Nappy Head Club is a Brooklyn, New York-based fashion brand and platform centering Black hair narratives. Established in 2017 by sisters Rachel Topping and Rikky-Richelle Bryant, the brand is know for graphic t-shirts bucket hats, swimwear and most recently a collaboration with artist Octavia Mingerik.
We had an email exchange with Topping about her path as a entrepreneur and what’s in store for Nappy Head Club this fall.
Check it out below.
Snobette: Nappy Head Club was born out of a need to see yourself and black stories reflected in fashion. What was it like creating this brand?
Rachel Topping: “It was a really self-healing process. Nappy head Club was my way to create the community and representation that I myself needed. My sister and I definitely started with content first with Instagram account called @4c_onlyclub. We actually didn’t anticipate turning Nappy Head Club into a brand. It was simply a place to curate imagery that validated our blackness and build community.”
Snobette: Do you have a fashion design background?
Rachel Topping: “My background is in graphic design, I got my BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University for graphic design specifically. But I’ve always had an interest in music, culture and fashion. So I’d try to work in roles that kept me adjacent to those things. One of my last full-time roles before Nappy Head Club was leading on design and creative strategy for Tamara Mellon’s first solo endeavor following Jimmy Choo founders. Being involved in Tamara Mellon from its early days really sparked my interest in fashion, and entrepreneurship at large.”
Snobette: How did you navigate, sourcing and production?
Rachel Topping: “I will say it’s been janky. And I say that because I want people to feel like it’s possible to just dive head in without a lot of experience, and that’s definitely been the case for me. I’ve really been learning as I go, making mistakes, getting helpful tips from colleagues, and just making it work. I like to go to the garment district and touch fabrics, and be very hands-on. I ask the sales people questions The same with production. Asking a lot of questions, making a lot of mistakes, and learning from them. Over time I’ve started to build relationships with manufacturers that have really streamlined the process, so I’m really grateful for that.”
Snobette: What was the most unexpected outcome whether good or bad in launching Nappy Head?
Rachel Topping: “When I design the collections, my goal is always to foster conversation, but there are times when the stories I hear back from customers are still really surprising and moving. The “Good Hair” scarf, in specific always spawns the tear-jerker stories, for example one customer told me that they gifted their mother the scarf for Christmas and she broke down in tears, recanting how she’d never loved her hair, and how much it meant to her. I never get accustomed to these moments, they knock me off my feet.”
Snobette: What has been the most successful item and was the success expected?
Rachel: “The most successful garment or accessory to date has been the “Always Black, Never Sorry” t-shirt. I was really happy with the design when it was completed, but I honestly didn’t expect it to take off in the way that it has. I think the message, combined with the sleek design really resonates with all people, and It’s been amazing to see!”
Snobette: You recently collaborated with artist Octavia Mingerick on the “Blacker The Berry” capsule. What did you want to communicate with this launch?
Rachel: “We wanted to tackle colorism, a topic that can be a bit heavy and serious, but in a way that felt light and playful. The print that Octavia designed was inspired by vintage tapestries. We wanted to take that “Blacker the Berry” saying and turn it into a beautiful natural scape. We wanted the pieces to encourage you to get outside, enjoy the sun, and celebrate your melanin.
“The meaning behind the collection as a whole is to challenge us as a community to unearth those learned thoughts around color, and really deconstruct the narrative in ourselves as individuals. We wanted to foster conversation, and really take in the whole gamut of experiences that we face when it comes to colorism.”
Snobette: You also launched swimwear this year, what other categories will you be delving into this fall?
Rachel: “This fall we’re really excited to delve into outerwear and more accessories. As we grow you’ll see an evolution into more cut and sew and we’re super excited about that.”
Snobette: Do you feel pressure to grow fast or are you content with your current path as a brand?
Rachel: “I think most of the pressure to grow comes from myself. Probably because I’m an overachiever, but mainly because of the inherent pressure to be able to continue to financially support yourself and your team. I’m really pleased at how the brand continues to grow, very organically. We don’t have any machine behind us, no agencies or huge PR influence, but we do have a real community of fans and followers who love the product. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”