Today we’d like to introduce you to Layla K.
Layla, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
As a teen mom, I was designing high-end runway looks, but actually made a lot of money creating prom and bridesmaid dresses in the ’90s. I dreamed about doing fashion shows at New York Fashion Week and I was determined to succeed by any means necessary. I got my first “break” opening for Guess Marciano in San Francisco and continued to showcase my designer collections until I expanded my sights and started buying for boutiques and then got into styling, merchandising, photography and more. I was very driven, but I didn’t always have the support that I felt I needed. So early in my career, I recognized that serving my community was a priority. I pursued avenues that allowed me to offer my creative talents while also assisting women and girls who were in my position and or needed guidance. I got involved with several charities and have since made it my mission to pursue my passion AND my purpose through charitable fashion events, my own nonprofit, and volunteering.
Upon moving to Atlanta, I was looking to be a part of Fashion Week here, but at the time it was non-existent. There was one event that appeared to be successful but only happened once some years prior, so I created my own. In 2006, Haute.lanta Fashion Week® was birthed and it was very successful with features on The Travel Channel (full episode), in Atlanta Magazine, CBS, V-103, Essence Magazine and more. As a former designer, I was passionate about featuring up and coming couture, ready-to-wear and urbanwear designers from all over the world as well as Project Runway stars, and I did! My team and I presented some really beautiful collections. My event was so successful that a bunch of other “fashion weeks” sprung up. After five years, I took a break because my career had taken me into new heights and I was honestly fed up with all of the other events that were operating in a manner that was counterproductive to the local fashion scene. I continue to produce shows for private and corporate clientele and I am going into my fourth year working with the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer and their partners Bentley Motors and local NFL players. I have lost 16 loved ones to various forms of cancer so working alongside the young girls, who are as young as three, has been very close to my heart. Giving back is the backbone of what I do. Fashion is something I am talented at and truly passionate about, but my purpose here is worth much more than any piece of designer couture!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has never been a smooth one, but I can’t say that I regret one thing. Every obstacle and set back has always been a blessing or a lesson in the end. Becoming a mother at the age of 16 really changed the trajectory of my life. I see now that it prepared me for the charity work that I do with young women and teen girls. I am in a position to offer a positive impact through mentorship, the prevention of or assistance with teen pregnancy, education regarding health, puberty, communication with their mothers, and I teach them not to internalize the American standards of beauty.
When I have been in the midst of things, I have had thoughts of giving up, however, I never did. I just continued to put in the work and pursue my dreams relentlessly and that’s how I was able to accomplish so much. Aside from my faith in God, setbacks seem to motivate me to push harder. My advice to young women who are starting their journey is to find what you are most passionate about to see if it aligns with your purpose. Pursue that and keep going no matter what! Never ever give up and don’t be afraid to take risks. “Why not go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is.” Now that’s true entrepreneurship!
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Currently, I own a thriving Digital Marketing Agency called Madison + Harlow and a Digital Magazine, Black Style Report. I am known in the digital space as “Miss Viral” and have spent over a million dollars in advertising budget on Facebook and Instagram alone. I brand and manage fashion, beauty and lifestyle companies and secure media placements and mutually beneficial influencer contracts for them. While my blog reaches over 26K fashion followers daily, our full reach averages over 100K. My team and I are preparing to launch a niche Black Business Directory soon and I am super excited about it as the process and development has been well over a year of blood, sweat and tears! Additionally one of my clients is launching an awesome haircare and lifestyle collection. We just returned from Paris where we introduced products to celebrity clientele at Paris Fashion Week. Overall, my journey has been twenty plus years in the making and I am blessed to be in a position to help other fashion, beauty, and creative brands receive the creative direction they need to take their ideas to the next level.
I am most known for pioneering Atlanta Fashion Week, affectionately known as Haute.lanta Fashion Week®, yet I am most proud of my work with teen girls through my program, the Global Fashion Initiative™. I am set apart from others because I am very purpose-driven and I run my business in the same manner. If the project doesn’t impact others in a positive way or if I don’t believe in it, I will pass on it. Money isn’t everything!
We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
I have found that in the corporate world, there are so many industries that are run primarily by men. The higher level positions are what I like to call, “boys clubs” and suffer from a complete lack of diversity as it relates to gender and race. This is why it is important for us to create our own opportunities. We must also collaborate and shift our focus from competing with other women if we are going to be successful in our industries. I love to genuinely empower women and have found this to be a great stepping stone, but as a whole, we all must adopt this mindset to see an increase in female leadership, whether it is in the corporate world or within our own entrepreneurial endeavors.
- Graphic Design & Web Development (Pricing Varies per Project)
- Digital Marketing & Content Creation (Pricing Varies per Project)
- Videography & Photography (Pricing Varies per Project)
- Runway Show Production & Castings (Pricing Varies per Project)
- Social Media Advertising (Facebook/IG) (Pricing Varies per Project)
- Book an Influencer to Boost Your Brand Visibility (Pricing Varies per Project)
- Website: www.madisonharlow.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/entrefashionista
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/blackstylereport
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/layla_k
- Other: www.blackstylereport.com
Madison + Harlow and Shaped Light Photography