Brenika Banks photo

Belauded, an emerging global platform for Black designer fashion, was created to be a platform for consumers to shop from Black designers, as well as a tool to support up-and-coming Black designers.

“We’re coming for the title of world’s destination to shop for all Black designers in the world,” said Belauded founder Jaleel Thomas. The site offers what they call “pressure-pack premium boxes and deluxe boxes” of  “top quality and true culture” clothing. The 27-year-old created the concept for Belauded sitting in traffic on the Cross County Parkway while battling COVID.

“I asked God, ‘Hey, give me that next thing, you know [what] my heart desires, you know that I want to do things for my people…’ and, literally while I was driving from getting food, the idea clicked,” said Thomas. His goal is to establish Beluaded as a celebration of Black people.

Jaleel Thomas (Shane Miller photo)

Belaud means “to extol or praise excessively.” The root word “laud” means to applaud or celebrate. The importance of Thomas launching his company in February was to coincide with Black History Month and his birthday, which was five days prior to Belauded’s official launch. Thomas is also the creator of the Black Graduation at CUNY’s Baruch College in NYC. He believed it was important for Black students to effectively receive praises for their hard work at the business school.

“I wanted Black students to feel like they are being celebrated for who they are, what they’ve created, the milestones that they’ve achieved,” said Thomas. “Moments like that inspired me to take this step in creating Belauded.”

Thomas on Graduation Day in 2020 (@realjaleel IG photo)

The global Black directory launched on the heels of NYFW, from which Thomas hopes his site can build momentum. The Chicago native has traveled and met designers in Paris, Egypt, London, and throughout the United States. Although the fashion world lives strongly in these cities, there are not enough luxury brands who fully support the Black community. Thomas sees the missing link to this and understands the need for a Black retailer to become a business while catering to Black consumers.

“As it relates to fashion, maybe you don’t have the chance to kick it in Los Angeles and see the designers out there or have the chance to be in Paris,” said Thomas. “Belauded is that attempt to bring all those Black designers to one platform.”

Designer Diosdado Sima views Belauded as a method to unite different creators who represent the Black community into one hub.

“Their strength in numbers reminds me of a Black Wall Street concept,” said Sima. “It’s a way to build our community and bring us together.” Sima’s Visionary Society fashion brand is a part of Belauded’s network of Black designers who were on board for the site’s early stages.

Sima believes the lack of representation in the fashion industry needs to be changed. As an immigrant designer, he views Visionary Society as a medium to express himself and his people in ways that may not be accepted in a non-Black fashion spaces. “Visionary Society is our world painted in the way we would love to see it for our community,” said Sima.

According to Nielsen, African Americans are more likely to say they shop at high-end stores including Saks Fifth Avenue (63%), Neiman Marcus (45%) and Bloomingdales (24%). There is little to no data that shows how non-Black luxury brands support Black people as much as their dollars support those same brands. Black buying power, which was at $910 billion in 2019, could be more beneficial if spent in places where the betterment of the Black community was the goal.

Black people continue to wear and embrace luxury brands who aren’t interested in their value as much as their money. These luxury brands fail to accept Black people as their priority demographic. Major brands such as Montclair, Gucci, Prada, and Balenciaga have had very questionable occurrences that were insensitive to the Black community. “

These glorified brands run into instances where maybe some of their leadership hasn’t really considered everybody in the room or everybody that they’re trying to sell to,” said Thomas.

Sima applauds Thomas for his well explained concept of Belauded and was thrilled to participate in this Black directory.

“Working with Jaleel has been nothing short of amazing,” said Sima.

In a couple of years, Thomas looks forward to having Belauded donate clothing to Black students going through hardships. He envisions Belauded’s growth to continue through word of mouth, connecting with other Black creators and Fashion Week’s Black designers. Thomas anticipates another way of growth through marketing dollars which will help financially grow the business. Social media is expected to be a major driving force for the website.

“This platform is going to connect Black designers to consumers forever,” said Thomas.

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