Imani Quinn is a creative who walked away from a steady paying job to pursue dreams of starting her own company. For the last four years, Imani has taught dance in Los Angeles’ but knew she was destined for me. She made dreams a reality in June 2016 and founded SWAJE, a multicultural lifestyle brand. SWAJE is focused on creating cultural awareness through textile design, as well as encouraging female empowerment through Goddesses That Give; a platform designed to give back by mentoring young girls from underprivileged communities.
Imani is an artist and social activist first and foremost who uses SWAJE as well as her dance background as a tool in building community, engaging in social activism and elevating the consciousness of our communities at large. Read on to learn more about Imani’s unique story and take on life.
SWAJE is a multicultural lifestyle brand focused on encouraging multicultural and feminine empowerment through textile design. Starting a business is not an easy feat. My journey really began before I was born, and I feel that my business is the purpose I was created for. Ever feel like you picked your parents out before you were born? Like hey, this lady has a bangin’ body, good genes, she’s talented, I like her, can I be like her when I grow up? Of course, we don’t have this choice. But if I could have picked any woman to be my mother, I would have chosen mine.
Here’s a little about my roots, the people, and places that guided my journey towards building my company. My mother is a woman of many lives. I think she might have had three before I was even born. She grew up in Detroit and New York, married young and had my brother before joining the Rasta temples in Jamaica. She lived without running water. She rebuilt the engine of a VW bus and drove it cross-country. Not that I’m bragging or anything, but if there were a wait list for my mother’s womb, only the strongest was going to survive to get to that uterus. When she was pregnant with me she was doing traditional West African Dance preparing me to have a dancer’s body. I came out with quads stretching for the dancer gods. I can literally say I was born this way. Today, my mother is a dancer, visual artist, small business owner and visionary; a true renaissance woman. To say that I always was okay with being like my mother wouldn’t be true, but as I grow in my own journey I couldn’t be more proud to expand on her path and make it brighter.
“Owning a rad business and carrying on her legacy feels like I’m fulfilling my destiny.” –Imani Quinn
As a child, I was put into sewing summer camps and musical theatre productions. My mom owned a tea house and art gallery from the time I was eight, where you could find me serving tea, baking scones and training employees. Some may call it child labor, but I call it life skills. We brought live Turkish, Brazilian and African music into the shop. We served a traditional Chai tea that my mom learned how to make from an Indian professor she knew. My Chilean God-mother gave her traditional recipes for food that my mom had at the tea house. My Kenyan God-father was my best friend. From a young age, I learned the importance of multicultural awareness as it was instilled in everything I did.
The tea house was called Fool’s Paradise Tea House and Gallery, named after the Tarot card my mother got during a reading. It shouldn’t surprise you that I named my company after something I received during a meditation. I am a reincarnated version of my mother. Upon moving to Los Angeles from my mother’s home in Oregon, I began teaching dance, just like my mother had. Owning a rad business and carrying on her legacy feels like I’m fulfilling my destiny.
I started SWAJE after struggling to find my calling in Los Angeles. I knew I was an artist and that I loved working creatively, but I was always searching for validation from someone else. I ask myself in meditation what it was that I wanted and what I could do to make it happen. I then took control of my life; I decided that I wanted to incorporate my love for fashion and my multicultural upbringing as a way to showcase and bring awareness and create community around racial and cultural intersectionality. I am biracial and our society is rapidly growing into a multiracial community. I am a woman raised by a single mother and embracing that has become second nature.
SWAJE is a product of my being; it is a multicultural lifestyle brand intended to promote multicultural awareness and female empowerment through textile design and lifestyle events. SWAJE is multiracial because I am multiracial. SWAJE is grounded in female empowerment because I embrace and live that. As a part of the SWAJE brand, I created Goddesses That Give as a way to empower people of all genders and to embrace the goddess energy that is innate within us all. The first collection titled, Artesia + Saadiq is an afro-inspired line with all of the material coming from West Africa. The second collection is a Shibori collection, which is a Japanese dyeing process for indigo. And the third collection is a rayon/linen blend that will be showcased in future projects.
Did I find my mother on purpose and was I destined to do this work? Hell yeah I was.
I am blessed to have a mother who not only supports what I do, but is also part of my company. We design the pieces together. She sews them in Oregon and mails them to me in Los Angeles. We’ll be on the phone talking measurements, and, as I struggle to get the measuring tape around my waist, she’ll be cutting out the material hundreds of miles away. When I visit her in Oregon, I’ll do the ever-so-tedious job of sewing on buttons, and when she comes to Los Angeles she’ll sell our product with me at local craft fairs. We are two Renaissance women working to bring people together and create change, and I am lucky if I live half of the lives my mother has lived. So look inward, get out there in the world, find your purpose and make it dance.
Article submitted by Imani Quinn, creator and founder of SWAJE, a multicultural lifestyle brand intended to promote multicultural awareness and female empowerment through textile design and lifestyle events.