Just weeks away from previewing their first ever collection at New York Fashion Week, Brooklyn-based designer Jacques Agbobly received some exciting news:
The honor comes with a $15,000 grant and mentorship opportunities from both companies. It is part of a larger partnership between shipping company DHL and the CFDA to create opportunities for fashion brands to grow their businesses worldwide.
“I’ve always been interested in growing my brand internationally, but I didn’t know where to start,” says Agbobly, who was born and raised in Togo, West Africa, and immigrated to the United States in 2007. “I think for me, as someone who originally is from Togo, West Africa, I’ve always had an international perspective and outlook on creating.”
Agbobly, who “loves control” says the grant will help them streamline the business. “I’ve been really interested in vertically integrating my business, which means basically like, producing my own raw materials and then also having everything in-house … I like to see and touch everything that comes out of my brand.”
Part of Agbobly’s vision for the brand includes one day returning to Togo and inspiring the work of local craftswomen in the production of their designs. They even dream of having their own farm in Togo to produce wool for their knitwear.
Founded in 2020 just after Agbobly graduated from Parsons School of Design, Black Boy Knits focuses largely on creating made-to-order knitwear pieces in colorful styles that are an ode to the designer’s West African heritage. Agbobly chose to center brand around knitwear because of its “endless possibilities”
“The process of knitting thrills me because you can mess up at any point, but then you can fix it. It’s always fixable,” says Agbobly. “When I’m knitting it’s like a very sacred time, it’s almost like a religion.”
When it came time to choose a name for their brand, Agbobly didn’t want to use their own name, opting for the self-explanatory “Black Boy Knits”. “When you hear the name, you already know who’s doing it and what it is, you know, rather than it just existing as like some ambiguous things like other brands,” says Agbobly.
The Logistics in Fashion Award is not the only honor Black Boy Knits received this year, the brand is also one of 10 finalists in the 2022 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, another program that offers funds and mentorship to emerging designers.
Now, Agbobly is hard at work putting the finishing touches on their first ever proper collection of clothes. A preview of the collection will be presented during New York Fashion Week on September 12, while the full collection will be released in November.
Agbobly has been working on elements of the collection for more than two years, with some of the pieces originating from the designer’s thesis collection at Parsons. For Agbobly, who prefers to work at a slower pace, the pandemic felt like an opportunity to take time to expand their skills and fine-tune their ideas. “When you’re working against a clock, I feel like your ideas start to sort of be muddled and like, dumbed down a little bit,” says Agbobly.
With their big exhibition days away, Agbobly feels an intense mixture of nerves and excitement about their debut collection. “I have something to say about fashion and where it’s at and where it’s going, and I think being given that opportunity to do that is important and I’m excited for that, says Agbobly.
“I’m excited to finish it, put it into the world, wrap it up and move on to something else. And so, I don’t know what my next collection is gonna be yet. But I’m excited to discover that.”