Grace Johnson is the founder of Afro-Indie Adornments, a boutique that specializes in African and West Indies-inspired accessories. In just a few years, Ms. Johnson has built a unique, thriving business, and now she is a winner of the Luxe Kurves’ Fashionpreneur Shark Tank contest. She has graced Luxe Kurves with her presence once more, this time detailing the artistry and intricacies that constitute the Afrocentric fashion label.
NH: When did you begin Afro-Indie Adornments? What was the process of setting up the business?
GJ: Afro-Indie Adornments (AIA) was officially birthed in 2017, which I started out by doing vendor events and pop-up shops showcasing my hand-made items. Honestly, the process of setting up the business was a slow and steady process because it started out as a side hustle, but when I started to see the level of interest from current and potential customers to shop online, I started rethinking that this could be more than a side hustle but a real business and set forth to put things in motion to get an online boutique. I had to do a lot of research on the various aspects of setting up a business and determining my ideal customer and the brand culture, which I am still learning and refining even until now.
NH: How were you introduced to African and East & West Indies fashion? What gave you the idea to begin crafting these designs yourself?
GJ: As a first-generation Nigerian-American, I have always loved our traditional attires and fashion along with other ethnic cultures, and loved to combine them in my looks when getting dressed. I am a lover of bold, bright colors, prints, and patterns along with tribal and ethnic jewelry and decided to create my brand around the cultures that I love, to create what I call “Signature Looks,” which are looks that stand out from the crowd and don’t look like everyone else’s looks in the room. I got the idea to start crafting my designs myself when I could never find the right accessories in stores to complete my look whenever I had an event to attend, and so I set out to create them myself. So to be quite honest, AIA was never meant to be a business but was just me creating pieces for myself and many people started asking me where I got my accessories from, and I had a friend who encouraged me to start exposing my products because they were so good to keep to myself and so eventually I took her advice which was when I started doing the vendor/pop-up shop events.
NH: Where are you located? Do you receive more business online or at your physical locations?
GJ: I am located in the Dallas, TX area. We do not have a physical location and currently are 100% online. We just launched the online boutique (www.shopafroindie.com) on Feb 1st, 2020, and are still working on creating more awareness of the brand. Since we are so new online, we made more money from in-person events, but now that we are online, I do foresee being able to have a global reach.
NH: Which African countries are the greatest source of inspiration for your designs? Have you visited these locations, or do you plan to do so in the future?
GJ: Of course Nigeria, being that I am Nigerian, as well as Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. My products are not just African-inspired but from other countries within the East and West Indies regions such as Asia and India. I have not yet visited the other countries but I do plan on one day visiting these countries.
- Congratulations on your victory in the Fashionpreneur Shark Tank contest. Which of your products do you feel resonated most with the judges? Is this your first business or fashion contest, and do you plan to enter any others?
Thank you so much! I feel so honored and grateful to God for the victory won during the Shark Tank competition! I believe that my whole set-up resonated with the judges being that they pointed out how unique and expensive my items appeared, but I received great responses from our ‘Tambara’ Tulle Belt & matching Head-Wrap which is a complete show-stopper! (laughs) Also, our Indian-influenced metal mosaic bags and ‘Iyawa’ statement rings. Yes, this is my first business and fashion contest, which was an amazing experience, and I definitely would not be opposed to doing more when the opportunity presents itself.
NH: It is rather fascinating that you model your own accessories. Do you have any modeling experience prior to starting the business? How does modeling your products make you feel?
GJ: (laughs) No, I do not have any modeling experience, but it was important for me to be the face of the brand rather than hiding behind the brand in order to connect with my customers and build lasting relationships with the people who do business with us and support us and for them to see who they are doing business with. I will at some point incorporate other models, but I did not want to start out being behind the scenes. Modeling my products makes me feel great and relatable and I find it easy to do because I am my customer! We are a brand that serves the culturally-inspired fashionista who is bold, extroverted, and people-oriented, and loves unique fashions and being a trendsetter, and that is exactly who I am.
NH: Do you feel that Luxe Kurves’ mission statement aligns with that of your brand?
GJ: Absolutely! Just as Luxe Kurves’ is on a mission to enhance self-worth, we are a brand, as I say, that does not just sell accessories but we also sell attention and recognition which means that our products that we provide when put on by any woman, commands the attention and recognition when she walks into any room and when a woman is recognized, whether it be for her looks or her smarts, it creates an inner sense of self-worth because she realizes that she has been taken notice of and can’t be ignored. I always say, “When a person does not know who you are, create an opportunity for you to tell them, and when you show up ‘Afro-Indie Style,’ guaranteed you will not be ignored!” The products attract attention that sparks conversations because they make you look different from others in the room, causing you at that moment to be the light. I am not saying what I think, I’m saying what’s been tested and proven.
NH: What are your plans and goals for Afro-Indie Adornments? How much do you expect the business to expand in the foreseeable future?
GJ: Oh my goodness! My plans for AIA are so much bigger than I can imagine! We are currently working on a new collection of accessories that I believe will be a game-changer for the brand! My goal is to continue to create awareness for the brand and to also provide jobs for families in the countries that our products are influenced from. We are on a mission to dominate and revolutionize this market by continuing to be innovative in our designs and staying true to who we are as a brand. We are a faith-based brand and our foundation is from the scripture in Revelations 7:9-10 that talks about how one day every nation, tongue, and tribe will come together to worship the Lord, and so we pride ourselves in being The Heart of Christ Displayed Through Fashion by blending these various cultures together to create signature looks that depict this scripture of unity and harmony among the human race! I see the brand expanding one day to have a physical brick and mortar showroom/style agency where we will also assist with styling clients who desire to create ethnic fashion looks but struggle to do so, again based on customer feedback but we will continue to expand our reach online as well and will soon be incorporating an Affiliate Referral and Brand Ambassador Program in order to allow those who do business with us and support the brand to be able to make money as well which is our way of saying thank you. We believe that if you help make us money, you should partake in the harvest as well, and so these efforts are in the works and we are excited about it!