When I started my first company, Travel Noire — I held a strong conviction about traveling while black. Living and working in India in 2011 afforded me the luxury of frequent and inexpensive travel. Close proximity to other Asian countries meant that I was jetting to new destinations monthly, for as little as $8 for a one-way flight.
I believed that instead of being the frequented subject, someone with skin like mine could actually be the frequent traveler. It had been that way for decades, after all — but perhaps was less documented digitally. So in 2013, I set out to create an online home for black travelers to connect and explore new boundaries. I wanted to normalize the conversation of unconventional travel.
In 2015, we launched TN Experiences, small group trips that introduced tension into the travel experience, transforming all who embarked on a seven day journey with us. At it’s peak, we ran 60 trips every year across five continents. These were my most fulfilling years as a startup founder.
I didn’t know it when I started Travel Noire, but there was an emerging movement forming. One that hadn’t quite been codified. It was the beginning of the black travel movement.
I sold the business in 2017, not certain that I would start another public facing company again. Building a successful brand wasn’t for the faint of heart — and the thought of contently fading into the background and quietly cultivating my God given gifts began to look more and more appealing.
Every week via Travel Noire, I sent an email to hundreds of thousands of people that chronicled my travels and the humbling lessons I learned along the way. It was a space for me to be vulnerable with the community I served.
But after the acquisition finalized in September of 2017, I stopped sharing my life with the world in the way that I had before.
I walked away from the business with a deep desire to do more for the Kingdom of God. When I felt like it was time to sell, I obeyed the direction He was leading me towards and began to lean into John 15:2. It was a hard road, and I mostly kept to myself.
Over time though, I began to wonder if I was perhaps squandering the personal platform God had entrusted me with. If I never came back to the public eye, what difference would it have made? Well, apparently — a lot.
So I started tinkering. After being laid off from Blavity last April, I took a year long sabbatical. I got married & took an eight week honeymoon. My husband and I bought a Korean company. I signed a book deal and turned in the final manuscript. I reflected. I prayed. I sat. I listened. I started over.
I was looking for a fresh conviction — an unresolved tension, born of personal experience, but also anchored in a desire to create a new vision of the world. I was searching for a conviction that was comparable to the one that created Travel Noire.
I was foraging for an idea that wouldn’t let me go, no matter how hard I tried to shake it.
My Three Year Journey
When I started intentionally dressing modestly a few years ago, I had a personal epiphany: As my relationship with God deepened, I wanted the transformation that I was experiencing on the inside to match how I presented myself to the world. I knew that God expected an external witness of our internal holiness.
So I began purging and rebuilding. Up until that point, my closet was riddled with college memories, nights out on the town and shadows of my former life. In 2012, I had won a free year of clothes from a popular retailer, but instead of investing in quality pieces, I opted for quantity instead. As a result, most of those pieces had either fallen apart, were worn once, or not at all.
Beyond that, summers were the most challenging. I had to marry my new style standard with warmer weather. It wasn’t easy. I was told that I didn’t love my body because I never showed skin. I often had to explain away my layering choices. I had to figure out new ways to be adventurous and modest. I had to learn what it meant to live fully committed to God’s higher standard.
Beyond the few friends I could ask fashion questions, I was largely on my own, learning to fill my wardrobe with items I thought would honor God. I battled with a few of the many misconceptions that came with dressing modestly:
- Modesty was something forced upon you by a male figure.
- Modest fashion = granny fashion.
- Dressing modestly was to help men keep their thoughts pure.
- You don’t love your body if you’re always covered up.
- Modesty is all about clothing.
Over time, I created a style standard based on my own personal convictions and day by day, I began to feel more like myself. As I began to see what I wore as an avenue to minister to others, the way I viewed personal style began to change.
The Modesty Tax
Shopping then became somewhat of a contact sport. And if I was as committed to modest dress as I thought, I would need to familiarize myself with the modesty tax.
The modesty tax refers to the extra amount of time spent searching for a modest piece of clothing, coupled with the premium price tag often levied. As a result, shopping becomes an emotionally taxing affair that can seem, quite frankly, unfair.
“If she can wear most of what’s on display at a store, why can’t I?”
“Why do I need to plan so far in advance so that I can find something to wear to _____________?”
“Why does everything modest seem so much more expensive?”
While there’s a common misconception that items are generally priced higher when more fabric is involved, we rarely see tall and maternity editions of clothing priced differently.
In other words, more fabric shouldn’t equal higher prices.
And so, here we are.
A $400 billion dollar market worldwide by 2024. A 90 percent increase in internet searches in the last year for modest fashion. It’s own global fashion week. An emergent movement in the United States. A virtually hidden market locally.
Of all the reasons for this pursuit, most paramount is this: I believe that this modest movement will help define a generation of believers who love Christ & desire to live fully committed to Him.
So today, just as in 2013, I’m setting out to create a digital home for a new underserved demographic —
Italicist helps women find clothes that respect their standard. Discover modest pieces you love, without the time commitment.
We scan hundreds of brands online — and with your specific preferences in hand — instantly present a personalized shopping experience that features timeless pieces that fit and wear well.
Beyond that, Italicist is a platform that celebrates the beauty & versatility of modesty and the way it translates into how we live, love, worship, explore and experience life. Ultimately, we’re here to help you build a style & lifestyle you love; one that evolves and empowers you to live a life of meaning.
Sign up here to get early access. The full platform will be launching soon.
When pondering a name, I thought about the three examples of typographical emphases — bold, underline and italic. All used to emphasize a word or phrase, but each distinct in it’s own usage.
When someone wants to draw attention to a word, they may choose to embolden it. But if they want to understate a word, they use italicization to introduce a subtle stress. In addition, font weight affects the level of insistence: from tender delicacy (italic) to persistent rudeness (bold).
When I reflect on the concept of modesty, it’s a beautifully subtle attribute — one that doesn’t shout or strike. It’s an inward heart posture that naturally expresses itself outwards. And of all the typographical emphases, italic was what fit perfectly.
Italicist vs. Traditional Shopping
Shopping for modest clothes can be a long, frustrating experience. Traditional shopping typically looks a little something like this:
→ Block Out Some Time. When you can only wear a small percentage of a what any given store offers, you’ll have to hop from store to store to find items that fit your style standard. Gear up for the ride.
→ Plan Ahead. Have an upcoming event? You should prepare by bookmarking items in advance. That means that you need to keep tabs on the brands that you frequent. Last minute shopping is almost out of the question and is an almost certain guarantee that you won’t find something you love.
→ Settle or Modify. If an item doesn’t fit your personal style standard (too short, too tight, etc), but you’re pressed for time, you may buy it and modify it with safety pins, a tank top or a blazer, for example. But more often than not, it will end in…
→ Wasteful Thinking. Unable to wear it without that blazer? Do you always need to wear it with a slip? Did you buy it just because it was inexpensive? Can’t find any other way to wear it without that turtleneck? If you can’t wear an item as soon as you pop the tags, you may wear it a few times before banishing it to the corner of your closet.
Now, let’s look at the process with Italicist:
→ Tell us a little about yourself. We’re really good listeners. Tell us your preferred neckline, sleeve length, hemline, budget and body type among other details and we’ll create a personal dashboard of new pieces you’ll adore.
→ Get personalized recommendations. Save more money by buying only what you love & not what you need to alter. Now, instead of spending the time modifying something new, you can simply slip on an outfit that fits and wears well. The result? Effortless pieces that make you feel confident, comfortable and covered.
→ Keep the conversation going. We’ll bring the weekly inspiration and adjust as your needs and the occasions change.
Everyone has a different path to discovering their own personal style, and we’re committed to helping you find what inspires you. Modesty is about more than hemlines and sleeves. It’s a way of life. It’s a heart posture born from an attitude of humility. It’s part of our worship to God, and how we choose to present ourselves to the world.
Start Where You Are
There are some who dress modestly to honor their faith. There are others who, faith aside, simply enjoy a more covered approach. Some women are new to modesty, while others may already have a curated closet. Some will use Italicist to uncover their style, while others may need help finding modest versions of the latest trend.
Whoever you are and however you come, you’re welcome here.
In our world, the way that we choose to style ourselves is a personal commitment to an elevated standard: one that is empowering and full of infinite possibilities. It’s not just fashion. It’s a lifestyle.
We know that there are millions of women searching for simpler ways to find clothes that respect their standards.
They live beautiful, full lives and don’t want to compromise style for the sake of coverage.
They don’t want to spend hours browsing brands on the internet — or worse, within the confines of a tiny dressing room. Today is the beginning of something different.
Spread the word.