ON THE RADAR: Strength & Dignity Apparel is Empowering Women to Be Bold and In Style Every Season
It's certainly special seeing the blossoming chemistry of a friendship form into a meaningful business venture that goes beyond empowering women of all walks to own and express their individuality with boldness and style. Strength & Dignity Apparel (S&D), a Toronto-based Canadian accessory line, is doing all of the above and more despite the company's fairly recent launch. Backed by a powerful vision and equally profound corporate values, the female-led brand has broken into the market, forging a lane defined by purpose and driven by a compelling story of inspiration and resiliency.
"She is clothed in strength and dignity."
Founded by two inspiring boss ladies, Gloria Agyemang and Fatima Bangura, S&D Apparel remains rooted in a 10+ year friendship that began when the duo met in the ninth grade. In spite of their distinguished differences, the two admit to sharing many things in common, which is evident in their ability to persevere in the presence of adversity. Encouraging one another not to look to the left, nor to the right, nor to the rear on their journey, but to remain focused on the vision paved out before them, the pair continues to excel beyond the many obstacles presented on their venture.
S&D Apparel Co-Founders | (Swipe Right)
Agyemang and Bangura are, by definition, models of their brand. For the pair, the path to launching S&D was far from simple. Bangura, who in the premature stages of the brand was managing a challenging pregnancy and prenatal sickness, determinedly packed her luggage along with her equally spirited business partner Agyemang, who was also combatting health issues and balancing life and business while facing periods of hospitalization. In faith, both founders journeyed internationally to set the foundation for what we now know as an emerging women's brand that is redefining ways women can fearlessly translate their personality through style.
S&D Apparel Winter 2019 Collection
While Agyemang and Bangura's battle scars may not be strikingly visible, their story signifies the very nature of the brand and its name. Initially finding scriptural inspiration from Proverbs 31:25, which reads: "She is clothed in strength and dignity...", both ladies, upon launching, came to discover that they are much like the virtuous woman described in this passage. "When you see the brand you would never be able to tell the story behind it" Agyemang shares, due to the manner in which both owners have managed to "maintain their strength and carry themselves with dignity" despite delays and unanticipated hurdles.
Although only two months have passed since their big business launch, both ladies humbly express gratitude for the successful turnout and support garnered from their first pop-up experience in October at the Highlight T.O. Pop-Up Shop (2019). Since then, the brand has expanded its inventory, and is excited for the launch of the S&D Winter 2019 Collection, which is said to be filled with more "glitz and glam", coloured with a lovely autumn/winter-inspired palette.
S&D Apparel Winter 2019 Collection
With the holiday season in full swing, ladies, we got you! Fellas, we also got you covered—for those of you looking to gift your significant other with a little something special! Shop the Winter 2019 collection here, and continue reading further to get all the gems shared in our in-depth interview with S&D co-founder Gloria Agyemang.
What's the story behind Strength & Dignity Apparel, and what are some of your key inspirations?
Between my partner and me, we always wanted to start a business and were trying to find that one thing that we were both passionate about. We both loved to go out and see women of all ages and backgrounds dressed up. We loved how they paired their outfits along with their accessories. One of our first ideas was to create a womenswear line with clothing geared towards all women. We believe there's no "one size fits all" look. So our goal is to sell pieces that are different, and this is something that's recognized and appreciated by our customers. We draw inspiration from the uniqueness of the products we sell and the unique styles of our customers.
What influenced the name of the brand?
Being a Christian, there's a Bible verse that says, "She is clothed in strength and dignity", and this verse is one of the main inspirations behind the name of our company. When we look at all of the amazing women in this world and how they are accomplishing all the amazing things they're doing with strength, walking through life with so much dignity, it really inspires us. Like them, our brand name really represents our story.
How would you describe Strength & Dignity?
S&D is a brand that caters to all women and their differences. I would say that 40% of our brand is influenced by fashion trends and the industry, while 60% is inspired by the uniqueness of the customers we're selling to. At our first pop-up, there were lots of diverse women who had such unique senses of style. They were each able to identify with our products and wear them in ways that expressed their unique differences. Despite being completely different customers, our accessories didn't prevent any of them from seeing themselves in the different pieces we were selling.
What inspires you the most about your tribe?
What inspires us the most? The uniqueness of each and every member of our tribe, and being able to hear them express that they can find their individual style in our collection. For them to say that they feel bold and confident in different looks from our brand lets us know that we're on the right track.
What makes your entrepreneurship journey so unique? And if you could choose one thing so far that has made it meaningful, what would it be?
Sharing this experience between my partner and myself, I would say that for Fatima being a first-time mom and having to do the balancing act of figuring out how to manage and care for her new baby, that's something quite unique. For myself, this business is my baby and I've put a lot into caring for it. I'm also someone who has had a long-term invisible disability. So always going through the ups and downs of it, while having to manage the business, it's a challenge. But I've been able to push through.
S&D Classy Oval Earrings (shop here)
How have you managed to sustain a healthy bond as friends and as rising business partners?
We've known each other since grade nine. So over the years, we've managed to understand how to respect each other's differences as well as the life decisions we choose to make. We've also established that we can't take any business disagreements or business-related matters personally. In the same way that we'd fight for our friendship and sisterhood, we bring that same energy and standard to our relationship as owners of this business.
What key message do you strive to share with your tribe? And how does it resonate with them?
We want to inspire women to unapologetically love who they are and to embrace their unique sense of style. We don't want ladies to come across our ads and feel that they don't fit in with our brand. We're very particular about the models we work with, and are intentional about showcasing diversity in different ways. We want to represent women of all shapes, sizes, races, religions, and we hope to inspire them to be themselves.
We're intentional about who's represented. In our first photo shoot, we had a model wearing a hijab. She didn't wear earrings, but she wore one of our statement necklaces and styled it with other accessories from our collection. For a lady who also wears a hijab, seeing that model allows her to see herself in our brand. So everything from our marketing to the content we release, it's all very intentional. We want to preserve that message.
How do you stay authentic and consistent with your branding and messaging considering all the other brands in the market?
We're always trying to gather feedback from our customers. What do they like or don't like? We aim to be consistent with our message and branding. We also don't try to compete with other brands. Our brand speaks for itself, so we constantly keep our focus in our lane.
What are some new opportunities that you are excited about sharing?
Strength & Dignity will be expanding internationally. We'll be working with a distributer based in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. So that's exciting for the brand, being able to grow our customer base in other countries!