Business for Good: Grant Blvd + Blk Ivy - The Philadelphia Citizen

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The B Corps manner marque loved by Beyoncé is launching a men’s covering enactment and a vintage covering store, Blk Ivy, dedicated to Civil Rights epoch fashion, music, books— and activism

Jan. 18, 2023


For Dr. Kimberly McGlonn, manner can’t beryllium separated from activism.

Activists, she says, person ever utilized benignant to pass their missions — whether it was the Black Panthers donning dashikis and accepted African designs oregon Civil Rights and Black taste leaders embracing preppy aesthetics.

“​​There was a reasoning that what you wore was 1 mode of fundamentally demanding dignity,” McGlonn says.

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Her archetypal business, Grant Blvd, is portion of that legacy. McGlonn the sustainable covering marque and store connected the thought that our apparel bespeak our values. Grant Blvd is an eco-conscious B Corp and a Fair Chance employer, which means she works with re-entry organizations to prosecute radical who person been incarcerated. She besides donates a information of the business’s proceeds to societal justice-minded organizations, including West Philly-based nonprofit Books Through Bars.

“It’s a curation that’s truly linked to a societal governmental question that’s ever been astatine the bosom of my ain activism,” McGlonn says.

This year, McGlonn is turning her attraction to vintage manner and its ties to societal justness activism betwixt 1954 and 1972. On February 3, 2023, she’ll unfastened her 2nd shop, Blk Ivy, successful Grant Blvd’s existent West Philly location astatine 3605 Lancaster Avenue. (Grant Blvd volition relocate to a larger abstraction astatine 140 S. 34th Street, person to Penn.)

With a absorption exclusively connected vintage apparel from the Civil Rights era, Blk Ivy offers a triple-shot of environmentalism, activism, and fashion.

A Blk Ivy motion adjacent to a Four Tops album. Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm.

Conscious — not accelerated — fashion

McGlonn has ever loved thrifting. Growing up successful Milwaukee, she would get excited implicit the vintage fabrics and pieces she’d find successful thrift shops. She besides appreciated the longevity of older apparel — she’s had 1 orangish and brownish patterned formal that hails from the 1950s oregon 60s for 17 years — on with their smaller biology footprint.

Every 2nd 2,150 pieces of covering are thrown away successful the U.S., Bloomberg precocious reported. What’s more, manner — particularly accelerated manner — is 1 of the world’s highest polluting industries. Textile manufacturing accounts for 10 percent of planetary c dioxide output and 20 percent of planetary wastewater. The manufacture consumes much vigor than the aviation and shipping sectors combined.

That’s wherefore Grant Blvd’s designs, makes and sells apparel made wholly from dormant banal fabrics oregon repurposed thrift items. They alteration textiles that whitethorn person ended up successful a landfill to usage by utilizing them to make innovative, leisurewear-inspired designs. McGlonn launched her enactment and the shop successful 2017 with secondhand t-shirts screen-printed with the phrases “Earth Bae,” “Really Philly,” and “End Mass Incarceration.”

 A Blk Ivy motion featuring an aged black-and-white photograph and a Four Tops album, some framed.Kimberly McGlonn poses wrong Blk Ivy. Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm.

A Civil Rights manner statement

McGlonn wanted Grant Blvd’s t-shirts to pull customers who were not acrophobic to instrumentality a basal for what they judge in. It worked. And past some.

The concern has grown beyond expectations, releasing aggregate archetypal collections made from 100 percent reclaimed textiles. Grant Blvd has besides garnered attraction from large names. Last year, Beyoncé gave them $10,000 grant through her instauration BeyGood arsenic portion of her committedness to supporting Black-owned businesses.

But portion Grant Blvd often breathes caller beingness into secondhand items and remnant fabrics, it’s not a vintage shop. Blk Ivy draws connected McGlonn’s passionateness for curating apparel from circumstantial moments successful history. The store’s postulation focuses connected apparel from the Civil Rights movement, opening successful 1954, the twelvemonth Brown v. Board of Education was decided, and ending successful 1972, erstwhile Shirley Chisholm became the archetypal pistillate — and archetypal Black pistillate — to tally for president.

In the caller vintage store Blk Ivy, an orangish people successful a achromatic framework stands connected a unchangeable beside a plant. The people bears the words, "I AM A WOMAN." The missive "a" is underlined.A motion by Blk Ivy. Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm.

“It’s a curation that’s truly linked to a social-political question that’s ever been astatine the bosom of my ain activism,” McGlonn says.

Besides being a sanction that feels similar it was plucked close from the caput of Beyoncé, genitor of Blue Ivy, Blk Ivy has historical ties to the play McGlonn wants to explore. The sanction and the thought for the caller store came from I Called Him Morgan, a documentary movie connected Philadelphia-born jazz instrumentalist Lee Morgan.

A little conception of the movie explored Morgan’s manner choices and the transportation to the Black Ivy manner movement, successful which Black taste leaders from Amiri Baraka and Malcolm X to James Baldwin and Sidney Poitier adopted and subverted the preppy benignant communal connected Ivy League campuses. Oxford button-downs, sleek achromatic turtlenecks, and hand-stitched loafers were each portion of the trend.

McGlonn traveled crossed the country, hunting done thrift shops successful places arsenic adjacent to location arsenic Bucks County and arsenic acold distant arsenic Chicago and Arkansas. Hand-embroidered cardigans with silk linings, dense wool sweaters successful galore shades of blue, tailored dresses, and men’s button-downs are conscionable immoderate of the pieces she’ll person connected show erstwhile the store opens its doors.

She envisions the caller store arsenic portion covering retailer, portion accessible museum. It’ll diagnostic posters from oregon inspired by the era, classical records, and aboriginal editions of James Baldwin’s works and Malcolm X’s autobiography. Vintage dresses from McGlonn’s idiosyncratic holdings — including the orangish and brownish patterned quality — volition beryllium connected display. Used books and records volition beryllium up for sale.

“Blk Ivy is going to springiness a 1960s postmodern Reading Room vibe,” she says. Book clubs centered connected Black writers and elector registration events successful the abstraction are already successful the works for the store’s lawsuit programming. A information of the proceeds from the store volition spell to the New Pennsylvania Project, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding the state’s electorate.

“I cognize that if I spot [Grant Blvd] successful a country that that’s besides a idiosyncratic that shares my values: They attraction astir people. They attraction astir the planet. They attraction astir buying small. They attraction astir supporting Black-owned businesses. They attraction astir surviving wages.”

Fashioning — and wearing — her values

Blk Ivy’s motorboat isn’t each that’s happening with McGlonn this year. Grant Bvld’s caller flagship determination volition unfastened aboriginal successful February. Its motorboat volition coincide with the brand’s enlargement into menswear. Currently, McGlonn estimates lone astir 10 to 15 percent of the brand’s offerings person catered to men oregon masculine-presenting people. When the store reopens, that fig volition beryllium person to 30 percent.

“We person a batch of radical who privation to enactment america who place arsenic men oregon who similar the manner that’s deemed for men. And we decidedly privation to beryllium acceptable to connection thing for those folks arsenic well,” McGlonn says.

American-made denim — including denim suiting — and garments that modulation seamlessly from day-to-night, oregon “day-to-play” arsenic McGlonn likes to say, are planned arsenic portion of Grant Blvd’s aboriginal collections. She wants the apparel to consciousness arsenic comfy arsenic pajamas, but to look elegant capable for a nighttime retired oregon a time successful the office. An “accessible Gucci,” arsenic she enactment it.

A vintage Levi's denim jeans overgarment hangs connected a achromatic rack successful Blk Ivy.A vintage Levi’s jeans overgarment astatine Blk Ivy. Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm.

The marque is besides expanding their location and hospitality enactment for homes, hotels and edifice groups. This subdivision of the concern started erstwhile the W Philadelphia asked McGlonn to make astir 100 garments for their nutrient and beverage teams.

McGlonn declined to publically stock gross figures, but she said the concern is growing. They program to treble their eight-person unit this twelvemonth with the opening of the caller location. To enactment their growth, she’s launching a fundraising circular aimed astatine raising conscionable implicit $3 million.

And for Grant Blvd, concern maturation means doubling down connected the brand’s activism. The concern became a B Corp past year. They besides donated 1,303 books to the nonprofit Books done Bars — and 2 percent of each income to Philadelphia Youth Sentencing and Reentry successful 2021. (2022 figures volition beryllium released successful February erstwhile the brand’s latest Impact Report comes out).

A show astatine Blk Ivy featuring the Eddie Gaude publication Begin Again. Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm.

They stay a just accidental employer, doing pop-ups astatine Eastern State Penitentiary, and they wage each of their employees a surviving wage. McGlonn proudly sets the company’s wages using MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, which says Philadelphians should marque astatine slightest $17.87 per hour. McGlonn inactive remains progressive politically arsenic a Jenkintown councilwoman, though she’s since resigned from teaching precocious schoolhouse English and alternatively holds a presumption arsenic a module subordinate astatine Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.

Doubling down connected her committedness to creating jobs, Grant Blvd is successful the aboriginal stages of partnering with the Philly-based nonprofit Green Labor Lab to make an apprenticeship programme for women experiencing homelessness oregon struggling to find employment owed to a transgression record. The goal, McGlonn says, is to make a conveyance for surviving wage jobs.

She anticipated that the concern volition proceed to turn arsenic consumers go much alert of however detrimental accelerated manner brands are to the environment.The ethical manner marketplace is expected to turn to $10.28 cardinal globally by 2026. Why shouldn’t Philly beryllium astatine the helm of this movement? Local, environmentally conscious, dilatory manner brands similar Lobo Mau, United by Blue and, of course, Grant Blvd already beryllium successful the city.

McGlonn says the highest ambition for her apparel is that they go a “visual concern card, wherever you cognize that that look is from Grand Blvd.”

“And I cognize that if I spot it successful a country that that’s besides a idiosyncratic that shares my values,” she says. “They attraction astir people. They attraction astir the planet. They attraction astir buying small. They attraction astir supporting Black-owned businesses. They attraction astir surviving wages.”


Dr. Kimberly McGlonn astatine the caller Blk Ivy vintage covering store. Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm

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