Meet Milan Rouge, the CEO and founder of ‘Milano Di Rouge,’ a unisex luxury streetwear changing the game of fashion. In honor of Women History Month, Live Civil caught up with the entrepreneur to discuss being a black business woman in a male dominated industry, dream collaborations, and the five rules of fashion one must abide by.
WHAT IS ONE QUOTE YOU LIVE BY?
“Teach them early what we learned late.”
I incorporate this into everything that I do because I feel as though anything can be a teachable moment for the people following me. The new generation deserves to have the information that we needed coming up to help them avoid mistakes and have a more streamlined path to success. They need to know that following their dreams may not be easy but we, the older generation, are here to educate and support them through the process.
HOW EXACTLY DID YOU GET INTO FASHION?
Style and fashion have been apart of my life for as long as I can remember. In high school, I was runner up for Best Dressed. Eventually, I branched out and began designing and selling stylish T-shirts. I can’t even remember a time where I wasn’t interested in fashion.
HOW HAS YOUR DEFINITION OF FASHION CHANGED FROM WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED, TO NOW THAT YOU’RE MORE ESTABLISHED?
I’ve watched myself evolve from being a consumer of fashion to becoming a producer. I am no longer satisfied with just wearing nice clothes. I have a need to create quality, trendsetting pieces. Now, I’m a true designer. My hands touch everything from the technical designs all the way to the packing and shipping of my products. It’s an overwhelming but amazing feeling.
AS A BLACK WOMEN IN FASHION INDUSTRY, WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR CLOTHING BRAND TO MEAN?
My brand, Milano Di Rouge, means making dreams a reality. Even though that applies to people from all backgrounds, I can’t shy away from speaking directly to women of color. The fashion industry is STILL male dominated. Almost all of the streetwear designers are male. As a black woman, I want Milano Di Rouge to shatter the glass ceiling in the streetwear industry and let women know that there are no limits to their dreams. Representation is very important in fashion and I want to represent for all women of color by breaking these barriers that have been in place for decades.
WHEN CREATING NEW PIECES, WHERE DO YOU DRAW YOUR INSPIRATIONS FROM? DOES THE INSPIRATION CHANGE WITH CUSTOM PIECES?
Initially, I was inspired by my boyfriend’s clothes. I wanted to wear them but they were too baggy for a woman’s shape. I set out to create a high-quality unisex streetwear line that would feature a specially tailored fit. What I like will forever serve as my main inspiration. If I can’t find the perfect outfit then I’ll go design one. As a result, I tend to be a walking billboard for my brand. MDR is an accurate representation of what I feel is fashionable so I wear it with pride.
ARE THERE POINTS IN YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS THAT YOU FEEL UNINSPIRED?
Of course! Creative blocks are the worse. When I start feeling like I’m lacking creatively then it usually means that I need new experiences. Recently, I was going through a creative block and decided to take a trip to Milan, Italy. It was the perfect cure.
WHAT’S THE MOST DIFFICULT DECISION YOU’VE HAD TO MAKE IN YOUR JOURNEY THUS FAR?
I’m a person who likes to push the people around me to their highest potential. I want everyone to feel the joy of living out their dreams. Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t possess that same mindset and it’s hard to keep them around. If my team isn’t cohesive then that’s where I have to make the hard decision to remove them from my environment.
ARE THEIR ANY FUTURE OR DREAM COLLABORATIONS CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO OR EXPECT?
One of my biggest goals is to collaborate with Virgil Abolah of Off White. He’s such an inspiration and he’s always trying new things. I truly believe that a collab with him would be so epic! I mean, currently he is using his expertise to design these beautiful rugs for IKEA. How amazing is that!? It’s like he isn’t afraid to switch and conquer different lanes and that’s exactly how I feel as well.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE INTERESTED IN CREATING THEIR OWN BRAND? AS A BUSINESS OWNER, WHAT ARE SOME BRAND ESSENTIALS INDIVIDUALS MUST HAVE?
I always ask people about their motives for wanting to start a business. The WHY is very important to me because a lot of people jump into business for the money and that motivation is not fulfilling nor is it sustainable. When you are building a brand you have to truly LOVE what you do. There will be days where you won’t feel like doing anything but the strength of your passion will move you to get things done regardless of how you feel or even if there is no money involved.
Brand essentials should ALWAYS at minimum include a quality product, a solid team, and strong message that resonates deeply with your customers.
HOW DO YOU STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF? WHAT ARE YOUR 5 FASHION RULES YOU ABIDE BY?
As a daily routine, I question myself. I ask myself “What does Milan want?” I do this so that I can stand firm in what I think is best for my brand and for myself. I work with so many people who have so many amazing ideas but they all may not fit who I am or what my brand represents. I take all of the information that I get from my meetings, or creative sessions, and process it. I take what I think fits and block out what doesn’t.
- Always keep a nice stash of sweats, t-shirts, bralettes, and crop tops. They are versatile items that can be easily styled for almost any occasion.
- Hats are a must-have especially for busy days where you don’t have time to style your hair.
- Having a good pair of denim is crucial because you can take over the world in the right pair of jeans.
- Bodysuits are necessary to add the right amount of sex appeal to any outfit
- A little Dior lipgloss goes a long way!