Interview: YoBlackGirl

Yoblackgirl is a t-shirt and accessory line with the purpose of uplifting and recognizing black women all around the world. Not only does yoblackgirl have a positive message but each design is screen-printed by hand using eco-friendly inks and Fair Wear stock garments.
“At yoblackgirl, we are designing garments that are good for you! We are all about the positive, the ‘hold your head high’ and recognize who you are. Know that we all wear a crown, it may be a little crooked, a little dented but it’s there.”vanessaRise Africa: Tell us a little about yourself.

yoblackgirl: My name is Vanessa. I’m from the UK’s second city, Birmingham. My heritage is

Jamaican and I am married to a Trinidadian. My educational and professional backgrounds have very little bearings on the work that I am now doing with yoblackgirl. I studied Business Management before embarking on a career in the public sector, mainly in youth service and community safety settings.

Rise Africa: When and why did you decide to launch yoblackgirl?

yoblackgirl: I launched yoblackgirl in November 2013. I had an epiphany – I realized that life was too short to continue doing uninspiring and unfulfilling work. This realization happened to coincide nicely with my general tendency to uproot myself (job-wise) every six or seven years. So, in July 2013, I quit my job, took a couple months out to rest and recharge and then used my personal savings to start yoblackgirl.

Rise Africa: What was the hardest part of launching yoblackgirl?

yoblackgirl: Once I’d made up my mind to go for it, it wasn’t difficult launching ybg. It’s still very early days, so I’m sure the tough parts are yet to come.

Rise Africa: How did you come up with the name yoblackgirl and what is the meaning behind it?

yoblackgirl: I wanted a name that spoke to black women everywhere. I wanted the name to be a ‘shout out’, a “Hey, I see you over there!!’ to all my sisters worldwide. Our garments are a celebration of our beauty; of the richness of our cultures and experiences…I wanted a company name that was unafraid and unapologetic in identifying its target audience.

Rise Africa: yoblackgirl uses eco-friendly inks and Fair Wear garments. Why was this so important for you?

yoblackgirl: I try to incorporate healthy practices in my personal life – daily juicing, eating organic foods, wearing my hair in its natural state, making my own organic hair/skin products – so this was a natural consideration for me when starting yoblackgirl. We use organic cotton and eco-friendly inks as part of our desire to minimize harm and promote health.

Often ‘cheap’ garments come at an enormous cost to someone, somewhere in the world. I did not want yoblackgirl to participate, knowingly or otherwise, in the exploitation of workers anywhere, hence my decision to use Fair Wear garments. It’s just a little something positive that I can do. It means that my costs are a little higher than they could be but if this results in a worker in a developing country getting a fairer wage, then so be it.

Rise Africa: What’s your favorite part about conceptualizing a design? Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece. Where do you get your inspiration for the graphics?

yoblackgirl: I enjoy doing the research. I love reading; I enjoy looking at photos, pictures, checking out blogs, Instagram accounts etc. I plan to do a series of tees with uplifting words using hand-drawn fonts, so I am presently re-reading books by some of my favorite authors including Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison; their use of language, the poetry in their compositions and the amazing images their words call to mind are all sources of inspiration.
cloths1cloths 2cloths 3
The design process is a collaboration between myself and my husband, who is a graphic designer by trade. We sit together, literally side-by-side at the Mac, creating the images and graphics. We bounce ideas off each other. He tells me when my imaginings are offbeat and I rein him in when his desire for perfection throws off our time-management! Graphic elements such as typography are very important to us. We like minimalism in our designs, we don’t do ‘fussy’ and anything elaborate has to be integral to the design and will then still be used sparingly. For example, we’re about to launch a new sweater featuring a design inspired by patterns on some of the fabrics used in traditional West African clothing. Whilst the source of the inspiration is evident, we’ve put our clean, graphic spin on it.

Rise Africa: Where do you see yoblackgirl in 5 years?

yoblackgirl: I want yoblackgirl to have established itself as a company that produces high-quality, unique designs that capture aspects of our beauty and culture in an original way. Also, I want yoblackgirl to have collaborated with some sort of community/charitable initiative to ensure that there is a wider benefit to any success that we are achieving.

Rise Africa: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you?

yoblackgirl: I just want them to know that we’re genuinely interested to know what they think of what we’re trying to do and that we would love their support and some feedback!!

Rise Africa: Where can our readers find your work?

yoblackgirl: Our website, including the shop, is at We have just launched a Facebook page, You can also follow us on Twitter and on Instagram



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