Written by: D’Shonda Brown
The #ShopBlack Interview Series is a new installation that shines light upon budding and booming Black-owned businesses ran by millennials and Gen-Z’ers who are heavily influenced by hip-hop culture. Introducing Kalilah Wright, culture curator and visionary behind Mess In A Bottle, a T-shirt company that is emotional, thought-provoking and expressive to the world’s current climate. Read below the in-depth interview between D’Shonda Brown and Kalilah as they talk about 90s hip-hop, political influence and giving a voice to the voiceless.
Hey Kalilah! Huge fan of your work, sis – I even have a bag of yours! Let’s jump right into this. Who is Kalilah Wright and what inspired Mess in a Bottle?
I am a designer and trained architect raised in Brooklyn, NY. I was born in Jamaica W.I. and migrated to the United States at the age of 4. I gained a love for design and architecture while attending Art and Design High School in New York City and later went on to receive a degree in art and architecture from Morgan State University and Penn State University. I am a black, immigrant, woman and my MESSages I create are representation of who I am, what I believe in and how I view the world. Mess in a Bottle was founded during the Freddie Gray riots in Baltimore, MD in 2015. Freddie Gray was an African American man who died while in police custody causing riots in my Baltimore City neighborhood. Mess in a Bottle was created to start conversation and give a voice to the voiceless.
You’re a fellow Schuyler alumna. For those of you reading who aren’t sure, that means we both went to Philippa Schuyler School For The Gifted and Talented in Brooklyn, NY. You even have a few pieces dedicated to your middle school experience. How do you feel that your upbringing in Brooklyn affected your taste in style and fashion?
Brooklyn is a major part of my heart and its a huge part of my influence of fashion and design. From the 90’s rap and hip hop to the fashion of gold chains, name plate belts, and bamboo earrings. It has all been a major influence on my life and my creativity. I always say, Jamaica birthed me, but Brooklyn created me. The streets of Brooklyn taught me many lessons. It gave me the confidence to maneuver throughout the world without fear. Being from Brooklyn, gives you this unsaid fearlessness and confidence that you can do anything you put your mind to.
Now, in your Instagram bio, you say that MIAB is a “tee shirt company that is emotional, thought provoking and expressive to the current climate of the world”. What – in your eyes – is the current climate of the world and how is your collection transcribing those messages for your audience?
We live in a race fueled, chaotic world full of opposition. It’s a lot going on around us. It’s a very chaotic time and social media also plays a part in how we view the world. Mess in a Bottle, though liberal, helps give a voice to everyone and creates t-shirts that start important conversations.
One of my favorite pieces of yours is the “Be nice for what? I’m good,” shirt – and I’m going to take a wild guess and say that was inspired by Drake. How has hip-hop and rap influenced your designs?
Of course it was! We love Champagne Papi. Our target demographic is 25-35 year old, hip hop and rap lovers. We directly connect to this age group, so when a certain song or phrase is hot, we ride the wave and connect with our target audience.
You host a 30-day tee shirt bootcamp. What exactly does that entail and how important is it to you to uplift your fellow entrepreneurs – more specifically POC?
Our tee classes were created for individuals like myself. I am a single mother and creating this company as a side hustle to create residual income for my family. I created the tee class to give people like me an opportunity to launch their own t-shirt company and to learn from the mistakes I have made along the way. Many have 9 to 5’s but feel very unstable and still living paycheck to paycheck. I want to help POC to create businesses and to create the stability for their family they desire.
Just a quick receipt rundown – you just came back from being a featured vendor down in NOLA at Essence Fest; I saw your items featured at Essence Beauty Carnival here in NYC, and you show absolutely no sign of slowing down anytime soon. What’s next for Mess in a Bottle?
We have a lot of exciting things ahead. We are specifically working with our t-shirt MESSage vending machine and plan to launch our machines and it will be featured in multiple places this fall.
Kalilah Wright can be found on Instagram, @MessInABottle and, you can also learn more about her and shop the line now available for purchase online at www.kwright.me/new-page .