3 Black Manufacturing Leaders You Should Know

“I want you to understand that your first duty is to humanity.  I want others to look at us and see that we care not just about ourselves but about others.” -Madam CJ Walker

Business is historically a competitive world, but Madame CJ Walker was a revolutionary entrepreneur of her time. She not only committed to building an empire, but an empire that empowered others. Shortly after she purchased her first factory, her business grew into a million-dollar conglomerate that trained 20,000 women to become sales agents and entrepreneurs.

Following in the legendary footsteps on this entrepreneur, there are black leaders in manufacturing and business that are paving the way for the birth of new brands.  Meet the lawyer turned fine jeweler, the basketball reject scaling Made in NYC shoes globally, and a California manufacturing vet helping brands launch apparel lines for over 20 years.



Lisa didn’t grow up dreaming of going to Fashion School, but she still remembers growing up always surrounded by rWest Africa’s heritage of fine gold jewelry.  While practicing law, she realized “it wasn’t for her.” She left her law firm to explore beaded jewelry, but quickly discovered that wasn’t the right fit.  So instead she went to fine jewelry school while working as a contract lawyer.

She fell in love with the process of designing and creating fine jewelry with metals and precious stones. She picked up clients and started building a business. The next step for her, was to start looking for a place to set up shop in NYC’s diamond district.  Fortunately, she met a retiring jeweler who transferred the lease and sold her all his equipment. This was a big step in establishing CHARLTON & LOLA.


Today, CHARLTON & LOLA offers a variety of services from model-making to sourcing gemstones. She has worked with a local, small brands, as well as big names like TOPMAN where she was part of the design team for dressing Cameron Dallas for the 2016 MET Gala. Though new to the industry dominated by older men, Lisa has been well-received by all her colleagues which has made the learning curve faster. She shared that her best motivational mentor is Sheryl, who reviews and reassures her of her path and execution in the industry. Lisa is immensely proud to be a part of such a diverse community in the Diamond District that is strengthening Made in America.

Learn more about CHARLTON & LOLA 


Omar, Omar Bailey Footwear

Growing up Omar, fell in love with the game of basketball. Unable to make it on the team because of his size, he decided the best way to get on the court was to design the shoes. He began developing his skills as an Industrial Design student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, but later transferred to the University of Cincinnati to study at the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.

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Shortly after graduating, Bailey started off designing footwear and products for Timberland, RocaWear (Jay Z), and Supreme to name a few. This opened doors for him to design footwear for top-tier clients in athletics such as Adidas and Jose Buatista of the Toronto Blue Jays, bringing him closer to “the court.”


Today, Omar is involved in many ventures but his focus is his private label Omar Bailey Footwear, which is manufactured in NYC. Through his brand and with access to local manufacturing, he has been able to cater to his celebrity client roster as it continues to expand.  He shared with us that he is currently working on a custom order from Terry Cruz.  What’s next for Omar?  International distribution into Asia.  Not only is he working on a private line for an Italian company’s entrance into India, but he is also focused on expanding his Omar Bailey footwear e-commerce nationally paired with an international retail strategy starting with Japan.

Check out his latest collection here.


Greg, International Sublimation

Over 20 years ago, Greg had no idea that his catalog company doing photo shoots and graphic layouts would turn into a leading Los Angeles manufacturer of customized private label apparel.

Greg describes himself as a first generation garment manufacturer that really “stumbled” into this industry, on the manufacturing side. “We started as a photo shoot and pre-press company specializing in the fashion industry providing the wholesale catalogs for retail buyers. We purchased our first press in 2006 and learned about sublimation. Today, we consider ourselves to be one of the premier sublimators in the country.” Greg shares that the most rewarding thing is seeing a start-up company succeed, knowing that I played a role in their success!


For those who also want to help start-ups get their products right, Greg advises to find a niche or specialty. For example, choose a niche like men’s underwear using flatlock coverstitch and grow from that point because starting a manufacturing business in this day and age would take a large amount of capital.

Learn more about International Sublimation here.

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  • Kevin KIrksey



    Designer Kevin Kirksey of Dallas Texas has created his line of designer shirts called “KDK” shirt collection. Kevin Kirksey New IP registered original, designed and sewn collars, placket, shirt sleeves, shirt backs and shirt bottoms. The KDK shirt collection is original and innovative like no other in 88 years since Lacoste.

    My media kit and look book will be ready and online October 4, 2017 for the world to view.

    See some of my world famous designer first KDK shirts on my Facebook apparel page.


    We are performing a major overhaul to my old website currently.

    You can view my web site in int’s current
    He is the first Black American Designer to ever make a shirt that isn’t POLO.
    Polo shirt name was originally made by the Brooks Brothers Grand Son in the late 1800’s by putting on a button on the super fly collar so it would stand up and not floop, then in 1928 Famous European Tennis Player Jean Renee Lacoste created the Lacoste/ Tennis shirt and 1933 he and his partner launched Lacoste Corporation and made billions going forward being the number one shirt in the world sold until the late 1970’s in the United States when Ralph Lauren Polo named shirt became number sold in the polo style. The Lacost shirt was exported to the US in 1950 with the Polo club and rich wearing the shirt. In 1952 President Eisenhower wore the Lacoste Tennis shirt playing golf and it went viral and the world came to know the shirt now as the Lacoste Tennis/Golf Shirt Polo style and made billions and billions. In 1971 about Ralph Lauren was on the apparel scene selling wide ties with the Polo horse log, he moved in the shirt world and used the design shirt of Lacoste and called it Polo now being his brand and in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s Ralph Luaren’s Polo shirt become number one bought and worn over any other designer selling this style of shirt with the logo on them.

    Now A barrier that has been more than hard for any Black Designer to break, Designer Kevin Kirksey has done it. He would like to work with Maker’s Row to break this story, fashion shows he has been in with his KDK shirt collection and also the photo’s of his KDK shirt collection like no other designer in the world. Note it is not called polo, the Intellectual Property owned rights name is called The ‘KDK’ shirt collection. We are looking to formed strategic partnerships with one or two manufactures in the USA only for the moment.

    Designer Kevin Kirksey will launch his KDK shirt collection on Kickstarter to help raise funding for his brand but also the opportunity to be viewed by 100’s of millions of potential backers, along with retailer’s wholesalers and other designers and more.

    One of biggest business goals is to become the new world bought and worn Golf, Tennis, NFL, NBA, and all sporting professional organizations, Casual, Company, University/College, Fraternity & Sorority shirt in the world along with the school uniform shirts. Designer Kevin Kirksey will be pursuing licensing & royalty deals. to boom his shirt brand over Polo shirts in which all designers who have a polo style shirt is the same when you look at the design of it and sewn the same way.