Just weeks away from premiering their very first collection at New York Fashion Week, Brooklyn-based designer Jacques Agbobly received some exciting news:
Their brand, Black Boy Knits, was chosen as the winner of the 2022 DHL Logistics in Fashion Award, presented by DHL and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
This honor comes with a $15,000 scholarship and mentorship opportunities from both companies. This is part of a wider partnership between shipping company DHL and the CFDA to create opportunities for fashion brands to grow their businesses around the world.
“I’ve always been interested in growing my brand internationally, but I didn’t know where to start,” says Agbobly, who was born and raised in Togo, West Africa, and immigrated in the United States in 2007. “I think for me, as someone from Togo, West Africa, I’ve always had an international outlook and a creative vision.
Agbobly, who “likes control,” says the grant will help them streamline the business. “I’ve been really interested in vertically integrating my business, which basically means producing my own raw materials and then having everything in-house…I like to see and touch anything that comes out of my brand.”
Part of Agbobly’s vision for the brand is to one day return to Togo and inspire the work of local artisans in the production of their designs. They even dream of having their own farm in Togo to produce wool for their knitwear.
Founded in 2020 just after Agbobly graduated from Parsons School of Design, Black Boy Knits focuses primarily on creating bespoke knitwear in colorful styles that are an ode to the designer’s West African heritage. Agbobly chose to focus the brand on knitwear because of its “endless possibilities”
“The knitting process excites me because you can mess it up at any time, but then you can fix it. It’s always fixable,” Agbobly says. “When I knit, it’s like a very sacred moment, it’s almost like a religion.”
When it came time to choose a name for their brand, Agbobly didn’t want to use their own name, opting for the self-explanatory “Black Boy Knits.” “When you hear the name, you already know who makes it and what it is, you know, rather than just existing as ambiguous things like other brands,” says Agbobly.
The Logistics in Fashion Award isn’t the only honor Black Boy Knits has received this year, the brand is also one of 10 finalists for the 2022 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, another program that provides funding and mentorship to emerging creators.
Now, Agbobly is hard at work putting the finishing touches on her very first clothing collection. A preview of the collection will be presented during New York Fashion Week on September 12, while the full collection will be released in November.
Agbobly has been working on elements of the collection for over two years, with some of the pieces coming from the designer’s thesis collection at Parsons. For Agbobly, who prefers to work at a slower pace, the pandemic has felt like an opportunity to take time to broaden her skills and hone her ideas. “When you’re working against a clock, I feel like your ideas start to get muddled and a bit dazed,” says Agbobly.
As their big show days approach, Agbobly feels an intense mix of nerves and excitement about their debut collection. “I have something to say about fashion, where it’s at and where it’s going, and I think having this opportunity to do that is important and I’m thrilled about it,” Agbobly says.
“I’m excited to finish it, bring it into the world, wrap it up, and move on. And so, I don’t know yet what my next collection will be. But I can’t wait to find out. »