Representation in fashion is something that has gained a lot of attention in recent years. Historical images of models on the catwalks have infiltrated the styles and clothing we see on the high streets. However, there has been a revolution as more and more consumers become aware of their bodies and fashion brands are criticized for their lack of diversity. Consumers are now also voting with their pockets by avoiding or canceling brands that don’t change. While all of this has been great progress, one area that hasn’t changed much is footwear. People with taller feet, regardless of their gender identity, find it extremely difficult to buy shoes and often end up with boring and bland options. Tskenya-Sarah Frazer, founder of the eponymous brand TSKENYA, is an entrepreneur who is creating a shoe brand to tackle this problem.
Frazer grew up in Hackney, east London, which was plagued by gang violence and crime before becoming the cultural center it is today. She was fortunate enough to go to a new academy in the area which mimicked the model of a private school but was free for students. Plus, “I remember my mother always taking me to the library and museum when I was young,” she says, which made her more culturally privileged than her peers. After doing well in school, she went to King’s College London to study English Literature and Language with the ambition of becoming a journalist upon graduation from university. However, after completing the editing and writing internships, it became very apparent that this was an inhospitable industry for working-class black women – it would be an uphill battle she did not want to climb.
Soon after, as Frazer neared her graduation ceremony, she grew tired of not being able to find shoes to match her graduation gown. Being 5ft 9 since the age of 11, with a height of 9ft meant that this was a problem she faced throughout her teenage years, as the shoes available were limited and tasteless. That experience, coupled with the bullying she suffered for her taller feet and the lack of diversity in journalism, was the last straw.
Frazer started researching what it would take to start her own brand because she was “tired of being a victim of the Eurocentric fashion industry” and “wanted to show the fashion world what a genuine genuine sustainable inclusion ”. During her research, she realized that it was not only cis-gendered women with taller feet who were excluded from the shoe industry, but also members of the LGBTQ + community, of where the brand’s stance against gendered marketing and language. In his own words, “we offer inclusive luxury for everyone”.
Launch TSKENYA Footwear
Although she has very little experience in fashion production and design, she has dedicated years to learning about footwear, production and sustainability and how those three things could blend together. With the support of charities like the Prince’s Trust and her business mentors, she was able to launch a Kickstarter campaign explaining the concept to people and allowing them to order the first batch for pre-order so that she could validate the idea. This campaign was a huge success and it sold out within 48 hours.
With the Kickstarter proving to be a success, Frazer was now ready to launch the brand on a large scale, so there was a need to look for sustainable and ethically logical manufacturing processes and inputs. As she considered her options, she quickly realized “how difficult business can be” and how difficult it is to find durable materials at a price that allows her to compete with other companies in the market. Frazer decided rather than rushing the launch and pushing the brand forward, that she would take the time to build a supply chain and products that would be truly authentic to the brand’s values, so that she, his team and those who wear the shoes can be proud of the product.
After years of work, she was comfortable enough to relaunch her brand which is now available for purchase and support.
Frazer hopes the brand will continue to grow and reach new markets for those “who need to assert shoes in their size,” which is why she is currently exploring investment options. Even though sourcing has proven to be difficult, she has done her best to ensure that it remains as ethical as possible, yet offers customers great value and style.
Outside of building the shoe brand, Frazer has made it her mission to help people support young entrepreneurs to build fair businesses, work as a VC Scout for Ada Ventures, and help organizations become more inclusive thanks to his advice. She is also an upcoming author and published a book later this year on black British affairs in the UK titled “A Quick Ting On: Black Brit-ish Business” which is available for pre-order.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. To submit feature ideas or keep up to date with new releases you can find me on Twitter – @ TommyPF91