6 April 2018
YEOJA Mag is all about diversifying the fashion and advertising industry as well as placing emphasis on grassroots projects. We sat down with Sonya of IAM.ECCENTRIC who fits the bill for both of these things:
Hey girl, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where ARE YOU from, how old ARE YOU, and why you decided to start IAM.ECCENTRIC?
Sonya: Hey! So my name is Sonya Harris and I am the Founder and Designer of IAM.ECCENTRIC, also known as IME. I was born and raised in NYC and just turned 26. I started IAM.ECCENTRIC because I felt that there was a sense of calling for my generation and the generations to follow as far as streetwear fashion is concerned.
While growing up, I had many idols and brands I admired such as BAPE, BBC/ICE CREAM, Marc Jacobs, Baby Phat, Roca-Wear, Married to the Mob…the list goes on. After a while, I saw the hype dying down because hypebeast took over the industry causing things to not feel as organic and dope as it once did. My plan was to bring that authenticity back and leave my customers whom I consider loyal supporters to always feel like, “Yea I feel dope/cool when wearing IAM.ECCENTRIC (IME)” anytime they stepped out.
How did you come up with the name IAM.ECCENTRIC for your brand?
Sonya: It all started back in the MySpace days when everyone used a cool nickname instead of their actual name and I was having so much trouble coming up with a nickname for myself. Finally, it just hit one of my old best friends, who said, “Why don’t you just call yourself Eccentric…you’re already a weirdo yet unique at the same time lol”. We all laughed at the idea but knew that it was a tailor-made fit that best described me and my personal sense of style in high school. I had a sense of relief of coming into my own and was totally comfortable with it. The next week for my 17th birthday, I had my two homies take me to get tatted and i got IAM. in red and Eccentric in black on my left rib cage. From that moment on it was written…literally!
You have studied both Business Marketing and Management as well as Fashion Merchandising and Retail Management – coming from the business side of fashion, have you found it challenging to be on the designing side of fashion?
Sonya: I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t and still is a challenge lol. After six years of being established with the brand, I had to start learning to trust my creative eye on what I know my supporters would want and need. During my journey, I’ve had the help of LordJustice Canton of The Hundreds, who designed some of my earlier pieces and still gives me great advice on what I decide to drop for my brand. I can also depend on my homegirls, Andira Sample of HeightNLight Jewelry and Female Artist LoveMoneyLuv, to give me great input about the pieces I’m creating and if they are hot or not. If anyone is going to give it to me real, I can count on them for constructive criticism to make me a better designer, which I greatly appreciate.
Can you talk to us a bit about “Homegirls Supporting Homegirls” and what it is?
Sonya: “Homegirls Supporting Homegirls” is a movement I started in early 2017 after creating my first Homegirls piece. I wanted to create a “home” for all of us to live in even if it was a “virtual” one where you can rely on your fellow homegirl and always have a place to go to have your voice heard. Furthermore, this movement is about supporting one another in any endeavour that is sending a positive message and helping to spread peace, love, and unity. I knew that this phrase would appeal to a certain niche but never thought it would further expand to the masses. There is nothing better than seeing people all over the world hashtag #HomegirlsSupportingHomegirls to help spread the movement and message. I thank you and love you all!
We are all about your message #homegirlssupportinghomegirls – after all women have enough obstacles to deal with; we definitely don’t need “girl on girl hate”. Can you tell us what motivated you to create this movement? Have you had experiences in the past where girls have not been so supportive of each other where you thought, damn girls need to really come together and support their sisters?
Sonya: Being a minority woman with family that’s both of black and hispanic descent was a big motivator to create this movement. Being a minority woman in America, I gravitated to the movie Mi Vida Loca that led to the Homegirls’ first piece. For example, in the movie there was a specific scene where the group of young women were arguing and debating about a boy they both had interest in. One of the women then shouted out “Homegirls, you’re never supposed to beef with one another. Guys come and go but we homegirls are here to stay!”.
That scene spoke to me since I’ve had countless experiences dealing with girls not supporting one another and saw how much damage and impact it had (and still has) on society. I’ve also seen experiences with girls being supportive of one another and have seen how much of a positive impact it has on society. I chose to take the positive path so that I can set the example to both my fellow homegirls and young girls that look up to me.
It seems like a lot of this whole “girl on girl” hate is learned behaviour based on the fact that women grow up in a society where we are taught our self worth is primarily based on our physical appearance which in turn leads to issues of insecurity and (possibly) jealousy – we would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Sonya: I definitely agree with this and places like social media (i.e. Instagram) and reality television shows help contribute to this behaviour. That’s why the need for the “Homegirls Supporting Homegirls” movement is at an all time high demand. We need to show and lead by example so that young girls growing up are secure in themselves and can reciprocate that love back to each other. Society tends to set standards on what is considered normal or appealing and what is not, but who is anyone to judge? We ultimately are ONE and each individual is beautiful and eccentric in their own way.
You mention that social media can be a really negative place, but you are spreading your brand through social media and there are also a lot of platforms and girls trying to make a positive difference through social media (like us here at YEOJA Mag). Can you touch upon the pros and cons of social media when it comes to female empowerment and unity?
Sonya: I use social media as a networking platform and business tool to help market and create more brand awareness around IAM.ECCENTRIC, helping me to create a core fan base who support what I am creating. This is a big benefit for me since I don’t have a brick-and-mortar store and have only an e-commerce website. I can tap into my true supporters and almost anyone I’m interested in collaborating with in a matter of seconds. I also get to receive first hand feedback and constructive criticism from my following on what they like or don’t like. This helps the process when deciding where to put my money and what to focus on next.
Some cons consist of seeing well-known prestige brands stealing ideas and creations from smaller brands like us. Lots of times, because they have the larger base, its hard for the people to decide who are the originators and assume that it is the one that has the bigger following. It’s happened to me a few times but I don’t let it de-motivate me. I just look at it as a form of flattery and it tells me that I must be doing something right. Overall, as long as you remember that it’s just social media and to stay true to yourself, you’ll be alright.
YEOJA Mag is very intent on supporting all kinds of women which is why intersectional feminism is a big topic over here. As a woman of color, does this topic come into play for you and your brand? It also seems like WOC are often used and abused by big corporations as marketing schemes, but skin color is neither a trend nor is it disposable. We would love to hear your thoughts on this too.
Sonya: As a WOC, I am aware that intersectional feminism has been around for decades and continues to be a battle women face everyday in America. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it means having an understanding of how women’s overlapping identities such as race, class, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination. I have knowledge of self so I don’t let things of this nature make me or break me, I just learn to combat it with creating the message that we are all equal and “one” at the end of the day and try not to let these classifications divide us. I want to bring peace, love, and unity to all by showing that we can empower and uplift each other. It’s constantly a fight, but not one I’m going to ever give up on.
As a WOC, I definitely would say that our culture and big corporations have a major impact on the world. It just goes to show how much power we have and if we channel that power in the right and positive direction, it can help strengthen us all. That’s why I feel it is my duty to positively impact society with spreading uplifting messages such as the “Homegirls Supporting Homegirl”s movement.
Sailor Moon plays a very prominent role in your brand. Can you tell us why?
Sonya: I identify a lot with Sailor Moon because she stands up and fights for love and justice to make the world better which is very similar to my mind set and motives. Being a 90’s baby, I remember coming home from school watching her series and dissecting the messages each episode contained. That show taught me so many lessons that correlate to the whole Homegirls movement. She and her crew remind me so much of me and my homegirls which are both BOMB! lol.
What is next in the cards for you and your brand?
Sonya: Now that I’m M/WBE Certified, I plan to do a lot of collaborations with stores and government city agencies such as the Department of Transportation and New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. I’ve always wanted to collaborate with the city of New York since that’s my hometown allowing me to give back to the community while making my mark on the city. The rest I can’t give away…you’ll just have to wait and see!