Aarica Nichole, owner of Aarica Nichole Vintage, discusses how she started her online vintage business, the joy of setting an example for other Black female entrepreneurs, and the ways we can all reshape the industry by supporting Black-owned business & sustainable fashion.
How did you get into vintage and start your own business?
My brand, Aarica Nichole Vintage, has been in business for two years. I first started my Etsy store when I was in college, during a summer break. I would do custom DIY shorts, studding and tie-dying them. I was studying fashion merchandising at University of North Texas and they added a new program called Digital Retailing, which is similar to e-commerce. I thought, ‘Wow, this definitely sounds like the future." So, I put Etsy to the side while I learned more about this business.
After graduation, I had a lot of debt, so I didn’t think I could pursue my actual dream of being an entrepreneur. I worked at a fashion boutique, then at Neiman Marcus on their online team, before working on premier designers, brands like Gucci and Chanel. After a while, I started to feel guilty about how wasteful the fashion industry is. It didn’t resonate with me. I really care about our planet.
Vintage and thrifting is something I've always loved and I started to realize that I could still be involved in fashion, but in a more meaningful way. And that I could educate others on how to think differently about fashion – where it's coming from, how it's made. So, I decided to leave my job and pursue vintage full time. I haven't looked back since.
My business has been the shining light in my life. And I feel like I can bring a lot of joy to others, especially black women, because I'm so happy doing what I do. It’s so important to see someone living their dreams, living in their truth and finding success, because there's not always a lot of people to look up to. I always strive to show others that they can chase their dreams, too.
What’s your advice for Black women wanting to start their own businesses?
For any black woman out there who wants to own a business, you definitely, definitely should go for it. Don't listen to anyone else around you. Go with your intuition. That’s what I did, and it's paid off. Not to say [your intuition] is all you need, but it definitely helps to have the passion behind you. We have to create generational wealth within the Black community, so it's very important to go for it. And it's important that everyone else supports black businesses whenever you can.
How has the Black Lives Matter movement influenced your business?
When the Black Lives Movement resurfaced, my business completely changed overnight. I had no idea that this was coming. I was already starting to gain some momentum on Instagram and within my Etsy world, but it switched completely in a matter of days. I went from 14k to 26k followers and my store on Etsy is almost completely sold out.
It was amazing, but I also felt a sense of guilt because it was the result of a very tragic event. But I know that I've worked very hard to get to this point, and it's just now that people are starting to realize that they can break out of their bubbles to look for different people to follow. So, I organized my thoughts to say, "No, you definitely deserve this." I'm just happy that people are here and wanting to support black-owned businesses now.
How can we all support Black-owned businesses, in both the short and long term?
- Vote: Before anything else, use your vote, exercise your right to vote.
- Support With Action: I notice that the people who mention me in their stories are not always buying something, or even following me. Put your money where your mouth is. If you’re speaking on supporting Black-owned business, you need to have action with it.
Running a business is hard. What are the additional challenges that come as a Black female business owner?
It often feels like you're operating in the shadows. You see people doing the same thing you do, but you see them achieving things, getting write-ups, or showing off that they're getting more business. A lot of people will ask me, ‘What keeps you going? How do you stay positive?’
The answer is: I believe in myself. You always have to be optimistic and believe in yourself. I don't care if someone else doesn't think I'm great at what I do. I know that I am. For one person telling me this is not a real job or that I can’t do it, there's 100 people who are telling me that I am. It’s important to surround yourself with the people who are going to be supportive and positive. That positivity is major to me.
How does joy & positivity reflect the vintage space in the fashion industry?
Vintage is linked to joy. When I was working in high-end fashion, I never felt confident. I never felt welcomed. I never felt like I was supposed to be there. The clothing was pretty, but it was intimidating.
I started to learn that a lot of those designers will go to Paris and buy vintage pieces to draw inspiration and recreate these items, so vintage is where all the happiness and the joy comes from in the first place. I’m happy that I can be more on the front end of that instead of just watching it get watered down as it trickles down to us.
What are your hopes for the future of vintage fashion?
I think the future of vintage is more upcycling. I see so many cool brands that use old and vintage clothing to create new pieces with a whole new life. With my brand, Aarica Nichole Vintage, I take old graphic T-shirts and add an elastic waistband. I call them my scrunchie tops because you can scrunch it down and tuck it in without having it bulging in your jeans. Or you can scrunch it up higher and wear it as a crop top.
That's just one example, but I've seen so many really cool brands go above and beyond with what they can create from old fabrics; taking old clothes and turning them into something new. That’s definitely something that is only going to grow and become bigger.
Aarica Nichole is the founder of Aarica Nichole Vintage and co-founder of ctwentytwo. While Aarica lives in Dallas, Texas, you can shop all her finds and creations online. If you are looking for more girly, fun, eclectic vintage pieces, head to Aarica Nichole. If you prefer effortless, low-key, unisex style, then C22's definitely it.