On this week’s Face Behind the Cards we caught up with Cherelle from Kitsch Noir, a greetings card brand on a mission: to represent the love, joy and humour within the Black British experience.
We at Scribbler have a responsibility to encourage and support BAME designers in the industry. Cherelle’s designs have the intention to uplift and celebrate the beauty of a more inclusive and diverse society, so we were thrilled when Cherelle was keen to speak to us and in particular, tell us about her #CelebrateBlackMen campaign ahead of Father’s Day 2020.
How did you get into designing cards? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I studied accessories at the London College of Fashion, then stayed in the fashion industry in various design teams for 5 years. I had been feeling like my passion for the fashion industry was slowly dissolving and was then luckily made redundant within a luggage design team in London… I saw this as my ‘Get out of jail free card’ lol and my chance to create something that made an impact and change for the community. I began drawing friends and family members and soon realised my passion for stationery!
In the run up to a popular season, I spend a few weeks putting together some sketches and ideas for cards, then I will run the rough ideas by my friends and family and see if they like it as much as me or even find it funny lol. If I don’t get a smile or smirk, I’m throwing it in the bin lol. I’ll narrow down the designs and bring them to life by adding more detail and colour on my laptop then I will begin the printing process which can take up to a week. Once all designs have been printed and packed, I place them online and begin sending the orders out to each customer!
I am inspired everyday by the amazing friends and family I have. As strange as it may sound, the act of being completely honest about my reality and lifestyle truly motivated and inspired me. For a large part of my life I felt unsure and insecure about who I was. I feel that when I truly accepted my existence for what it is, KitsCH Noir was born. Things I found funny or liked doing would come out in my designs and I discovered a new joy and excitement about personal and nostalgic memories which are displayed in every illustration.
Has lockdown changed how you work/your daily routine, if so how have you adapted?
Not at all really! Alongside running the card company I am a full time keyworker so work has never actually stopped during this period and I have been one of the lucky/unlucky ones who has not been housebound.
Certainly. I started this campaign on the 27th May, 2 days after the heart breaking murder of George Floyd. It was the date in which I had planned to launch the father’s day collection I had been working on, but the recent incident lay so heavy on my heart that I could not launch it without expressing how I felt. I believe I have a duty to keep the presence of the brand upbeat and light hearted as the purpose is to embrace, encourage and empower my community. So with that in mind I wanted to uplift us as black people during this dark time. The collection I created focuses on the regular black men we all know and love, living life and enjoying ordinary standard experiences which are rarely/never seen in the greeting card industry. I want to normalise these images, because they are our experiences too. We see too many negative images of black men in the media and when they are on greeting cards, they are often stereotyped or famous. It is time for change. The hashtag #CelebrateBlackMen is all about familiarising ourselves and others with positive imagery of black men.
What do you think companies should be doing, not just during this time but always, to support and stand by our designers?
I would like companies to acknowledge that there is a lack of representation of black people within their products and even within their staff, without having to be called out on it first. Companies should constantly be reflecting on how they are truly contributing towards an anti racist society and environment, not only when a crisis happens. Companies should be reaching out to their black creatives, not just for ideas but to ask for their input and opinions on new campaigns and projects. Even when there is not a person of colour to inject their views or point out that they do not feel represented, it should be everyone’s responsibility to stand up for representation. We should speak up for diversity even when the underrepresented are not present. It is not just our job, it is everyone’s.
I recommend everyone to read ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-lodge and ‘Black British History, Black Influences on British Culture’ by Paula Perry. Both really insightful books.
My designs are purely focused on black people and black culture. It is great to see how many different backgrounds can relate to all the designs before they actually realise that the illustrations only portray brown faces! And this should not be an issue or stop anyone from buying! If it’s funny and cute- it’s funny and cute! Spread the love! When it comes to purchasing and a potential customer thinks twice about if they should buy it or not based on the colour of the person on the card – that is when I think the awareness is raised. People suddenly realise – wow representation really does matter.
Thank you to Cherelle for answering our questions, you can shop the full Kitsch Noir range here.