Nappy Head Club: "Making Black Nappy Again"
Writing by Jazsalyn McNiel
Once upon a perm, us black girls have done many wicked things to our hair. With the hope of assimilating into America’s ideal culture norms, we rejected ourselves. Creatives Rachel Topping and Rikki-Richelle are dismantling such destructive social constructs and rebuilding a positive image of black beauty with their brand, Nappy Head Club.
Most importantly, this fearless duo digs deeper into black cultural complexities. Addressing the lack of appreciation for natural hair and textural diversity. While celebrating the overshadowed, yet most unique, tightly-coiled 4c curl pattern. Uplifting the black girl that often feels left out of the beauty standard.
As a black woman, with a tangled mane of 4a curls, I too have struggled with my identity in America. I had the chance to chat with Rikki-Richelle and reflect on our journey towards natural hair freedom. We realized that there are many different routes for one to find self-confidence in their natural state of being. That it is a nonlinear process to shed the subconscious layers of self-hate and grow new locks of self-love. And not a single person’s journey is identical to the next.
Nappy Head Club celebrates this process.
It is more than a brand, it’s a community and safe place for black people to come as they are and righteously exist.
Read the rest of our interview with Nappy Head Club.
ISO: What is the name of your collection, and how did you settle on that name?
R&R: Originally, we named our brand 4c Only Club. From the start, it was very important for us to create a space for women with hair textures on the kinkier-side of the hair-typing system (4c being one of the coarsest). But we realized that not everyone follows that system, and we wanted to make our brand approachable for as many women as possible. So after throwing a few names around, and much debate, we ultimately landed on Nappy Head Club. We want to take back the negative connotation surrounding the word ‘nappy’ and reclaim it as our own.
ISO: What made you want to become a designer?
R&R:We’ve always felt like there was a missing space within fashion to be pro-black but also pro-fashion. While we always want to celebrate black brands, we felt like we had to do so at the expense of sacrificing our personal style. Disclaimer: this is NO SHADE to a lot of the well-meaning black-owned brands out there, but the reality is—there’s a lot of inexperience amongst our people when it comes to design. And that simply has a lot to do with our lack of exposure / entry-points to certain industries. We’ve always had a thing for fashion–its just in us, so we used that passion (and a background in design) to create fashion-forward merchandise that make women feel represented but is still cool, and elevated.
ISO: Where are you from? Has that influenced your collection? If so, how?
R&R: We were both born in Virginia Beach, and grew up all over– Virginia, Baltimore, and the DMV area. We were very much influenced by the east coast, the entire inspiration for our brand arose from the cultural climate and texturism we faced growing up.
ISO: Who has inspired you in the past?
R&R: The two of the most influential women in our lives: our mothers and our great grandmother. Both of whom are from two totally different times yet inspired me to this day. Without my grandmother I wouldn’t have the framework of a strong family bond and how to maintain that. Our mothers, the fiercely independent women that they are, taught us how to be our own boss.
ISO: Where do you want to travel next?
R&R: We’re aiming for SA this coming winter. We’re really interested in expanding our conversation about hair across the diaspora, as well as exploring the dynamic fashion scene thats bubbling up in SA. And in 2020, our eyes are set on Tokyo. There is so much inspiration we can draw from their culture, and we plan to do excessive amounts of thrifting.
ISO: What inspires your design process?
R&R: Social media keeps us tapped in to our community: new fashion trends, current events, etc. We generally use that as our pulse and jumping board for inspiration for our designs. We like to think of every piece we make as an experience. What reaction will this evoke in the person wearing it? What emotions will it stir up? We aim to make every piece a jumping point for dialogue, while also something that’s on-trend and makes the wearer feel proud to be who they are.
ISO: Who to date has been the most exciting person for you to work with and who do you most want to work with in the future?
R&R: We recently got to work with Ipsy, for their International Women’s day feature, and that was super exciting! Faces were BEAT, nails DID, and we were able to talk about our brand mission and our go-to boss-lady makeup looks. We are definitely looking forward to more opportunities like that this year-- just waiting on that call from Vogue.
ISO: Who is your favorite designer and why?
R&R: Pyre Moss is killing the game at the moment. Similar to what we are aiming to do with our brand, Kerby Jean-Raymond is making pieces that surrounds important dialogues regarding the black community and makes a effort of embracing the legacy of other black designers. His pieces are not only cool and street ready, but empowering.
ISO: What are you in Support Of?
R&R: We are in support of people reclaiming their self-identity, rejecting the European standards of beauty that have been used to oppress people of color, and taking time to understand and love themselves. We truly believe that self-love is a radical act, and are excited to continue to build a dialogue through fashion.