Real Style File: The Harlem Dress Collective

What is your name, age and hometown?

Zina and Shaleena Campbell, 21 years old, Harlem, NY

Where do you like to shop or what is your favorite clothing brand?

Shaleena: I really love Urban Outfitters you can always count on finding cool and fashionable pieces but UO can be to expensive, so my usual go tos are Bershka, H&M, and thrift stores.

Zina: Like Shaleena, my favorite places to shop are Berksha and H&M. However, I would say that at least 75 percent of my wardrobe is from various thrift stores, local and international. I enjoy shopping at thrift stores over regular clothing stores because it allows me to truly find unique pieces. I never want to look like a walking billboard and I certainly don’t enjoy looking like everyone else. Whenever I get compliments its always on items that I brought from a thrift store.

How would you describe your fashion sense? (Diva, I have swag, Cool, street ETC.)

Shaleena: I have a casual swag with a pinch of 70s. I live for effortless looks, high waisted bottoms, graphic tees and flared jeans. My signature hairstyle is jumbo marley twist.

Zina: Over a year ago I lost 50 pounds since then I have been on a journey to develop my style. Although I would never admit it then, when I was heavier, my weight was a huge contribution to why I hardly ever brought any clothes, therefore I never developed a signature style. Now, I would say that my style could be considered as work-leisure. I’m ready to hit the streets or a job-interview at anytime.  

Do you have a special talent? (I am super smart, I can sing, dance, act etc.)

Shaleena: My special talent is having grit and being able to do whatever I put my mind to. I hate having the thought “what if?” so I make it a point to live my best life and go the extra mile to reach my goals. My most recent goals have led me to losing 30 pounds, traveling to 4 different countries, and learning Portuguese.   

Zina: Talent is an interesting concept. Often people think if you can’t capitalize off of it then it isn’t really considered being a talent. That being said I think my talent lies within my growth as a person. I blow my own mind with how far i’ve come mentally and physically lol.

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Who is your fashion icon?

Shaleena: My fashion icon is Chidera Eggerue, known as @theslumflower on Instagram, for her unapologetic sense of style, fearlessness and nonconformist attitude toward fashion and life in general. Chidera’s saggy boobs matter movement empowers women not to feel less than in a society where breast implants and perky boobs are norms, but to instead feel confident and proud in whatever you choose to wear because after all, you can only be you. This is a message I would like to convey to the recipients of The Harlem Dress Collective. Statements like “that’s not for my body type” and “ I don’t think I can pull that off” create a negative environment for girls on a daily basis and even more so when it comes to one of the most important moments in a high schoolers life, prom.  

The Harlem Dress Collective strives to create a positive environment for high school girls where they can try on/pick out prom dresses they truly feel comfortable in and love not because someone told them too but because they know/feel they look good.   

Zina: My fashion icon is Trace Ellis Ross, I believe that she takes many “risks” when it comes to the colors, patterns, and peices that she wears. She doesn’t appear to be afraid to wear anything she wants and that is something I want for myself. The next major piece of clothing I buy will be loud and fearless. I also take inspiration from a website called “Who What Wear,” I am really into outerwear and every coat/jacket they post I would love to have in my closet.  

Why did you start your non-profit?

My sister and I, started The Harlem Dress Collective because we know first hand the strain paying for prom can put on families and in our case the price was double. Our parents weren’t able to help us pay for anything and we had to skimp together our part-time job paychecks to pay for the night ourselves. While I spent my entire savings on a dress, shoes, hair, and makeup; Zina went the alternative route of attending prom drives where she found her prom dress a week before prom. This was not before spending her own money on ordering a dress from online that was too big, too ugly, and too expensive to fix leaving her to scramble for a solution. The stress of it all really took a negative toll on our prom experience and to think I (Shaleena) went through all of this just to show up to prom with the same dress as my friend. LMAO The stress is just not worth the distant memory and pictures we have to show for the night.

After the fact, hearing how girls at our school struggled to borrow dresses and were crying in the bathroom about not being able to afford it, while at the time everyone was raving about how extravagant their dress would be. This showed us that there was an underlying problem, we were too afraid to ask for help and there was a lack of help for this type of event.  

So with just two dresses, we started The Harlem Dress Collective (HDC). HDC’s mission is to attain the best prom experience for Harlem girls by reducing the cost of prom by providing free new/gently worn prom dresses. Recreating the secretive and stressful tradition of preparing for prom and making it a glamorous community experience.

When thinking of what we want HDC to offer Harlem girls we always consider the quote “not your grandma’s church drive”. The Harlem Dress Collective rejects the thought of this being charity work, which often results in not-so-pretty donations. Our girls can look forward to having a “shopping” experience with dresses from new designers and popular ones like Faviana and Davids Bridal!   

Who do you admire and why?

Shaleena: Again, I have to say that I admire Chedra Eggures, I aspire to reach her level of confidence and fearlessness to truly live my best life.   

Zina:  I admire @MiaRay from Instagram. She is one of the very first people I followed on IG years ago and today she has built herself into a powerhouse with her Glamaholic Lifestyle and SameGirlDifferetHair Brands. I would consider her the hood Oprah, lol. I admire he because on the surface she appears to be an ordinary everyday woman, but she is so much more.

Do you have any upcoming events?

The Harlem Dress Collective (HDC) will be holding its inaugural event April the 27th. Since August, we have been working towards the successful introduction of our organization to the Harlem community. Along the way, we have been aided by several Harlem businesses like The Sugar Hill Creamery, Harlem Fashion Week, and The Neighborhoods Women Collective. To say the least, the response from the community has been fully appreciated.

Do you have a website, twitter or Instagram?

Instagram: @theharlemdresscollective


Facebook: harlemdesscollective

Follow our personal accounts too!

Instagram: @shaleenacampbell

Instagram: @zcampbe2

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