It’s not easy to create an It bag, and it’s even harder for a burgeoning accessories brand. But designer Sade Mims has managed to cut through the noise of a nonstop fashion cycle with her sustainable accessories line, EDAS.
The brand, which debuted in 2013, produces eclectic jewelry, avant-garde hats, and sleek leather handbags, all of which have captured the attention of NYC’s influential creative community and even parts of Hollywood (actress Tessa Thompson purchased a beaded bucket hat and showed it off via Instagram late last year). Though the brand’s now signature buttery leather micro bags, named the Yshaia and Maria, can be found via indie boutiques, like The Break in Brooklyn, and major retailers, such as Farfetch and Selfridges, unprecedented sales amid the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have encouraged Mims to pivot to a direct-to-consumer sales approach and home in on her brand’s underlying mission of making women feel beautiful, one accessory at a time.
Below, we speak with Mims about how her family influenced her guide to fashion, who she designs for, and the overarching changes she wants to see take place within the industry sooner rather than later.
Why are accessories your creative calling?
I’ve always been attracted to just accessories. I think my grandmother probably was the first person who introduced that world to me, who I saw wear a variation of accessories in terms of handbags and jewelry and cool socks and cool belts and these small accent pieces. I always found it to be so fascinating how accessories made the look in my mind and could be that final touch to the look that you put on. There’s something about that relationship between accessories and your clothing, that it has the final say.
I think when I saw her play with so many different types of colorways, that might’ve been my first notion of, “Oh, wow, this is fascinating—I’m interested in this. This is something that I could see me possibly be doing.” I always knew that I wanted to work in fashion to some extent, I just didn’t know where and what placement that would be in. I knew it would be in design, but not specifically accessories. I think the accessories component came as I just was growing up, seeing my mother, seeing my grandmother, and the people, the women that I admired get dressed.
How would you describe your brand’s aesthetic?
I always use the word eclectic. That’s a word that my family kind of coined me as I was growing up. They would always say, “Sade is always the eclectic one.” The way I would dress, I would pair my vintage, my baggy jeans with dresses over skirts, and so that’s how I was named. I then started to design with that notion of, “I’m designing for women like me. I’m a designing for people who are eclectic.” People who like to mix and match, and add old with new.
I also produce classic silhouettes, specifically with the bags. I definitely feel like I always find that I’m looking at old styles and old silhouettes to bring new life to them. In my mind, I design for someone who appreciates nostalgia. I design for those types of people who can identify, “Oh, this reminds me of the ’60s. This pop of color that you added here reminds me of that era.”
Walk me through a little bit more your design process. Where do you look for inspiration?
It varies sometimes, but I definitely feel like I always am looking backwards. I’ll begin to do some readings, I’ll get some books. When the library was open more frequently, I would go to the library and look at the archives. I’m always looking at or reading old things to inspire me. What was happening during those times? Historical moments.
Right now, I’m designing a new collection and I want to channel that early-2000s, futuristic, groovy, funky feeling, like when lava lamps were coming out and when Mac developed those new colorful computers.
In terms of kicking off the inspiration when I design the pieces, I do some preliminary sketching, and then I do prototypes with paper sometimes. Or if it’s jewelry, I’ll create an actual prototype. I’ll wear it and do a test run with it—how heavy it is, how light it is, how it functions on the body.
With the bags, I’ll then reach out to my manufacturers. We do a lot of trial and error. We do samples. If I don’t like the sample, I say, “Let’s tweak it. Let’s add this.” Just last night, I had a moment. I woke up in the middle of the night with a color concept—I’m really into color theory—and I’ll write this stuff down. It’s very visceral. I can’t even lie. Literally, it takes a lot from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, and it takes so much of me in the most beautiful way, but it does take a lot of my focus.
Who is the EDAS woman?
She definitely is someone who is creative and outspoken, and moves to the beat of her own drum. She’s enters a room and demands your attention in a way, but subtle, very subtle. I literally feel like I’m describing myself.
I do design with me in mind if I’m being real. She’s that type of woman, but I feel like she’s open minded as well. She probably lives in a metropolitan area. She possibly may ride a bike to work if we get really specific. She’s just somebody who is down to create her own narrative for herself. She’s really into this idea of creating a story or demanding your attention. She just creates her own world.
Some celebrities have worn your pieces, who are you dying to see wear EDAS in the future?
I would love to see Tracee Ellis Ross. I feel like I have the capacity to tap into an older demographic that we haven’t quite hit yet, but I think our bags speak to that group. I want to design for a wide range of people, where a Gen Z, a millennial, all the brackets could vibe with us. My mother wears my pieces, and my aunts buy my stuff, and the women I grew up with and who raised me have purchased things from me, so that feels really cool. Tracee Ellis Ross would be great, because she, to me, is like the ultimate auntie in my head.
I also really admire Chaka Khan, so she’s another woman that I would really love to see in EDAS one day. A third one who’s a little more on the younger side would be Jorja Smith.
You also released a cool collaboration with Cameron Tea. How did you two decide to work together?
The funny thing is I’ve actually never met Cameron, still to this day, in person. I discovered Cameron while we were in the middle of the pandemic, when it was very early on. But one day, I don’t know what came over me, but I just decided I’m going to reach out to him.
It was very impromptu. I had been really feeling stuck and feeling uninspired because of everything that was happening. But then I got to a place of, I want to create something. So I reached out to him, and I pitched him this idea that I wanted to do, because he had already been making hats, but I wanted to add my own spin. I’m a hat person, and I wear a lot of top hats and Rastafarian reggae-inspired hats, so I wanted it to have that tie to the collection. I have big hair that’s typically a big Afro, and so when I wear these hats, I always have to have extra room. I wanted to design a hat that fits women with hair like mine—that can fit a really thick amount of hair for Afro women.
We went through tests, the same process of trial and error, figuring out what works, changing colors. I had my color concept that I shared with him, and then we launched it. I set up a shoot here in New York with Travis Matthews, and then I got my friend who owns a modeling agency, Offshore, who’s great, Michael Rotimi. And then we worked with The Break in their studio space, shot it, and, literally, it went viral.
I creative-directed the shoot, and I was excited about it, but I didn’t think that it would have the impact that it did. It was very organic, very slow, which I love. The pace of it was so perfect for me at that moment, and it still is.
Many Black-owned businesses have experienced so many changes this past year because of the pandemic and because of the BLM movement. How did 2020 affect your brand as a business?
I talk about this a lot amongst my friend circle. Even before the pandemic, I had been wanting to shift to be more of a direct-to-consumer business, and we have been mainly surviving really and keeping afloat as a wholesale business. My stock list was enormous. We were selling to indie boutiques, online in the U.K. and Tokyo, and just all across Africa, all over. It was great, but that becomes exhausting from a designer’s perspective. I wanted to scale and make it more where people were buying directly from us. So the pandemic hit, all these stores are not running, and as a brand who was relying on stores to keep us in motion, I was like, “What am I going to do?”
And then the death of George Floyd happened. I had never seen anything like it. When that happened and when the protests began, really, a revolution happened. Everyone wanted to buy Black. Within a matter of three to four days, all that I had been wanting in terms of becoming direct to consumer, wanting to be a more profitable brand, had happened in three to four days. I’d never seen anything like it. It was beautiful, but it was the most overwhelming moment of my entire life, if I’m being completely honest.
In one moment, it was like everything I’ve been dreaming of and wanting and praying for, it happened! But in the same breath, I’m still grieving this Black body that was lost, and it took all of this for me to see that. I was dealing with a lot of different emotions.
The fashion industry as a whole is shifting right now and taking a hard look at itself. For you personally as a designer, what changes do you think need to take effect in the next few years?
I feel like we need to rewrite things. I think it’s less of trying to Band-Aid things, and that means it’s not just about hiring Black talent. It’s not solely about just bringing in Black people for these bigger roles—I think that’s a huge step, and I think that’s one thing that definitely needs to happen. Also, I think non-Black people in the fashion industry need to be a little bit more aware of how they’re contributing and how they’re perpetuating the inequalities and the crazy things that are happening within the industry. It’s less about Black people making that change, and I think it’s more about white people or non-Black people making the change alongside us.
What’s in store for EDAS in the years to come? How do you see the brand evolving?
The next collection, like I mentioned, will channel the 2000s and that feeling that stems from that era. When we were younger and commercials would come on and you hear that Nokia sound? That feeling that came over us. When you’re super excited and feeling like you’re entering the future? I want it to have that feeling. It definitely will incorporate some metal, and that’s just me always trying to bring back this jewelry component. That’s why, like, the Yshaia bag has that large buckle. That’s why the Cynthia bucket and the mini have that red buckle circle. I try to bring these elements where yes, we have these leather pieces, but there’s this one touch that brings it back to this jewelry element.
I definitely want to dabble into so many different things. Right now, we’re doing accessories, but a dream for me would be to have fragrances, shoes, so many other ventures. I want to just make it an in-house lifestyle where we create all the things that you ever wanted.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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