can go to [Saks Fifth Avenue] tomorrow and cop another one.” The video continued to gain traction, opening a deeper dialogue about the unhealthy value placed on luxury items. As the luxury trend for Black women increases in attainability, it furthers the conversation about what that lifestyle means today. 

Black Girl Luxury was coined post-pandemic at the same time as the Soft Girl Era. Originally started as a movement for Black women to give themselves grace, it became a fashion spectacle people associate with it. “When you type in soft girl aesthetic [or] life, it’s a woman who doesn’t have to put a lot out but gets a lot in return,” says Brianna Holt, author of In Our Shoes, On Being a Black Woman in Not-So Post Racial America. “It can be perceived to be about consumerism and individualism. For Black women, it was meant to be soft in the sense of not taking on the burden and struggles of my entire community.” 

Gen Z’s relationship with designer pieces started from school, with what people wore and the latest trends. School uniforms are used to reduce the potential for bullying and peer pressure. “As a child, you don’t wanna be bullied [or] picked on. It’s like, I don’t want to lack because if I lack, I will be called out for it,” Holt says. Dress-down days served as an opportunity to step out and show your sense of style. From grade school to strutting the runway of your college campus, having the hottest clothes and the newest shoe releases has built a sense of self-consciousness

Online Black girl trends show there is an innocence of Black women simply highlighting their lives. The daily routines, GRWM (Get Ready With Me), date nights, beauty maintenance, and unboxing videos unconsciously have created an illusion of it being an aesthetic. However, many Black women see themselves differently than how the masses and social media can project them to be. “It’s a challenge for Black women to control the narrative about themselves,” Holt tells GU.

With numerous creators going viral for their lifestyle videos and designer pieces, younger Black women can feel pressured to imitate the content. Which ultimately challenges the original narrative of Black women having a safe space online and creates a false image of reality. For many of us, this is our first time working full-time jobs with a decent salary to splurge on ourselves, and for many staying at home, it means more money to invest or spend. According to Bain & Company, by 2025, Gen Z and Millennials are predicted to account for 70 percent of luxury spending. While post-Millennials make up 40 percent of U.S. consumers and are projected to surpass millennials by 2026. 

Social media greatly impacts how people interact with luxury. It provides accessibility to sales and dialogue about the ethics of brands and designers. Going out of your way to fit an image or follow along with a trend is as simple as a swipe on someone’s profile. A report by the International Council of Shopping Centers revealed that 85 percent of Gen Z says social media impacts their purchase decisions, with TikTok and Instagram being the top platform to influence.

With fashion being more inclusive now, Ashley Lambert, Fashion Assistant at W Magazine is still adjusting to show up and stand out as herself. Lambert had a great start in fashion after interning at Telfar which served as a safe, inclusive space for her. “Post-Telfar, it’s been a whirlwind and a culture shock,” Lambert says. The Black community has and will always continue influencing and setting the bar for the same European fashion houses.

So, how can Black Girl Luxury be out? Zillennial-friendly brands like Hanifa, Kendall Miles, Andrea Iyamah, and Brandon Blackwood are creating a new outlook on luxury for young Black consumers. Adore A Ellis, Assistant designer at Levis Strauss & Co., believes it’s important that black designers disrupt the ‘luxury world’ and redefine what luxury is and where it can go and become. ‘Black’ is used for representation in a space where black women weren’t a part of the conversation.

“It’s not necessarily what you’re paying, and it’s being able to consistently afford something that makes your life presumably easier or better… True luxury is a 360 experience. It can’t just be one-sided,” says Delanique Millwood, Luxury Brand Strategist. 

Whether we buy mainstream high-end brands or not, luxury is what we depict and decide on. Black-owned brands, from beauty to fashion, give us the space to support us and keep the Black dollars flowing within our community. “Black women are earning more degrees, making more money with multiple streams of income living unapologetically at peace that will never be dead,” Millwood says. 

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