It’s no secret that athleisure has transformed fashion by making comfort and style synonymous. Political Tees & statement barrettes have done the same, granting us the agency to express our social views literally on our sleeves (or in the case of barrettes, our heads). Indie designer Chanelle Fall merged these two concepts to create a lifestyle brand that packs a powerful message in one simple phrase; “Rich Chocolet.” Not only does Fall want to make it easy for you to find sportswear that matches your tone, but she wants to remind us that regardless where you’re from in the black diaspora, your rich heritage is something that you should be proud of.
Beyond the powerful message of her brand, Fall is yet another example of the large number of black creatives who are hustling by day and grinding toward their dreams at night. In a discussion with The Strut Magazine, she gets very candid about the challenges of balancing it all and the impact she hopes to make through her designs.
Read on to catch a glimpse into our convo with Chanelle Fall of Rich
G: Can you start off by telling me your name, your age, and your cultural background?
C: Okay, Chanelle Fall, I am half West African and Half Creole. My mom’s family is from Louisiana and my dad’s family is from Senegal. I’m 27 years old.
G: Are you still in school and if so, how is it balancing school and running a business?
C: Yes, so I just graduated with my Bachelor’s and I’m currently taking classes at the junior college right next to the school that I graduated from. I majored in Liberal Studies and I minored in Women and Ethnic studies. I’m currently taking classes in Children’s Development. Balancing school and my clothing line is difficult at times… trying to manage, trying to get items out to the people that order them on time and dropping them to the Post Office..picking up shipments and just even designing and how I want [my pieces] to look. Sometimes [it’s difficult] not [always] having the time to be there because I work another job as well. So managing school, this, and another job can be alot.
G: To take a few steps back, what inspired the creation of your brand and the name, Rich Chocolet?
C: Growing up, I realized that a lot of people didn’t celebrate their darker skin. It was more so lighter skin [being glorified] and for me, I’m all about celebrating every type of skin tone. My mom is very light, and my dad is darker than me so I like it all. Rich
G: What inspired you to do active wear instead of casual or day to night wear?
C: I started off with activewear [because] I have people around me, like my cousin that I live with, [who are into fitness]. She’s into yoga and [lives] a healthy lifestyle. I realized that when I take breaks [from the gym then I go [back], I don’t really have clothes I can wear that are actually cute. Or I have some pieces, but they’re really expensive. [So I decided] to make [a collection] that can celebrate our skin but isn’t too expensive and will fit right on certain curves — or even make curves appear when they really don’t, lol.
G: What have been some of the challenges, if any, of focusing on such a niche audience of black women. Have you received any negativity from that, [or] any criticism?
C: Yeah definitely. Some people, they don’t understand the word ‘Rich.’ They don’t understand that I’m not necessarily talking about money but I’m talking about the rich history behind our people. So whether you come from an African background like I do, or you come from a black background…I like to incorporate rich into my name because I’m talking about the history behind our people. So that’s why it’s ‘rich’; It’s not just talking about money or anything like that. You can also associate it with [wealth], but that’s secondary. In terms of ‘chocolet,’ alot of people will say “well Im not chocolate, I’ll wear your stuff when you have caramel” and this or that. Don’t get me wrong, that will definitely come later on, however “chocolet” is not just about the skin color. It’s about being black, being of “afro” descent (ie afro latina). It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s about having that rich blood in you.
G: Do you consider your line to be purely fashion or does the name allude to it being a lifestyle or a social movement as well?
C: Yeah definitely, a social movement as well as a lifestyle. I think that it’s definitely something that you can wear to catch a plane, to walk your dog, something you can do yoga in…some pieces you can wear to the club or to run other errands. So I mean, it’s definitely something that’s a lifestyle. I feel like you can be good with having a pair of jeans in your closet and then all rich chocolet.
G: As a black female entrepreneur, how important is it for you to bring more representation to the industry through your designs, the people that you work with, and the culture that your brand represents?
C: It’s definitely important to me. My mom is a plus size woman, so she’s always saying “when are you gonna come out with something I can wear.” It’s definitely in the plans but I just want to make sure that I’m being careful [with] how I do it. I want to do it tastefully and make sure that they’re comfortable with the [pieces] and I’m not picking things just because I’m trying to rush it…As far as my models, I definitely want to show different sizes. I don’t [just] want a skinny girl. want every color, every skin tone, as well as every size in my stuff and I want them to feel comfortable in my clothes.
G: What’s the first piece that you designed for your collection?C: So the first piece was [a pair of] white biker shorts. That was my first pair of anything I did for Rich
G: America’s Next Top Model Cycle 24 winner Kyla Comen has been spotted as a member of Rich
C: So I asked my sister Kora [who was also a finalist on ANTM] to help me out and wear some of my pieces. She said okay cool and asked me if I wanted her to ask Kyla, who’s her roomate. And I said wow! Sure if she will, obviously. So she asked her and she did it and she was real cool about it. She drove an hour away with my sister to come out there for free, you know…She tried on as many outfits as I wanted her to try on and she even took the lead and started posing. When my sister was doing her posing, she [even] helped her out. It was actually fun. It wasn’t expected for it to be that great of a shoot but she knows what she’s doing for sure.
G: That’s awesome. What celebrity would you be most excited to see in your designs?
C: Issa Rae. And Yvonne — she’s beautiful. There are also a lot of women in the influencer industry that I think would be amazing in my line. Feel free to hit me up if you feel like you’re that one! Let’s work.
G: You already told us about your men’s collection that’s coming out in the near future, where do you see Rich Chocolet going in the next few years and what are your plans for getting it there?
C: I definitely see it being in stores, that would be my next step. I’m actually in the works for that. I have actually spoken to 2 store [owners who are] down to place it in their stores so I just have to get the shipments ready for them. I’m looking at other locations in the Crenshaw area, so I want to continue to do that. I’m excited for that and I’m excited for the men’s line to come out as well.