Comedian, actress, and producer Amanda Seales today launched her debut ready-to-wear line, Illustrious League. While Seales is best known for her role in HBO’s “Insecure” and gameshow “Smart Funny & Black” (Seales also hosted 2020’s BET Awards), she also has a deep-rooted, creative background in illustration.
“My mom, this morning, was like, ‘Well of course you have a clothing line! You’ve been drawing clothes since I can remember,’” Seales said over the phone, later adding, “A lot of people don’t know but I designed the logo for ‘Smart Funny & Black’ and for my podcast. I do a lot of our graphics, edit our promos — it’s the creative stuff I want to still do.”
Seales also has designed the tour merch for “Smart Funny & Black” for a few years with the desire to launch her own apparel line for some time.
“There’s a difference between merch and apparel. When it was time to do an apparel line, I wanted to really approach it with its own uniqueness; I just haven’t had the time,” she explained. “Oddly enough, COVID-19 sat all of us down and allowed me the space to create and consider in different ways than I had before. When it came to illustrious League, I realized I wanted to bring my art back in a very obvious way.”
Illustrious League brings Seales’ hand-drawn artwork and messaging to the forefront in feel-good designs geared toward making Black women’s wellness a priority. The brand’s name itself was pulled from Seales’ gameshow and embodies, “a collective of people who are committed to contributing to Black excellence.”
Born in COVID — Seales started the label’s initial designs back in March 2020 — Illustrious League’s first drop centers around self-reflection from the past year’s uncertain times.
“I knew I wanted to do something with the concept of ‘Save Yourself,’ because in this pandemic, so many of us have been forced to sit down and get internal and uncover a healing power and sustaining power we didn’t even know we had,” Seales stated.
Titled, “Save Yourself,” the first limited-edition drop (produced by The Cardboard Box Company) incorporates cozy loungewear in serene blue — cotton t-shirts, cotton and polyester crewnecks and sweatpants, a jean jacket, and accessories (a beanie, logo pin and patch) — emblazoned with Seales’ designs and uplifting messaging surrounding the ideas of, ”owning your power, representing your truth and stepping out in your purpose.”
From initial design and concepting to production and fulfilment, Seales had her hand in the entire process. Working through and learning each process and producing the capsules thoughtfully, with a sharp, accessible price-point (currently ranging from $20 for a pin or patch, up to $200 for the denim jacket) was of utmost importance.
“At the end of the day, I want the people that come to my shows and the people I support to be able to afford it. Especially in a time right now when we’re seeing so much support for the wealthy and seeing how wide the disparity between the wealth gap, working class, middle class, upper class, etc. My audience has always been educated Black women, that’s my main audience. When it comes to that group, being a professional you’re oftentimes running a family, running your own business, etc. you may not have a lot of run-off profits to spend on my line. That’s not to say we won’t continue to offer a range of price-points in my line; I do it the same way I do with my shows, I always have an affordable ticket at my shows. It’s never ‘all $100 tickets,’ there’s always a large amount of $35 tickets because I feel it’s important we consider the whole audience. You shouldn’t have to just have money to have nice things.”
Also important to note, the line was founded and launched from Seales’ own seed money, as an independent Black woman contractor, adding, “This was not invested, this was a vision I had and brought to fruition from the ground up; it’s because of grassroots support and word of mouth that we’re going to continue to flourish.”
As the line expands, Seales plans to introduce new styles on the brand’s e-commerce with accompanying, empowering messaging and new hand-drawn designs, while interacting with her customers through interactive packaging elements, social media and potential virtual events.
“I’m a renaissance woman! I want to be able to use my art and stretch, and not have to be confined.”