The Skinnys began in 2013 as a passion project for business major-turned-designer Justin Cooper and FIDM graduate Rolland Ryan, and has since grown into a gender-neutral line of streetwear catering to a more refined palate. But for these Los Angeles-based designers, there is more to the word “SKINNY” than meets the eye.
For Justin coming from Liberian descent and Rolland coming from Creole-Southern descent, being naturally SKINNY or effeminate in any way made them easy targets for ridicule. Their brand is deeply rooted in that painful time, but has sprouted and blossomed into a beacon of self-acceptance for anyone feeling marginalized by society. The duo recognized that there is a void in the market for black designers that want their designs to speak to blackness, luxury, and streetwear; all with one voice. A voice for black men that can easily find themselves at both an HBCU Homecoming, and a casual weekday lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The designers also noticed that the natural elegance, grace, and grandeur that black men possess is often overlooked because the industry is catering to either rappers or athletes. Justin and Rolland are naturally drawn to: a sheer top, a flared pant, and a cuban-heeled boot. These are the kind of pieces that make their style unique and instantly fetishized. They wanted to create a space that speaks for the black man that just wants to look chic; the one that is comfortable in their skin, and doesn’t mind bending the stereotypical image of black masculinity. When you are black and LGBTQ+, you are constantly fighting to feel completely whole in either of these communities.
That’s why SKINNY isn’t about your waist size, it is about embracing the things that make you uniquely you. There are so many outside forces (i.e. your friends, family, religion, the media) telling you who you should or shouldn’t be. The Skinnys advocate for self-acceptance, and living the life that you want to live regardless of what anyone says. “When people see us, they see strength and elegance; a certain regality that is fighting to be recognized in today’s fashion culture. THAT is what SKINNY means to us. And that is what we want our brand and our clothes to represent.”