With a love for fashion and visual art, Cedric Brown from Cedric Brown Collections grew up with a passion for creating beautiful pieces. Having obtained her BFA in fashion design from Savannah College of Art and Design, Brown began his fashion collection of kimonos, pocket squares and more. The pieces are featured in popular black TV shows such as Our kind of people And Green leaf.
Brown sat down for a phone interview with BlavityU to discuss his early fashion / art influences, creative process, and experience as a black artist and designer in two predominantly white fields.
The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
Blavity: What artistic / fashion references did you have growing up?
Cedric: Well, I’ll say that since I was 2, I’ve grown up scribbling fashionable women on paper. I was the kind of person I always scribbled. You know a child in class who always draws on paper? That was definitely me. I scribbled everywhere. My mother was a beautiful girl, she went to town and went out often. I would like to choose your clothes. I felt happy to see her come out. I’ve always loved bright colors. As a child, I took my coloring book to church every Sunday to church. I got to work using all these bright colors and bringing the coloring book to life. Anyone who knew me as a child or who knew me as a child always brings up those scenarios.
Once I got to high school, I took my art more seriously. I joined the after-school program called Youth Art Connection. I was chosen as one of six children to go to Beijing, China to exhibit my artwork in the exhibition for the Beijing Olympic Games. Having these opportunities has given me the confidence to believe that I can do it and that I will become an artist. I’ve always had the dream of being a designer. Later, when I went to SCAD, my fashion professors knew I had a background in art and fashion. One in particular said to me, ‘this is your meat and potatoes. You need to combine both. ‘ From there, I’ve been creating my art and clothes ever since.
Blavity: What led you to decide to pursue a career in art and fashion?
Cedric: So when I was at SCAD, I did some internships … But all these internships and experiences, none of them would give me a full time job. Everything you heard in the pandemic when people were very upset about the fashion industry with them not really offering opportunities to blacks – I have experienced these things in real life. I would see my white and Asian counterparts go up and find work. Those are the ones who really get those great design positions. I had my dreams. I was like, ‘I’m going to pursue my line.’ I decided to start with making scarves because I know I can really use my artwork on them. I really admired a lot of Hermes scarves, Ferragamo scarves, Gucci scarves … the vintage ones where you see the artwork on everything. I took some entrepreneurship courses and went out on faith. I said, “If I don’t get a full-time job, I’ll still try to do my own business, no matter what it is like.”
Blavity: How is your creative process?
Cedric: It varies for me. I really like colors. Maybe I’m looking at some color palettes that I want to use for next season. If I know that I am doing a project for an organization, I know that I have to stick to these colors. After moving away from colors, I like to get feedback from my consumers. It is as if you are the buyer and the designer. I am researching what I feel about why I am selling my product. I’m researching the feedback I get from people. I saw that much of my abstract art was what people were really gravitating to.
I’m always on the lookout for some really cute and cool abstract pieces. I like to watch a lot of vintage pieces, old TV shows and old designers and I am inspired by them. Do I start looking for what’s being sold in stores right now? What colors are popping up? What do I see wearing on the street? I do a combination of everything when looking for a new design.
Blavity: Your fashion designs include kimonos, ties, socks, and more. What led you to focus on these specific elements with your current job?
Cedric: I started with scarves. When I was on an internship, I had the opportunity to meet this designer named Wes Gordon. He is now the creative director of Carolina Herrera. I mean he grew up in Atlanta and my godparents knew his mom. They arranged for us to have a meeting and that was before I actually came and started my business. It was like, ‘If you want to start a business, I recommend starting with an item. As it grows, you expand into other things. ‘ He was doing full collections for the runways and just telling me about the finances of it all and just had a better business strategy. I took it and ran with it. I started with scarves. Then I would like men to ask me, ‘You should make some pocket handkerchiefs. I’d like to wear them. ‘
When I switched to pocket handkerchiefs, I then made ties and kimonos. I’ve moved on to that more since creating my senior collection at SCAD, I had this hand painted kimono. He also went with a jumpsuit I created. I’ve had several boutiques that saw that piece of that collection who wanted to take it to their stores. I was like, ‘OK, a lot of boutiques want this piece. That means this must be poppin. ‘ I decided to go with it. In addition, it is also a one size fits all. Accessories are one size fits most most of the time, so it also helps with inclusiveness. Many people can wear it. I don’t really have to worry about a lot of fitting issues and stuff like that.
Blavity: Your work has been featured on shows like “Our Kind of People” and on major black entertainment figures like Lynn Whitfield and rapper Young Thug. What was it like to discover that your work would be worn in these highly publicized environments?
Cedric: I think it gives my working life and new meaning. When you work with costume designers and stylists, I think it’s great to see how they match my pieces with other pieces and how they style them. For example, with the characters on Our kind of people And Green leaf, how the character chooses to wear it and also when they bring their own personality with them. For example, looking at Morris Chestnut, a man I have admired since I was a child, I sent these pieces to the assistant costume designer, Ms. Christina. I didn’t know who was going to wear the pieces. He just said he was going to be in this particular episode. When I saw the episode, I thought, ‘That’s Morris Chestnut wearing my tie!’ With his confidence and the way he walked, he became a leader, boss and entrepreneur. His confidence was like, ‘Yeah, I know I look good. I’m acrobating in this tie and pocket square suit. ‘
For me this gave so much to that tie, seeing his personality emerge in this one. When I would also see Mrs Lynn Whitfield wearing my kimono like Lady Mae Green leaf, the way she strut around the room with the fabrics and the swipe of the kimono. You might see what the kimono could do with its shape. It wasn’t just a solid and boring piece, but you can see the movement. This brought so much light to me seeing her familiarity with heels and the ensemble it was put together with. young offender he wore my scarves in his back pocket many times and sometimes wore them as a bandana as well. The way he wears scarves, many people don’t carry them in their back pocket. Only to see it also brought so much life.
Blavity: How was your experience as a black stylist and artist in two fields dominated by whites?
Cedric: When I started, it was definitely a little rough … Sometimes, I walk into a luxury market. Right now, after the pandemic and everyone trying to support black companies, it’s a little easier to get people to say “This is a quality piece and I’ll support a black designer.” But two or three years ago, just being everywhere, it was like, ‘I’ve never paid that much for a scarf. I’ve never paid much for a kimono. ‘ It was definitely different in everything. It was a little rough. I was shy too, even though I was selling candy in high school. I was an entrepreneurial spirit. Selling candy was easy. For reference, it’s almost like selling drugs. People will come to you to buy candy. You don’t even have to say you have candy. They are running towards you. However, selling a scarf and luxury items? It was tough. I remember once when I started, I was a little shy. I was nervous and discouraged … Many people don’t have the opportunities or the possibilities that I have to do business, sell their parts or go to EXP.
Since I have these opportunities, I really need to go ahead and really try to sell my pieces. They have been in business for six years now. As time goes by, that initial piece gets easier. You always feel like you have to navigate with the times. You always have to change things within your business. You can’t be complacent. You always have to look for the next big opportunity to make sure you’re still relevant. As far as stability in the business is concerned, it has definitely changed from the very beginning. People are a little bit quicker to spend money on it as I’ve worked a little bit more in the industry. They see the mundane people and they also see the social influences and celebrities wearing my pieces now.
You can find Cedric’s full collection for men and women on his website.