Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pierrah Hilaire
Pierrah Hilaire On Going Viral Teaching Her TikTok Followers About Black Fashion Brands
The TikToker speaks with us about the future of fashion and why she feels it's important to use her voice to center Black designers.
Pierrah Hilaire, a Brooklyn-based content creator, was on TikTok before the platform forced its way into the fashion conversation and became a go-to source for people to keep an eye on growing (and dying) trends. But she noticed a problem: that most of the creators behind “Fashion Tok” as she calls it were mostly filled with white creators who also weren’t highlighting the brands — especially Black ones — she admires and enjoys. So, she decided to fill a void and share the brands she had an affinity for, making her TikTok account a popular destination to learn about Black-owned brands and designer pieces in the process.
Reply to @melrchilds69 I love to invest in my designer collection 💅🏾 #fashiontiktok #blackowned #telfar
Originally from Miami, Florida, Hilaire’s roots in fashion stem from her parents; her father was always stylish, while her mother modeled in New York City during her twenties.
“I’ve been obsessed with fashion ever since I could remember because of my parents,” she said over a Zoom call. “I’ve always loved [it].”
Hilaire began modeling as a teen; as she got older, she began dreaming of moving to New York and working in fashion in some capacity, inspired by all of the blogs she voraciously read about New York-based designers.
“The plan was to just go to medical school and stay in Florida,” she said when speaking of her life before taking the leap and moving to New York City. Even as she was studying psychology and putting in work at clinics, Hilaire was still making time for modeling.
“[I went] to school and studied,” she said. “There were times I would even go to clinics and help the physicians in the hospital. But then, I would have my bikini underneath and run to the beach for castings.”
In 2018, she decided to put her medical school ambitions behind her and told her parents she was relocating to New York (Brooklyn) to pursue modeling. The early stages were tough; although she had family support, money was hard to come by and she had only saved up a few month's worth of salary from a hospital job. But she eventually landed on her feet when she began working in corporate for companies like PepsiCo, while also balancing a social media management side job and participating in as many fashion-related opportunities as she could.
Around this time, Hilaire began seeing Telfar bags in her neighborhood. Unfamiliar with the then-rising Black brand, she began researching it and other Black brands. This, paired with the racial reckoning of 2020 amid the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, led to Hilaire using her knowledge of fashion to shed light on Black-owned brands and designs on her TikTok account.
Hilaire sees TikTok as a fashion discovery tool, and even her first viral video on the platform reflects that. Highlighting bags by Telfar, Brandon Blackwood, Homage Year, and CISE, the video propped up names that have since become more known and popular in recent years, helping the video go viral in the process. Since then, she’s gone on to create additional compilation clips centered around menswear brands, gender-inclusive lines, sustainable fashion houses, and more.
We recently spoke with Hilaire about how she got her start in New York, the role she plays as a content creator, and the rise of Black luxury brands.
Do you feel you naturally fell into highlighting Black designers on your TikTok account?
Pierrah Hilaire: I think it was a mix. I didn't see what I wanted in the TikTok space. It was predominantly non-black even though we were leading the trends. I always liked to know who was behind a brand that I was buying into. I would ask on Instagram all the time and people would tell me, "Oh, we're black or women-owned.” And I liked knowing where my dollars were going.
Then, around the Black Lives Matter resurgence [in 2020], I realized, “What can I do to help out?” [Highlighting Black designers] was my form of activism. I went to some of the marches [and] donated to [organizations too].
I was literally sitting in Zoom meetings at my corporate job stressed out. At one point, we were in a lot of racial sensitivity trainings that weren’t even geared toward me. And I felt the least [I] could do [was] support the smaller Black businesses. So, I just started creating a list of brands that I would want to buy into or that I already have bought into, and I was on TikTok for a year already before I really took it seriously. So, when I posted it did really well, and I just kept it going.
How do you feel about the responsibility of sharing these brands with your followers?
As a creator, it's great when the video does really well when it comes to numbers, but it's not about the numbers. I think I care about the one person in the comment who's like, “Oh, I didn't know about this brand and I'm going to buy into it because ultimately it's about supporting each other.”
But on top of that, what I love to see is growth. I hope people pay attention to [these] brands because — yes, I love them — but they're doing amazing work not just for the business. A lot of these brands tend to help their community. I know my money's not just going to the brand and the brand owner's pockets, but to the community that they're serving. That's where you see the impact, and I think that's the most important part of some of these videos.
love to see the girls also running their own brands✨ #blackowned #samarialeah #bodybyraventracy #blackwomeninluxury
Can you break down why it’s important to shed light on Black-owned brands that often don’t get the same amount of resources as major fashion houses or fast-fashion companies?
It's not a level playing field, and if the big fashion houses are having 100-plus-person teams behind them, how can we also support the small business owners who have the talent? The talent is [there]; it's honestly a disservice if we don't share them even more. Most of the time, the way [Black-owned brands] manufacture is more intentional or sustainable. The product [and] the quality is just amazing versus a fast-fashion brand.
It's not even just about buying a brand because they're Black. Yes, that's really important and that's the core of a lot of the content that I create. But buy a brand because the product is good [and] because your money is not going to be wasted. I feel like a lot of fashion houses have [a] legacy behind them. They have hundreds of years of prestige around them to a point now where they don't even have to really try to sell you. The product doesn't have to be that good anymore.
The concept of Black luxury has been making waves online. What are your thoughts on brands like Telfar and others making luxury pieces accessible and affordable?
I do think it's important to know that Black brands — depending on what they offer — do equate to luxury. I think people think they're exclusive. But, for example, when I first came to New York and I saw people with Telfar. I'm like, “What is that? What's that bag?” Of course, we know what Telfar is now and how popular the brand is now.
A lot of times, in my case, it's a lot of people's introduction to luxury. I feel like that’s a fun, little perk — knowing that I can introduce [my followers] to a Black-owned brand. But if it's like a Black-owned luxury brand, it's even better because the idea of luxury is being redefined. It's not what you think in the old money, stuffy prestige fashion house way. It's more inclusive but it doesn't promote elitism as it has done in the past.
Reply to @disco_brat_ The sneaker industry is very monopolized😫so I had to share #salehebembury #blackowned #sneakerbrand #joefreshgoods
What are your overall thoughts on the future of fashion?
People can be pretty negative, but I feel like this new wave of Black designers is a breath of fresh air because they're literally changing how business is being done. But also how brands are reaching their consumers [through social media]. I'm honestly excited to see the next five, 10-plus years because I think it's going to be much better than how it has been in the past.