Nicole Banks on Fashion, Empowerment, and Cultural Appropriation

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( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Nicole Banks Delves into Fashion, Empowerment, and Cultural Appropriation in Interview

ENSPIRE Contributor: Amitha Bhat

Nicole Banks is a stylist and owner of the Pretty Pieces Boutique. She strives to empower women of color through her fashion, as well as give POC creators their rightful credit in the fashion industry. Nicole B is the Chief Pretty Chick in charge At shopprettypieces.com where she says every day is a day to fashionably slay the runway.

She previously worked 25 years in the Health Insurance industry with a role in leadership, sales, marketing, and Information Technology. She chose to leave that behind. In an interview with ENSPIRE, Nicole discusses what fashion means to her, how she empowers women of color and cultural appropriation. 

What does fashion mean to you? 

There is an intrinsically psychographic relationship between fashion and psychology. Fashion has the ability to change and shape lives through personal connections. We have to wear clothes so fashion allows us to say who we are without saying a word. It’s our daily armor. It’s everywhere in architecture, in nature and even in the air. Even in places that require uniforms like Delta and Krystal’s understand the power behind fashion. 

How do you empower women of color through fashion? 

I’m the face of a budding fashion brand. I show up every day as my authentic self whether it’s a good day or a bad day and I remain authentic and true to my journey. I’m a firm believer that there is a feel good psychology in fashion and if you look good, you feel good so I try to incorporate that in my message. I try to give women of color that look like me motivation that we can do anything. If I can empower women of color to say “hey if she can do it so can I”, I’ve succeeded. That’s why it’s important for me to be present and be the face of the brand. 

How can fashion brands support the culture they benefit from? 

I’d like to see big box brands being more authentic in their support instead of just appearing supportive because it might feel like that’s the right thing to do right now. Authentic inclusion would be ideal, however it just doesn’t feel like it’s genuine in some respects. I think having African American creatives as contributing members of the team and being authenticated with the support and not appropriating our culture would be a good start. 

Why do you believe brands should hire POC to help them? 

POC’s possess a certain creativity that is genius and produces magic. It comes from our ancestral ingenuity! When our people didn’t have a way they created one and it’s the same with us now. It’s innate. We are the flavor and once big brands understand that power they’ll understand the need to have black creatives at the table! And not to appropriate the culture but to embrace it authentically. 

How can we combat cultural appropriation in fashion brands? 

We need to circulate our dollar amongst ourselves so that our ownership can be strengthened. If we are putting our resources and support back into our culture and supporting brands created for us and by us we can take back our culture. As long as we support the brands that appropriate us, we give them power and an unsaid permission slip to use us as a free muse! But when we purposely and purposefully keep our magic to ourselves we can change that narrative on appropriation. People will only do what we let them and that couldn’t be more true in respect to cultural appropriation! 

As a third-generation seamstress, how has fashion impacted you growing up? 

All I knew growing up was fashion. My grandmother and my mother were the ladies to be lol. When mom and grandma weren’t making our clothes we shopped at an upscale store called Jacobson’s and my sister and I modeled in all of their fashion shows. I learned to sew at an early age and would help my mom by trimming the patterns and ironing pieces before she put them together. A career in fashion was probably my birth right lol. 

What’s next for you? 

My focus is to continue to grow the Pretty Pieces brand to a household name. We need a brand that’s a black owned culture alternative to Fashionnova! We need to be able to have strong retail alternatives that were created by us and for us so my goal immediately is to continue to grow and scale to that place. I’m working on some courses and mentorship opportunities to help new boutique owners as well. 

To learn more about Nicole’s brand, visit: https://shopprettypieces.com

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