The celebrity fashion designer will visit students on Thursday, Sept. 20.
B. Michael believes clothes play a key role in helping to elevate men and women.
The celebrity fashion designer recently drove this point home when legendary actress Cicely Tyson donned a whimsically fierce black hat with matching dress, designed by B. Michael, at iconic singer Aretha Franklin’s funeral in August.
“I felt like I was designing for royalty to wear to a funeral for royalty,” the celeb designer said. “It would’ve been the same hat and dress had Ms. Tyson been going to a funeral for royalty in London for the queen.”
B. Michael’s collections have been worn by celebrities including Beyonce, Phylicia Rashad, Lena Horne and many others. He also designed singer Whitney Houston’s costumes for the film “Sparkle.”
B. Michael is one of a few black entrepreneurs in the celebrity fashion space.
While the black community makes up only 13.4 percent of the U.S. population, according to a 2017 U.S. Census Bureau report, black consumers generate a spending power of $1.2 trillion annually, based on a 2018 report by Nielsen.
B. Michael will be a guest speaker and will school students on the art of entrepreneurship at Delaware State University on Thursday, Sept. 20. Recently he shared with the Dover Post some of his thoughts on what he’ll discuss, the need for more black entrepreneurs and more.
What would you like to wear at your funeral?
There’s a very specific haircut that I’ve had for decades, so I’m more concerned with my hair being right than what I’m wearing. But I love the question. And I’ve given more thought to what I want my friends to wear to my funeral than what I’ll have on at mine.
What would you like your guests to wear at your service?
All my lady friends should be dressed in my most recent collection. That’s the plan [laughs].
What are a few things you’ll touch on at DSU?
I’m excited for the opportunity. We think it’s important as entrepreneurs to talk about what it means to be prepared to go into business. I think we’re going to really emphasize preparation, in terms of understanding your business, being able to articulate it in a business plan, understanding the financial model so that you’ll understand how to raise capital, and then what it means to sustain the business. It’s really about taking your passion and meshing it with excellence and being prepared.
Black people are big consumers. Why is there a lack of black entrepreneurs?
You’re hitting the nail on the head. In my industry, which I can speak on, is a $3 trillion industry. To your point, we are consumers in the fashion and apparel industry. We have low equity in the industry. There are many variables for this. But as entrepreneurs, it again has to do with our ability to understand what it means to create business.
Once we accomplish that, then as a community, another conversation would be about how we’d build an ecosystem within our community so that we can sustain our businesses and grow others. Those are two related conversations that directly impact what we have in equity as black people in America.
Where does your sense of style come from?
It’s interesting, I was just asked that question on Sept. 5. That question was: “Did you know what your sense of style was?” The answer to that was “No,” because when I began I couldn’t articulate this was my sense of style. However, as I worked and looked back at my early work, I see there’s a common thread throughout my career.
And although I’ve evolved, I see that I love things that are timeless. And I love more architectural-type structures. I’m more of a modern version of the ‘40s and ‘50s. I often say if Audrey Hepburn were alive today, she’d be my muse, but in a modern sense.
Where do you draw inspiration?
I listen to music every day. It’s the first thing I do in the morning after meditating. All day long I’m listening to music. I’d say for sure that it’s an important part of my inspiration. Aside from that, I’m always open, because you never really know when and where inspiration will come from. And you don’t want to limit it by saying it can only come from one area. So you might meet an interesting person and that might excite something in terms of a visual. Or you might get inspired by visiting a city. I love gardens. In terms of colors, there’s nothing more perfect than colors of flowers. I definitely know where to go for inspiration. But I love it when it comes unannounced and it just falls into my lap.
Do you think clothes make the man and woman?
Yes, because when you meet someone for the first time, the very first impression is the visual of the person. We can’t help that. We’re programmed to make a judgement. We can call it an observation, but the honest word is we make a judgement. Clothing is a part of that.