Stylist Dontaya Bobb on Launching a Black Fashion Marketplace: 'It's a One-Stop-Shop for Black-Owned Brands'
Bobb talks to PEOPLE about starting the online retailer Inkloo, which offers a curated selection of emerging Black-owned luxury fashion brands
When Dontaya Bobb decided to leave her corporate sales job and pursue a career as a stylist, she noticed one constant across designer pull lists and fashion closets: a lack of support for Black creatives.
Bobb tells PEOPLE exclusively that she began compiling a list of talented Black designers and Black-owned brands being overlooked by the fashion industry. The blatant lack of representation opened her eyes as a consumer and inspired her to fill a hole in the market by launching Inkloo in November, 2020.
The online retailer — named after the phonetic spelling of the word "inclusion" — offers a curated selection of emerging Black-owned luxury fashion brands, as well as a size customization feature that allows customers to submit their measurements to ensure perfectly tailoring with every purchase and a made-to-order option.
"This marketplace is unique because it's a one-stop shop, so customers aren't having to go to multiple sites and look at different Black-owned brands," the entrepreneur tells PEOPLE, adding, "We're really big on sustainability and slow fashion."
Inkloo currently houses three labels: Leigh New York, an apparel brand specializing in made-to-order silk garments, Brooklyn-based contemporary clothing brand Theophilio and women's wear and accessories studio Nicole Shante.
"Also, they have to have an e-commerce site to work with us," Bobb says. "The reason why this is important is it shows their seriousness about pushing their brand forward, and [shows an] understanding of how relevant and important it is to have that convenience aspect for customers."
Inkloo officially launched on Black Friday last year amid the coronavirus pandemic and a widespread commitment to supporting BIPOC designers, following protests for racial justice over the summer.
"It was really exciting to see the designers I've been following for years finally get the recognition they deserve," Bobb shares. "I celebrated with them. However, it was at the hands of African-Americans being murdered. That feeling just didn't sit well with me, and I'm sure it didn't sit well with the Black designers either. I think it was just a really conflicting feeling."
"These designers didn't show up in 2020. They've been laying the groundwork for their businesses and their brands for years," she continues. Nonetheless, "It was important to capitalize on the increased exposure and brand awareness and just really prove that this is why we deserve a space in the fashion industry. We are leaders and contributors, and we do play a visceral role in this."
As America's push for systematic change continues, many are wondering how to maintain the heightened sense of awareness and activism that captivated the country following the death of George Floyd in May of 2020.
But for Inkloo, raising awareness has never been a challenge, as Bobb has always been committed to amplifying Black voices in fashion. "If anything, it has increased our momentum."
"There's so much that I want to achieve with Inkloo," she continues. "I don't think it just stops when less people are talking about Black fashion designers. It's just the beginning for us."
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