The stars were rightly aligned when I was lucky enough to meet the local artisan Zane from Bay Area Headwraps. I was on a walk with my daughter in our Oakland neighborhood and on the way to the post office across from the local Saturday Farmer’s Market. I constantly saw her table set up but had never ventured to that side of the street. I had admired the bright colors and fun fabrics from afar and was so excited that the person behind the brand was the sweet and personable, Zane. I absolutely love supporting artists and artisans that I know and love, so when Evie and I were lucky to attend one of her private events I got to dive into more details about her background and her work. She had some interesting travel and culture experiences, and you can see her passions of fashion and life permeating in the conversation. It’s not easy to merge personal passions together as she has with Bay Area Headwraps. I think most people, myself included, struggle to figure out what it is that they can transition their own interests into something they can do for others. The head wraps that I have bought from you are the coolest and I totally feel like a queen wearing them, but I know it’s the story of Zane and her fabrics that sold me on the product. It’s so inspiring, I thought I would interview her for the blog.
Why don’t you start us off with a little bit of what Bay Area Headwraps is all about and how you came to start this business.
I started BayAreaHeadwraps in March 2013, with the sole purpose of GETTING BACK TO GHANA! I fell in love with the place full force when I studied abroad there a few years prior and had to get back.
Starting BayAreaHeadwraps was a risk. I quit my unsatisfactory job at the drugstore with faith that I could make at least the same amount of money doing my own thing, and I would use that money to travel back to Africa. I made ‘wraps’ (theyve advanced since then) and earrings with fabric from clothes I’d gotten made for myself in Ghana the first time.
I succeeded in my goal and made it back to Ghana a second time. Im proud to say BayAreaHeadwraps had been operating since then. Nowadays, BayAreaHeadwraps is focused on featuring a wide range of special fabrics and beads from my travels. We take pride in making items for women with a global identity and story, and providing a non-corporate arena to buy one of a kind items.
I’m a firm believer that value in life comes from experiences, you add the more value to the items by experiencing the culture and sharing it with the buyers. Your love of traveling shows when you talk about these places that you’ve visited. Is there a specific experience that you can stem that love from?
My first trip to Ghana continuously inspires my business and visions. Even on days when I’m hot and tired, I instantly remember hardworking women sellers in Accra markets- and get a second wind of energy.
It wasn’t just the fabrics that caught my inspiration there, it was the whole essence of being an African businesswoman, despite the setting. I observed how strong women were, the obstacles they faced, the huge things they carried on their heads along with babies on their backs.
And, these women almost always had on headwraps. It protects the head whilst being in the sun all day. Also, a dress with matching headwrap is the essence of traditional African womanswear. Despite what women were selling, they always dressed with dignity.
So many things I observed still play a role in my inspiration and creativity.
You’ve traveled to some really cool places and in a couple of different countries. Do you have a favorite place or a favorite experience that has inspired your business?
My favorite experiences are shopping at big, informal marketplaces. They’re busy, crazy, smelly, and full of good deals. There’s usually a fabric section. Ghana definitely inspired that, but getting textiles from Peru has a fond place in my heart as well. I often go to La Gamarra in Lima- it’s one of the biggest marketplaces for clothes and fabric in South America. It’s about 22 blocks of wonderful, organized madness. Block 6 is my favorite and full with traditional fabrics.
Fabrics and weaving in general are a great way to learn about cultures. My mom comes from an area in the Philippines known for weaving, and the patterning can be so interesting to me. You had a great background on a fabric from Peru, do most of your creations come from being inspired by the fashion, the fabric, or the story?
Fashion, fabric, and story all play a part in my designs. I’m usually drawn to the fabric- I like going for things I’ve never seen before. I find colors and designs are more vibrant in different places, as if inspired by aqua or tropical rainforests.
The Shipibo people of the Peruvian Amazon specialize in weaving sacred, mystical prints through their ayahuasca visions. Those shapes and weavings are now screen printed on fabric, which I get in Lima. I take a lot of pride in using those prints.
I am excited to know the few pebbles of knowledge on the fabric I use, but I’d love to learn more. One of my clients took a class in India about all their different fabrics. I’d like to do something similar. I want to eventually weave myself, and certainly learn more about textile making in the Philippines.
There’s a consciousness that comes from more understanding, and more understanding also comes with more travel and experiences. With fast-fashion and unsustainable practices, I hope to see a shift from the big-box businesses to the artisans of small businesses. Do you see trends in fashion, current events, or travel that may help readers understand more about Bay Area Headwraps’ consciousness?
I do see trends that match with BayAreaHeadwraps consciousness. We can often feel defeated by corporations, but it’s important to notice small changes that are occurring. Here are a few I’ve noticed that are easy to overlook:
For the past few years, there’s been a huge splash on the web around prom season. Young women are getting beautiful, elaborate dresses made with African fabrics. They have made those African prints “cool” to other youth, which is important. They are also changing the standard of beauty of what a prom queen should look like.
Documentaries and Garment Worker Awareness-
The True Cost, a documentary on Netflix, really opened my eyes on the corporate processes that exploit Bangladeshi garment workers. I cried! I saw that there was a showing of the film here in Oakland. These emerging documentaries are keeping it real about what goes into your $3 tank top. They even outed H&M as the 2nd largest clothing producer in the world.
Oakland is Locally Conscious-
What a blessing! Most Oaklanders take pride in supporting local artisans- even if it means spending a few more bucks than usual. I’m convinced it’s the only way I’ve been able to stay successful. Im thankful for the dialogues that make all people conscious and proud to shop locally (even for food). Even young people are with it- more young Oaklanders think it’s gross to shop at the mall, and would rather spend on something artistic and underground.
Is there anything else about you or your business that you wanted us to know? How can readers find out more about you or purchase from Bay Area Headwraps?
In August, BayAreaHeadwraps is hitting the road again!! South Africa is on the radar, as well as an extended stay in Peru.
Also in August, I’ll be transitioning to a fully online business at BayAreaHeadwraps.com. I will have to meet the challenge of shifting my vibe to an online presence. Most of my business is live, so I’m thinking of ways to be smart, responsible, but stay to my style of doing things.
I’m considering a newsletter + blog to keep my dear customer-friends updated with my movements and what I’m learning.
All purchases are welcomed and appreciated. They directly support my travels at this point. Feel free to email me with questions after checking my online shop at BayAreaHeadwraps@gmail.com
Last question… for someone trying to find their own way to transition their interests to something larger, like me, do you have any advice for us?
Ah!! This is hard to answer because I feel like i’m still trying to advance myself.
I was recently asked, “If you could go back, what would you do differently with BayAreaHeadwraps?”
My response was: I would’ve started earlier. Been more fearless. I would have constructed my social medias as soon as I got the idea, instead of waiting for clients to ask me to make an Instagram or Twitter (still don’t have a Twitter..unsure if I need 1).
These days, people are tired of being sold something, so you have to be strategic. Make your social media fun- post striking images related to what you do. Post things your audience will love: whether it be a quick recipe or a vulgar joke.
Most of all, be fearless!!! I see how many times doubt has limited me in the past. Send that email, post that pic, start the blog- even when you feel like nobody’s watching!!! They are. Oh, and don’t forget: “shameless self promotion “! Read that in a Forbes article.
A literal world of color and patterns in her table setup of fabric headwraps.
Because everyone needs some fun and funky accessorizing.
Zane’s private event had on the spot demos so we can all learn multiple ways to ties these wraps.
Evie taking a break to water the garden in back.
Showing the little girls how to tap into their inner QUEEN.
Thank you, sister Zane. We love our wraps and can’t wait to see what inspires you next.
Featured image: One of Zane’s images from her Instagram (found here– go ahead and follow her)