2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Kaley D.

Throughout many years of history, African-American leaders have not only invented and created many ideas and objects, but they have also had the ability to encourage and inspire the generations that follow in their footsteps. One of those brave and inspiring leaders that I look up to today is Anne Cole Lowe, also called “society’s best known secret.” Being one of the only black female fashion designers was one thing, but being the best at what she did and designing for people such as President Kennedy’s family and John Rockefeller’s family was another thing. Lowe’s skills and determined mindset paved the way for not only African-American designers like me, but also for all African-American designers and female fashion designers. It is now our turn to lead the way.

Just like Anne Cole Lowe began expressing her talent at a young age, I did as well. I was given a sewing machine at the age of 16 and was told to sew a pair of pants. At first I did not think I was capable of doing something I paid stores to do for me, but I remembered how young Lowe was when she started designing and that’s when I knew I had to lose my fear of failure. After only a couple days of working on my sewing machine, I had not only sewn a pair of pants, but I had also sewn a skirt and two dresses. Placing fabrics together and making what I like to call “masterpieces” came natural to me. Once I got comfortable enough, I felt the need to start sewing and designing pieces people had never seen before. In the past, black women were known for making clothes and dresses for their families, but that was not enough for Anne Cole Lowe so she began to design wedding dresses and event gowns. That is where I found my inspiration to start designing custom pocket tee shirts. We both had the freedom to choose fabric colors and designs. Once people began to realize how talented and skillful Lowe was with her designs, she was hired by several high-end companies and celebrities such as the Roosevelts. Friends and family also enjoyed my tee shirts so I decided to become a leader like Anne Cole Lowe and start my own custom tee shirt company known as “Kay’s Pocket Tees.” The success of my business only came from satisfying others and giving them beyond what they deserve. Not only do I get the chance to do what I love, but I also get the chance to live out Lowe’s dreams of designing clothes. 

Where one generation leaves off, the next generation has to stand and take the lead. Anne Cole Lowe changed the dynamic of the fashion industry for any black fashion designer. There are no limits on how far African-American designers can go. It is now our time to lead the way.


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