Five Minutes With BBYBLK
BBYBLK is a UK-based children’s apparel brand that was created by founder and designer Casselia Goldson, as a way to redefine the narrative around both the beautiful colour and culture that is ‘Black.’ Join us in today's designer interview as Casselia tells us more about her inspirations and the way these feed into her product designs.
How did your brand begin?
BBYBLK (BabyBlack) began when I was unable to find any black clothes for my infant daughters. Because black is readily available in adult fashion, it's not something we think about when it comes to baby fashion. What I learnt was that some people still associate the colour with bad luck, evil-doing and funerals to name a few. I couldn't help but wonder; If we view the colour black negatively, how do we view people who identify as such?
Black is not only cool, but it can also be cute too, and, for me, it represents royalty, wisdom and rebirth. This is the concept that launched BBYBLK, redefining what black means and represents, understanding the importance of language and combining the beautiful colour with the diverse and vibrant culture we call 'Black'.
When did you first fall in love with designing and knew you wanted to become a designer?
I first fell in love with designing when I made a pillow case at school, aged 13. It was an awesome revelation at the time that I could create something, exactly as I had seen it in my mind. By the time I was 15 years old, my nan had bought me a sewing machine and I was making outfits for me and my friends.
I graduated in design & technology and went on to work in a couture house for a few years. This really introduced me to quality craftsmanship, attention to detail and luxury fabrics. I began making custom, made-to-measure womenswear before taking the leap to create this children's wear brand after having children of my own.
Values are really important to us at JewelStreet. What are your core brand values?
The first core value BBYBLK has is authenticity. It's super important we are genuine. The brand concept evolved from a real lived experience and we lead with this idea of 'real life' in all we do.
The second core value is diversity. Speaking from a place where we have experienced unfair bias, exclusion from the mainstream, and inheriting a negative narrative based on identity, embracing, acceptance and allowing everyone to coexist is a practice close to our hearts.
Our third core value is to be inspirational. Our full intention is to inspire the future generation to make a different choice from what normal society imposes on us. To not only think outside the box but to smash it to pieces. As a member of the human race, the labels from our past do not define our future. We are all powerful beyond measure and we're committed to inspiring the youth to recognise this; to create their own futures, by changing their perceptions.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?
Like any creative, I draw my inspiration from anywhere and everywhere.
This collection takes specific shapes and patterns that are authentic to my Pan-African background. This involves modernising African prints and 80's/90's hip hop culture. Working mainly with black, it's important that I design some items using quilting or translucent fabrics to showcase texture. When colour is involved in the design, I like it to be full-on, impactful and depict lots of movement just like the indigenous patterns of Africa.
For example, our popular Tribal Play print has the movement and markings similar to the body art of the people of the Omo Valley Tribes in Ethiopia. This depicts 'Black culture', but you may also notice a £ sign among the lines and dots, truly representing my Black-British experience.
How are your products made?
I research traditional African patterns and fabrics then develop an original design from them with Sophie Jordan an artist and BBYBLK's creative director. We experiment with different processes using paint, lino prints and digital art until it feels right.
We used to get our fabric digitally printed in Poland, but this is no longer feasible since Brexit has come into effect. This has been a blessing in disguise as it's meandered our processes to being almost 100% made in the UK.
For some of our collections, UK suppliers provide quality blank apparel which we print in-house meaning we can really control the quality. The other sector of the collection is designed and pattern-cut in-house. We develop pieces, which are then sent to the UK manufacturer to be made in larger numbers.
How do you want someone to feel when they wear/use your designs?
When children and adults wear BBYBLK they should feel empowered; expressing their unique quirks and differences through wearing dope designs, and inspiring others to do the same. It's my desire that they feel like a community, a tribe that's forging a new path in their lives and walking to the beat of their own drum.
Parents and caregivers that dress their precious babies in beautiful black are disrupting outdated beliefs - they do not fit societal norms, which I want them to be proud of.
Do you work with any charities?
We work with a grassroots organization that supports vulnerable and homeless people in London, called C86erz.
The founder, Verral Paul-Walcott is forging his own path and decided not to become a charity because of the red tape it entails. Certain funding restricts where, when, who and how he can help and he doesn't want restrictions. He's won countless awards in a short space of time.
We donate our profits from particular events we take part in and spread awareness. They are at a stage where every penny really counts, and we're super happy to be involved.
Do you have any exciting future plans and where do you see your brand in 5 years?
This year we have a few plans. The first is to expand our online presence. JewelStreet was the first platform to reach out, and we would like to continue in the same vein throughout the year, aligning with companies that showcase and support quality independent brands.
We also plan to develop our first item in adult sizes; the reversible bomber jacket. This is super exciting for us as many people have asked for it, so I'm looking forward to the response.
We also plan to be a part of our first huge exhibition, The Baby Show, in October, which is a great opportunity for people to learn about our brand with more than 20,000 people visiting.
After being involved in pop-ups recently, I also plan to host a small one of my own in August. If successful I will make this an annual event, where I can not only promote my brand but help other growing businesses promote theirs too.
In 5 years' time, I want BBYBLK to be a household name, the go-to online store for ALL childrens wear in black.
What drew you to JewelStreet?
The fact that they handpick all the brands on their platform was a huge deal. Aside from it giving us a nice ego boost, it also weeds out generic brands and duplicate products. Visitors are looking for quality products on the JewelStreet website and BBYBLK prides itself on providing top quality.
It's also evident that JewelStreet is in full support of growing independent brands, giving them a voice and platform to be heard and seen for what they love to do. As an independent brand that really cares about its message, its products and its processes; it was attractive to align ourselves with others who have the same values.
If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?
If I could wear one piece, it would be the up-and-coming reversible bomber jacket. It's one of our most popular pieces (in kid sizes) and the first thing I designed for BBYBLK. I love the boxy fit, the cropped length, the collarless feature and the versatility of it. Not only can it be worn on both sides, but it has lightweight padding, which means it can be layered throughout the spring and autumn months, getting more wear.
I love that the print is a nod to traditional African design and the colours simultaneously lend themselves to early 90s hip-hop. It's everything I want in a statement piece!
What is your favourite quote?
If it's one thing I do love, it's a quote! I don't think I could choose a favourite, but one that resonates with me at the moment is by one of my favourite writers and poet, Kahlil Gibran. "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself..." I really love that whole chapter in his book; The Prophet. Although it's something we can understand logically, as parents we can find it challenging to implement emotionally. It's an idea and way of parenting I really hope to aspire to, even if momentarily.
Thank you very much for talking with us Casselia!