AphroChic began in 2007 – the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason. AphroChic became a place for Jeanine, a former policy attorney, and Bryan, a Ph.D. student, to escape the stresses of work and share their passion for culture and design. To embody their personal vision of a new kind of design the two coined the phrase, “Modern.Soulful.Style.” – design that embraces culture and the unique admixture of the traditional and the contemporary that helps to define us all. Jeanine and Bryan are the authors of REMIX: Decorating with Culture, Objects and Soul, published by Penguin Random House. In 2017, they launched HGTV’s Sneak Peek With AphroChic, a house tour series exclusively for HGTV’s Facebook Live channel. The two reside in Brooklyn, New York.
What does Aphrochic mean to you?
B: When we founded AphroChic in 2007, we began with the tagline, modern soulful style. For us, that’s the intersection of modern design and culture. AphroChic celebrates design that is grounded in a modern aesthetic, but that is made more meaningful with cultural representation at home. For us, pieces that celebrate the African Diaspora make our home a more soulful space.
When you began your brand, what was the starting point for you?
J: When we started AphroChic, it was out of a specific desire to see more representation of people of color in the world of design. In our favorite magazines, on our favorite websites, we didn’t see a lot of people who looked like us. We decided to change that, at first starting a blog that celebrated diverse designers, artists and makers. Today our brand has expanded even further, developing products and designing spaces that speak to that idea of representation and being able to tell a personal, cultural story at home.
What was the inspiration behind it?
J: We love spaces that tell a story. We love designing homes and commercial spaces that are narrative-driven. Being able to tell the personal story of our clients through textiles, furnishings, art, color, is a constant source of inspiration for us. It’s the desire to express something unique about the homeowner or space that drives us and our projects.
What was your biggest challenge when you were starting your own label?
B: The greatest challenge was the learning curve in terms of product development. How do you design a pillow? How do you create a wallpaper design? Those are the questions we had to answer in the early years, when we launched our first collection in 2009. For us, the answers came through a focus on designing items that are true to us, not only in how they look, but in their production. All of our pieces are sustainable, whether our upholstery fabrics that are made with organic denim, or our paint line that is Greenwise certified.
Who are your mentors?
J: We don’t have specific mentors, but instead have a tight knit creative community here in New York that is a constant source of support for us. Our friends are designers, painters, photographers, gallerists, authors, musicians, fashion designers. Together, all of us have built a creative eco-system where we can support each other’s efforts. We find that eco-system to be one of the most important things for us. To be able to cross disciplines and collaborate with friends who express themselves in other ways, you learn from each other, you develop unique collaborations, and you open each other’s minds in ways that are refreshing. For instance, we worked with fashion designer, Reuben Reuel, to create a line of kimonos as a unique creative exercise and a way to dip our toe into the world of fashion.
Where do you find inspiration?
B: Every month we like to do a field trip. We’ll go outside the office, and take time to just be inspired by what’s around us. We’ll visit galleries, a new exhibit at an art museum, walk through public gardens, experience a new restaurant. We find New York to be a constant source of inspiration. We also are inspired by travel. Exploring another country helps us to expand our minds about design. Paris, Frankfurt, Bologna, have been some of the recent cities we’ve visited and found incredibly inspiring, both architecturally and artistically.
What is your fave website and resources?
J: We love social media. In an instant you can be transported to another part of the world through a photo. It’s incredibly inspiring. I personally love to explore on Instagram daily. Some of my favorite grams are around art and fashion. People who always inspire include Delphine Diallo, Jerome Lamaar, and Genevieve Gorder. I’m also a serial pinner, having pinned over 20,000 images on Pinterest. It’s one of my favorite resources for discovering what’s new in the world of design.
Aphrochic Brooklyn in Color paint collection… tell us what the philosophy behind is?
B: We have always embraced color as part of our design aesthetic. Our textiles are very bright and colorful, and when we included paint in projects, we would always go for striking shades to the set the tone of a space. After years of working with Colorhouse, a paint brand that we respect due to the eco-focused nature of their paint, we decided to collaborate with them on our very own collection, becoming the first African Americans to have a line of paint. Brooklyn In Color is a collection of twenty shades that are absolutely timeless. The thought behind the collection was to create deep shades that naturally highlight much of the moulding and original architecture that you find in Brooklyn brownstones. Each color was named for something we find iconic in the borough, like our Black Star shade, which is an homage to Brooklynites Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey.
Favorite color and why from your paint collection?
J: We have a special connection to each shade, but Hunterfly is one of our favorites. The color was inspired by the Hunterfly Road Houses, which was home to a free Black community in Brooklyn prior to the Civil War. The color is a subtle gray-blue that pops when paired with warm metallics and woods.
Your book Remix: Decorating with Culture, Objects and Soul… what is one the takeaway the book imparts about design & living?
B: That no two homes are the same. In REMIX, we invite readers to embrace our aesthetic, which includes bringing home color, pattern, art and global objects. But how those elements come together, that is unique to each homeowner. We want people to live in a space that feels like them. Not something cookie cutter. That’s where the soul of a space comes into play.
HGTV… how did the collaboration came about?
B: We’ve had the pleasure of working with HGTV for almost a decade. We’ve produced house tours and holiday shoots for the brand over the years, always with a focus on increasing representation of people of color in the content we create for them. In 2017 they came to us with an idea for an online series, and we developed Sneak Peek. In two seasons we visited 21 homes and reached over 4 million viewers, taking them inside a diverse array of interiors via Facebook Live. It is a truly exciting series, as the first in home decor to marry a house tour series with social media in real time.
You live, work and play in Brooklyn, please, share with us fave restaurant, bar, art gallery?
J: Our fave local spot for a bite to eat is Mayfield. The most beautiful place to grab a cocktail is Bisou Bisou. For art, we love the Brooklyn Museum. The museum is constant source of inspiration with exhibitions of the work of Kehinde Wiley, George O’Keefe, and we are very excited to see David Bowie Is.
Top tips to bring insta-spring in a room?
J: Color! Spring is a time of refresh and renewal and color is one of the best ways to make a space feel new just in time for spring. We invite people to transform their space by brining home a favorite shade, like pale pink or a crisp gray. A new color can transform an interior just in time for warmer days.
What is next for the brand?
B: We are thrilled to launch our first collection of rugs at ICFF. The collection is handmade in India, and offers an array of unique patterns inspired by the African Diaspora.