GLOSSRAGS, founded in 2014 by Randi Gloss, is a D.C.-based clothing brand at the intersection of activism and apparel. The mission of GLOSSRAGS to raise awareness about the social injustices faced by the Black community. Randi uses fashion to commemorate the lives of our murdered black siblings and to uplift the memories of Black people who do not make the headlines. Last week we met the company’s founder, Randi Gloss, at an event with activist and mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson, and #BlackLivesMatter activist Johnetta Elzie. Randi Gloss and Blair Imani sat down for an exclusive Femme Founders Q & A to talk more about her and the brand.
To begin, tell me about yourself. Where are you from?
Randi Gloss: I am from DC but I grew up all over. I’ve lived in Santa Fe, North Carolina and we moved back here when I was 11.
Who inspires you?
I don’t know if I can pinpoint one person. I am just so inspired by so many everyday people on an everyday basis there’s so much energy and people out here doing dope stuff. On a more personal level I would say my mom (Momma Gloss). She’s one of the most resilient people, it’s weird to find her without a smile on her face even when she’s frustrated or going through something. She always has a positive disposition and I think seeing that throughout my life has just been a great source of inspiration in my life, especially when it comes to facing challenges.
What are you passionate about? What gets you motivated to go out and start the day?
I am passionate about making a difference even if it’s in a small way. I think if you can have one meaningful conversation with somebody it can change the way they think or the way they act. Even if it’s just a conversation or a statement it is using your voice to state your truth. Every day I wake up is a new opportunity to do that and it’s a blessing to be able do that. That’s my motivation and being able to continue pushing for progress and for change. There is so much work that needs to be done but I believe that I can be one of the people doing that. I don’t think I need to be a celebrity or a professor or a doctor to create change. There is not qualification to make change, ultimately you just have to have a sincere desire and pair that desire with action, but it doesn’t matter who you are.
How did you develop the concept behind GLOSSRAGS?
The shirt and the “And Counting” collection started as a sign that I made it originally had five names and the phrase “Emmett & Amadou & Sean & Oscar & Trayvon…More than just Black faces in tragic places.” A friend of mine worked at a nonprofit called GapBusters, an organization dedicated to bridging the gap in opportunities for Black and Latinx youth, and he was taking his students to the March on Washington’s 50th Anniversary. So I went and I was making signs, about four of them. I went on to carry that first sign at the march that Saturday and it was like every 10 feet someone was stopping me asking me if they could take a picture of the sign. A German couple asked me “Who are these men?” so I took the time to explain it to them. And then when I got home I sketched it out on a sticky note and I prayed about it for a few months. In February 2014, I reached out to my mentor and asked them for $500 so I could print 100 shirts. He told me to make a business plan and go back to the drawing board. After I had a business plan he paid for the shirts and that’s how we got our start. We sold through the first hundred shirts in less than a month.
Tell me about the accomplishments of which you are proudest.
Randi: There are so many but one that comes to mind is the Millennial Train Project, a non-profit that takes young innovators on a train trip across America. You have to crowdfund $5,000 to be a part of the project. I had the idea of taking GLOSSRAGS across America and speaking to the people that have been supporting us from the start. I wanted to uplift the stories of victims of police brutality that didn’t make the headlines but are just as important as the Trayvon Martins, and Freddie Grays.
The name of my project became “GLOSSRAGS GOES THERE.”
I was blessed to crowdfund the project in 29 days, just 2 days before the deadline. I thought it was pretty powerful that people who had just heard about GLOSSRAGS were moved enough to get involved. It’s similar to DeRay’s supporters as our donations came from a large number of people donating small amounts.
I’m also proud of the recent coverage by Complex, The Fader, and having GLOSSRAGS included in holiday gift bags at Buzzfeed. Even though Buzzfeed is kind of going through it right now. Its just amazing to see how many eyes are on the brand.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs facing the challenges of launching a meaningful brand/product?
I think I was very blessed because my start-up costs were very low. It cost $500 dollars for our first t-shirts, marketing was done through Instagram, a free resource and I have friends that are photographers and graphic designers. So all of that made for very low start-up costs. I would also say, “Don’t be afraid to ask” this means reaching out to friends, play-uncles, play aunties, professors. There will always be someone that will invest in your idea or your product so don’t be afraid to ask.
It’s important to think past the first three months. Planning the next steps and next moves is crucial.