Despite never having a Valentine—unless you count the 23 girls in my first grade class with whom I shared That’s So Raven-themed cards and Dum-Dums lollipops—I wouldn’t consider myself a hater of the holiday. I resolved years ago to let the happy people be happy on February 14th, and to focus my attention on the day before: Galentine’s Day. Although it was entirely made up in a 2010 episode of Parks and Recreation, Galentine’s Day is about celebrating the great friendships in your life. And at the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s a reminder that love really does come in many forms.
With both holidays in mind, I reached out to some of the Black women business owners, designers, and tastemakers I most admire, to ask them how they’ll be celebrating, what they’re gifting to their friends and significant others, and how they’ll be treating themselves. Meet each barrier-breaking woman and shop their one-of-a-kind ideas below.
Sami Miró, Designer and Founder of Sami Miro Vintage
Sami Miró doesn’t love Valentine’s Day, but she loves that you love Valentine’s Day. “I’m not a Hallmark holiday kind of person,” the designer says. “Especially when it’s telling me what I should be doing or wearing.” This makes sense, as Miró’s style has always stood out from the crowd. “I used to work in tech,” she says. “I was always that weird vintage girl who cut up all of my things. In a world of white men and pleated khakis who were the minimum age of 40, here I was, a young woman of color, dressed crazy.”
But she never let any raised eyebrows deter her from wearing what she wanted. Instead, she was motivated to start her eponymous, eco-conscious vintage label, which is now adored by the likes of Bella Hadid, Dua Lipa, and Billie Eilish. “I wanted to do something differently to show the world that you can create something beautiful and fashion forward without it having to look sustainable,” she says. Miró’s V Day picks work equally well for a night out on the town or on the sofa.
Telsha Anderson, Founder and Buyer of t.a.
When W last spoke to Telsha Anderson, the 28-year-old was in the midst of planning the wedding of her dreams. Now, the owner, buyer, and “everything-er” of the downtown New York shopping destination t.a. is gearing up for her first Valentine’s Day as a married woman. “I love holidays when people are all celebrating the same thing at the same time, but I want to try and make every week a good week, a week of love,” she says. “ I just want it to be a constant. Like, always buy me candy, always give me gifts!” Come February 14th, she’s focusing on ways to celebrate outside the box: “I think the biggest thing for us is to plan activities that aren’t necessarily Valentine’s Day-esque but where the idea is just us spending time together.” In terms of gifts, she recommends a few home and jewelry pieces from her boutique’s extremely chic inventory.
Serena Morris, Vintage Curator and Founder of @shes_underrated
Serena Morris doesn’t think Valentine’s Day has to be romantic. “It’s just about love. Love for yourself and love for the people around you,” she says. “I purposefully celebrate myself every year.” If you don’t know Morris by name, you’ve likely come across her Instagram account, @shes_underrated where the 28-year-old curates fantasy looks and mood boards inspired by fashionable women, often of color, who defined 90’s and early 2000’s pop culture. For this guide, she chose to share a party-ready gift mood board that highlights vintage items from BIPOC shop owners around the Internet. “It’s very She’s Underrated to be like, ‘You know what?’ I’m buying myself flowers. I’m taking myself to Carbone,” Morris quips.
Aurora James, Founder and Designer of Brother Vellies
Aurora James will look for any reason to make the people in her life feel special. “I love love in all of its forms,” she says. “While Valentine’s Day is often commercial, it is a great excuse to celebrate your loved ones.” While the Brother Vellies designer and 15 Percent Pledge founder often enjoys a romantic dinner out with her partner, this year her big plans involve her couch and a good movie, but she’s also focused on celebrating her female friendships, too. “I do enjoy cooking at home with my closest girlfriends,” she says. “Maybe that is something I will get in motion this year.” Her picks include on-theme accessories from her own collection, as well as an ultra-luxe upgrade on your standard bouquet.
Sherri McMullen, Founder and CEO of McMullen
Boutique owner Sherri McMullen is focused on her six-year-old son this Valentine’s Day. “He loves to paint and draw, so we’re going to make cards for everyone in his class,” she says. But her Oakland store, McMullen, is stocked with a plethora of gift options for the women in your life. McMullen started her business fifteen years ago as a way of supporting emerging designers, female designers, and designers of color (fun fact: her’s was the first store to carry Christopher John Rogers). “Many of the designers and brands we carry have really not gotten the recognition that they deserve,” she says. “We’ve been able to tell their stories through investing in their products, mentoring them and really allowing our customers to be able to buy, support, and wear them.”
Amira Rasool, Founder of The Folklore
In the eyes of Amira Rasool, founder of shopping platform The Folklore, Valentine’s Day is just another day. “It’s a Monday, I’ll be on calls!” the 26-year-old jokes. “I’m traveling alone in South Africa right now, so I’m thinking I might get away and make it a self-love weekend.” Rasool has spent the past month traversing around Africa, catching up with the makers behind the brands she carries on her site, which features luxury and emerging designer brands from the continent and the diaspora. To her, The Folklore is about more than just selling beautiful (and highly giftable) products, it’s equally important to work on figuring out meaningful ways to support African economic development: “There’s a huge market out there of really talented brands that need a platform in order to be able to globalize, and need certain resources to reach customers like myself, who are craving unique, handmade, and sustainable designs that have some sort of cultural context purpose behind it.”
Shannon Maldonado, Founder and Buyer of Yowie
Shannon Maldonado opened her concept store, Yowie, in 2016, with the hopes of bringing something new to her hometown of Philadelphia. “It’s somewhere between a store, a gallery and a community center,” she says. “It’s really a place for people to connect and meet.” Expansion plans include a hotel and adjoining café, both of which are slated for later this year. This Valentine’s day, the store owner is having just as much fun picking items for her store as she is gifts for her loved ones. “I am a double Cancer, so I love love,” she says. “The key to giving a great gift is always being a good listener. It never has to be expensive, just thoughtful.”