A sister. So much more in the name than a blood relative. More like a lifelong best friend, confidant, mentor and even business partner. Someone to fight alongside you in the tough times and cheer you on in the triumphant times. A bond so strong that no matter what obstacles life throws your way, you know your sister will always be by your side.
Sisters and co-founders of Nappy Head Club, Rikki Richelle and Rachel Danielle embody all of that and then some, keeping it 100 all the way through. Founded in 2017, Nappy Head Club is an ode to those underrepresented and excluded in conversations surrounding beauty and fashion. It’s a space where Black girls taunted for their “NAPPY” hair, big lips and voluptuous figure, are seen. One of their most popular items, the legendary Always Black, Never Sorry Tee, quickly became a culture favorite, championing unapologetic authenticity in our community.
Behind such a powerful and meaningful brand are two creative minds inspired by their beautiful sisterhood. After effortlessly slaying their GROWN cover shoot on a breezy Saturday afternoon in Harlem, I had the pleasure of speaking with the dynamic duo about love, creativity, and what being a sister is really all about.
Being that you both are extremely creative, what was your dynamic like growing up?
Rachel: That was how we bonded [through creativity], we would put together little photoshoots or videos and film random things. Now That I think about it, we did a lot at such a young age [laughs]. We spent mostly Summers and holidays together so we had a lot of time to play and be creative.
Rikki: Me and Rachel are half-sisters and being the younger sister, I always looked up to her, especially artistically and creatively. Our creativity allowed us to bond better and explore. From taking photos to styling we were constantly experimenting and that has grown into our work.
What do you understand more about each other now as adults as opposed to when you were younger?
Rikki: Now that we’re older there are more expectations surrounding the work that we do together. I think one thing that we’ve learned about each other is our limits and boundaries in a work capacity. We are sisters and when you mix work into that there can sometimes be a lot more gray areas. We’ve been very good at communicating, like, if we need more help with something.
Rachel: Specifically about Rikki, I think as we’ve gotten older, and I told her this the other day, I think Rikki is insanely creative and intuitive in a way. When we were younger, it was like what the hell are we doing with blonde, curly wigs and trying to be Beyoncé [laughs]? Now as adults with a business, I’ve been able to admire her ability to always know what to do, how to make something work when we can’t see it completely yet, and always having great ideas. That’s definitely something I’ve picked up on more about her and I really admire her for it.
Being that you both are multifaceted creators, I imagine things can get hectic for you both, and finding free time can be difficult. How do you ensure you’re making time for one another to continue nurturing your sisterhood?
Rachel: It’s not easy. When you’re building and working on your own personal stuff in life it gets hard to balance everything in general whether it’s with family or friends. We’ll plan to hang out like on a no business tip and I’ve learned that saying that is really important. We didn’t have that for a while.
Every time we linked up we’d talk about business stuff so it was hard to just enjoy hanging out because it always felt like business. I think it’s really nice to have those moments where you’re being very conscious to make it a bonding and regrouping time versus all about work.
Rikki: I would say, Rachel and I have really grown to be good at understanding each other’s limits with work and our personal lives. Even now we are both extremely busy and that’s one thing we’ll always understand about each other. So when we come together it’s always super organic and natural. There’s no tension even if we haven’t talked in a while or even seen each other, there’s always that understanding.
What do you say to people who still believe that women, specifically, can’t successfully balance both a thriving and healthy relationship while pursuing their creative dreams?
Rikki: I’ve learned that ultimately what’s most important is picking a partner that is the right fit for you. My partner supports me in every capacity even if at times I don’t completely understand their unique way in expressing that. Everyone’s love language is different so, I would say always remain very patient and understanding.
The motivation and push you might need, they may be able to provide it in a way that you can’t. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with choosing to focus on yourself. If you feel that your biggest strengths come from within and you want to protect that, I feel that’s very empowering.
I’m very straight and narrow like, I know what I want, eyes on the prize, everyone get out of my way [laughs]. So, there are two sides to every coin here.
Rachel: It’s funny because my last relationship started around the time that we started working on Nappy Head Club and it was a big issue in our relationship. There was a lot of resentful energy surrounding how much time I spent on the business and it created an insecurity in me that maybe I can’t have both. I never wanted to be perceived as someone who couldn’t balance work and love.
Now I’m in a relationship with somebody who encourages me to have both but, keeping it 100%, because that’s our brand, it’s not easy having a passion that takes a lot of your time while [having a partner].
How do you explain to your partner that life as a business owner can get hectic and that you just need them to work with you?
Rachel: It requires a lot of communication, honesty, and flexibility. Because even with a supportive partner it’s still a challenge because you have to go the extra mile to prioritize them and your business or passion you’re pursuing.
Rikki: Rachel said it best. This is where taking the time to choose the right partner is extremely important.
From patterns to colors and quotes on clothing, what are your biggest sources of inspiration?
Rikki: So far I would say that our personal experiences have been the biggest influences for our collections. We’re also influenced by stereotypical experiences in the Black community especially surrounding hair, colorism, and just the experience of being Black.
Rachel: For sure. I would say that it’s very intuitive more so than strategic or following trends. We’re just doing whatever we feel [both laugh]. We could be like this color is gonna hit this summer and we just go with it. We don’t really overthink it. I think that if it’s something that resonates with us it will resonate well with a lot of other people.
A while ago I met someone who was also a designer and they mentioned that they only design for themselves and that was very refreshing. If you’re focusing on designing for someone else, you’ll always be in doubt. For us, we know we’re designing something that we think is fire and it’s really exciting when other people think so too [laughs].
Being that you’re both constantly evolving in both your creative and personal lives, are there any goals that you’ve recently reached or hope to reach soon?
Rikki: I would definitely say that since I’ve taken a little bit of a step back from Nappy Head Club and art direction, the biggest thing I wanted to take away from the experience was to learn more about and refine that skill [art directing] and I feel like I’ve done that.
I feel like I’ve grown so much in my work and my capabilities and I’m at a place now where I really miss working with Nappy Head Club and want to take what I’ve learned and bring it back. Taking a break to diversify your experience is extremely important.
Rachel: I’m really growing to appreciate that paths are not linear. When the business first started, I was around a lot of people who focused on the whole one year to raise x amount of dollars and everything was so structured and centered on getting bigger. When your business is a part of you, you gotta take care of yourself as well and that’s not always a linear path. You can’t go as hard as you can nonstop.
Rachel: We’re at different points in our career journeys so some of the things that Rikki is now perfecting reminds me of when I took a job a little off of my path and learned a lot and was able to apply it here. That break has been very restorative for our relationship as sisters and still, any win that Nappy Head Club has is also a win for Rikki.
Personally, I’ve been doing a lot more consulting work that has been very rewarding for me. I’m finding a lot of gratification in helping uplift important staples in the Black community. It’s nice to be able to apply the things I’ve learned with Nappy Head Club, from a consulting perspective, to other businesses.
For centuries, sisterhood has been a savior for Black women by creating a space of belonging that we often only find amongst one another. We elevate to explosive heights when we’re given a like-minded shoulder to lean on. For those lucky enough to experience a bond so respectful and nurturing as Rikki and Rachel’s, may you always know that love unlike any other, sisterhood.
Photographer: Laikyn Fishburne
Creative Direction: Tremeika Small
Photo Editing: B. Media
Stylist: Tylar Threatt
Nails: Joelle Rodriguez
Production: Kaya Nova
Wardrobe provided by: