Black History Month Spotlight: Brandblack Founder David Raysse Is Breaking Through the Athletic-Industry Clutter

In honor of Black History Month, FN is recognizing African-American movers and shakers in the shoe industry. From rising stars to accomplished executives, here’s how they’re making waves and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

David Raysse has lived his entire life surrounded by fashion and athletics, so it’s only fitting that he’s found success with his latest venture, Brandblack, a sport-inspired lifestyle label.

An industry veteran, Raysse lent his design expertise since the early ’90s to brands including Fila, Adidas and Skechers prior to launching the burgeoning company. But today, he’s keeping his best ideas for himself and is delivering must-have looks that merge athletics and sport-inspired style that’s dominating the fashion landscape.

What made you want to pursue a career in the shoe industry?

“My family was heavily connected to fashion — my father was one of the founders of Kenzo, and my mother was a model in Paris in the ’70s. I played high school and college basketball, and was a complete sneakerhead before the label [Brandblack] existed. I would beg the manager at Foot Locker to show me the Nike catalogue and see what was coming down the pike. Those two worlds connected with sneaker design.”

What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along the way?

“For me, it was the preconceived notion of a person who comes from a design background being a noble savage — this idiot savant who’s not in control of a talent granted to them. There’s no question that racial stereotypes played into this. To show how cerebral and empirical what I do is took a long time.”

How did you overcome it?

“I think I’m better able to express ideas in a way that doesn’t alienate people. You need to find a way to get people excited about what your pitching to them and find ways to help them see something that maybe they’ve not seen. This applies to ideas, best practices, designs — everything. Everyone should be creative, not just designers; it’s a misconception that sells short the innate creativity in everyone.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

“Don’t react to everything. Sometimes it’s important to just hear someone — even if you want to disagree with them. Sit with the thing causing you to react, and figure out why its causing a reaction.”

Best advice for other African-0Americans looking to enter the shoe industry and/or fashion?

“Learn everything you can about what you want to do. If you can’t afford college, take classes. Always think long-term, not about getting credit now but what you’re gaining each day. Popular culture today is black culture, so we have a competitive advantage. Harness that with skill and great communication, and the sky’s the limit.”

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