To gear up for our Summit21 Conference this year in Atlanta, 21Ninety has scored exclusive interviews with some of this year's participants. 

According to Raven Gibson, founder of Legendary Rootz, the purpose of her business is to reclaim history and celebrate Black culture through statement-driven apparel and Afrocentric home decor.

Photo: Legendary Rootz

Read 21Ninety's exclusive interview below:

21Ninety: Can you give us a little of your background? What inspired you to create Legendary Rootz? What was the vision behind it?

Raven Gibson: My name is Raven Nichole, and I am the creator and founder of Legendary Rootz. I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ, with my three sisters. The four of us were very active within our community, and I feel it plays a role in my success. In high school, I was involved in organizations like student government, National Honors Society, and the Black Student Union. During my senior year of high school, I went to the beauty shop with my mom. Once she was finished, her beautician came over and asked if it was true that I wanted to cut my hair. I was so happy and went for it. I cut all of my hair off.

Normally with big decisions like this, I would consult my friends or sisters, but I decided to do it for me. That was the point when I finally understood living for you and your passions. That same year, I graduated high school and was able to attend Arizona State University on a full ride scholarship. During this time, racially motivated events were happening around the country, and it struck something in me. The mistreatment of the black community and preparing to attend a PWI inspired me a lot. I felt it was necessary to represent myself on campus and show pride. It was vital for me to create something positive for black people; myself included. I didn’t see many black women who looked like me in media and wanted to change the narrative on how black women are portrayed.

Photo: Legendary Rootz

To be honest, Legendary Rootz became a business on accident. When I created this brand, my intention was not to make money or to gain fame. My ultimate goal is to utilize my company to help others. As my platform continues to grow, I find it so important to share my story and share others as well. Despite my brand being mostly focused around apparel + accessories, if I share a black-owned company with dope items, I find it imperative to share that brand. This is especially important for those brands which are just starting out and need more exposure. I am so grateful for those reached back and showed us love such as: Danielle Brooks, Chloe and Halle through the gracious plug from Zerena Akers , Sydel Curry, and Carl McDowell on the HBO show Ballers which was made possible from costume designer Selma Ibrahim.

21N: How long have you been creating apparel? Was this always your chosen career path?

RG: I started designing apparel during high school. I was that person who was in every club from the National Honors Society to Robotics to the Black Student Union. Typically my tasks surrounded creating designs for these organizations. One thing that I can recall is that I never wanted the typical fill in the blank kind of design. I remember one of the 2014 class shirts designs everyone went crazy for because it was different and fresh. Since that moment, I fell in love with creating dope pieces for every occasion.

In 2014, I graduated from Arizona State University with a B.S. in Biochemistry. Whenever I tell people what my major is, they are surprised since my business is focused on being creative. However, the classes I took to earn my degree are helping me on a current product that I am so excited to be developing.

21N: What was the process like in building the business and how long did it take to get it up and running? What inspired the name choice?

Photo: Legendary Rootz

RG: Getting Legendary Rootz up and running was not too bad of a process. We were able to gain significant exposure via widespread support from influencers such as @BootyGawddess, @Divyaadu, and @KrissyKakess. All of our customers and supporters also helped by continually sharing their latest Legendary Rootz purchases and favorite designs.

RG: When I initially started my business, I had an outrageous name. I didn’t know the direction I wanted to go and just used the first name that I could come up with. However, once I realized that this was turning into a real business and I wanted it to have a purpose, I knew I needed meaning behind the name. With the help of my sister, we came up with the name Legendary Rootz. We are Legendary and so are our Rootz.

21N: What kind of work goes into the process of creating these items? What materials are used?

RG: I use all types of material to create my items. My go to are my essential iPad apps Procreate and Notability. I use Procreate to sketch up my designs, and I used the Notability to make a vision board with inspiration for the collection. Once I decide on the designs I order samples to make sure everything looks exactly how I envisioned. Sometimes samples come back not at all how I imagined them; however, that means I have to tweak the design to make sure its right.

Recently, I was about to use my Cricut to create lifesize mockups of the products I was designing. Doing these mockups allowed me to make sure everything was aligned and how I wanted it to look.

21N: Which ones were the most fun to create?  Any favorites?

Photo: Legendary Rootz

RG: I love all of my designs! However, if I had to choose, it would be the “Black Girls Are The Purest Form of Art.” I remember I was studying for my P-Chem final exam and I got frustrated so I took a break. I decided to grab my iPad and sketch some designs. That one phrase came to me and so I started working on the layout. Typically I would use inspiration to create my designs, so I stayed within my branding. However, this design just came to me organically. I love how such a simple phrase can make such a powerful statement.

21N: What do you think makes your business/platform unique over others like it?

RG: Despite what it may look like from the outside, Legendary Rootz is a one-woman team. I have had help from my family with simple tasks. However, I run every single aspect of my company. During this entire process, I have encountered numerous obstacles and made many mistakes. However, I love finding innovative solutions to ever obstacles that I meet and do not see the challenges I face as a disadvantage. I see them as opportunities to grow and learn lessons.

Just like Solange said, this culture is for us by us. There is beauty in our rootz, and it is essential to empower the Black community.  Unlike these fast fashion brands, we provide quality items that are described as unique and not cliche. Legendary Rootz has been recognized worldwide by companies such as Fader, Essence, and Buzzfeed as an empowerment brand that strives to boost confidence and create products that reflect the Black culture.

Photo: Legendary Rootz

21N: What do you love most about the work you do?

RG: The thing I love most about my work is knowing that there are little Black girls out here that know that they can achieve anything they put their minds too. I visited Northern Arizona University as a representative for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and had one of the students come up to me after the presentation. 

I didn’t know what was going on, but she mentioned that she purchased from me and loved my clothing line. She went on to say that after buying from Legendary Rootz, her younger sister saw the clothes and instantly fell in love with the statements and designs. She told me how she didn’t feel the most confidence and how my designs helped to remind her how powerful and beautiful she is. I completely understood that feeling and I find it so important to use my platform to make sure little Black girls + women worldwide know how much we truly rock!

21N: What do you hope to gain from Summit21 this year?

RG: I am so passionate about meeting others and hearing about their stories. This year, I am hoping to make meaningful connections and connect with like-minded individuals. Being a solo entrepreneur sometimes can be a bit daunting and I would love to meet others who are on their grind like me. I love a great kumbaya moment and I believe that Summit 21 will be that for Black Women worldwide.

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