While every year seems to bring new Kickstarter campaigns for innovative travel gear, we rarely get to see products designed, created, made, or sold by Black-owned companies. Even though Black travel is a multibillion-dollar industry, we’re still not finding a huge range of travel accessories tailored specifically to this market.
One of the biggest reasons why is access to investors and venture capital. Only one percent of venture-capital-funded startups have a Black founder. Still, some Black travel companies are flourishing through advertising, direct support from consumers, and by making some of the best travel gear out there.
If you need to update your own travel gear or you’re looking for a holiday gift and want to support a Black-owned brand, here are a few suggestions of where to start.
1. JADE Swim for swimwear
Brittany Kozerski, the former fashion market editor at Marie Claire, started JADE Swim because she was having trouble finding the perfect swimsuit. Today, her swimsuits might just be your new favorite go-to suit to toss in a carry-on. Designed to act as both a swim and bodysuit, and more than just loungewear, they perform just as well in the pool as they do at dinner.
JADE Swim utilizes fabrics that are meant to keep their shape wet or dry, so you never have to worry about wrinkling or bunching. They are made with sustainable fabrics in Los Angeles to exacting standards — and they’re built to last. These pieces are made to be much more than just a simple swimsuit and could become a staple in your resort wardrobe.
2. Tote & Carry for travel totes
Tony “Stitch Doctor” Dennis is the co-founder of Tote & Carry and an Atlantian by way of Buffalo, New York. He designed his line of affordable luxury travel totes with one idea in mind: “travel with luxury.” Tote & Carry’s designs are made to be eye-catching and tailored in classic lines, and they come in colors as conservative or as bold as you prefer.
Dennis began his career in fashion design in his basement, where he assembled his first handful of pieces on an old sewing machine. From there, he progressed through the ranks, slowly expanding his business until he secured himself as a premier stylist and designer for magazines, TV shows, athletes, and stars.
Tote & Carry makes many bags and totes, but the signature travel set, the Apollo I, is at the core of the brand. Comprised of a small, under-seat backpack and a carry-on tote — both crafted in eco-friendly, snakeskin-embossed leather — these pieces are made for you to carry around the world for a lifetime.
3. Ashya for passport holders and other travel accessories
Co-founders Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece created Ashya, which makes products at the confluence of utility and luxury. Several expertly crafted, unisex travel accessories round out the brand. In the company’s philosophy statement, the brand states that its hope is for each piece to help and inspire you to “move more thoughtfully and fluidly throughout the world.”
Sustainability and ethics are at the center of the Ashya line. All of the products are manufactured and assembled in New York City. Ashya is committed to using only responsibly sourced materials, reducing manufacturing waste, and assuring that everyone involved in creating these works is treated well and compensated fairly.
Though all of the pieces are straight-up envy-inducing, the passport bolo might be the most luxurious. Trimmed in hand-tooled, 14-karat gold plated hardware, this bolo can hold your passport, a couple of cards, a bit of cash, and a boarding pass or two. If you’re not sold on wearing it around your neck, you can style it as a skinny belt to wear it around your waist.
4. Black Travel Box for TSA-friendly beauty basics
If you’ve ever browsed the travel and trial size section at a pharmacy, you’ve likely noticed a lack of products tailored to Black hair and skin. This is the gap in the market that Black Travel Box seeks to fill with its Carry On Starter Box, which is a collection of mini-sized, TSA-friendly beauty basics tailor-made for melanin-rich hair and skin.
Founder Orion Brown started Black Travel Box after not being able to find products that suit the specific requirements of her hair and skin while traveling. Instead of trying yet another internet-sourced “travel hack” or attempting to sneak full-sized products past the TSA, she created the Black Travel Box to help travelers of color.
Whether you’re traveling down the road or around the world, this is a super easy, convenient way to have access to elegant personal care no matter where you end up.
5. Breezy Tee for travel hair towels
If you’re fed up with scratchy hotel towels that seem designed to destroy the natural pattern of your curls, kinks, and coils, you may want to invest in the super packable, jersey-knit Breezy Tee. These are small enough for even the most minimalistic traveler, they dry quickly, and they can protect your hair from frizz and damage.
The line was created by Brie Moore after her own “big chop” and a new commitment to maintaining her own hair, according to the company bio. Finding strategies and products that worked well with her newly natural tresses was a challenging adjustment after years of chemical relaxing. The rough terry cloth typically used in towels caused her hair to frizz, break, and dry out. Instead, she used jersey cotton fabric.
Though their best-known product is the jersey knit towel, there are several other curl protection products in the line. You may also want to pack one of their satin-lined beanies or silk scrunchies to round out your arsenal.
6. Kingdom of Mel for travel duffels
Kingdom of Mel (short for melanin) was started by designer Tiffany Hill. The brand describes the inspiration for its designs as a mingling of African American streetwear and African royalty.
A New York City native, Hill wanted her line to be wearable and accessible while maintaining a focus on creating something that would speak to Black folks across the diaspora, herself having roots in Trinidad.
While the line is quite diverse and features clothing, shoes, and jewelry, the flagship item is the waterproof travel duffel. Coming in either persimmon-hued Kente cloth or pan-African flag color blocking, these duffels come emblazoned with either “King” or “Queen” printed on the side, so you can choose whichever suits you best. And if you’re looking for the ultimate #couplegoals accessories, grab two and let everyone you meet on your bae-cation know you’re truly royalty.
7. Swimma for swim caps
“It is vital that we do not let our children grow up feeling that their hair is a problem because a swim cap is too small,” she told Shoppe Black.
These swim caps come in sizes suited for toddlers, kids, and adults, as well as different capacities to encompass different hairstyles. For folks with locs, braids, afros, and weaves, this product can be a revelation, as traditional swim caps simply aren’t made to fit over such styles. But you may also want to consider them if you’re prone to wearing rollers or a protective style, too.
8. Black Girl Sunscreen for sunscreen
For us melanated folks, finding a sunscreen that delivers excellent protection without leaving a lavender-hued whitish film on our bodies can feel downright impossible. And for many of us, our skin is too sensitive to handle some of the harsh chemicals that sunscreen can contain. Enter Shontay Lundy’s Black Girl Sunscreen.
Lundy created Black Girl Sunscreen in part to educate Black and brown folks about the need to wear sunscreen. “Normally, Black people don’t wear sunscreen because we weren’t taught to do so,” she told Business Insider. By designing a product that eliminates many of the complaints that people of color commonly have with traditional sunscreens, she’s hoping to both tap into an underutilized market and educate people on how to care for their skin.
With two products currently in the line, the flagship SPF 30 formula and a new SPF 50 version for kids, Lundy has garnered lots of excellent press, a multi-million-dollar valuation on the company, and thousands of five-star reviews from thankful and satisfied customers. Though it began as an online-only endeavor, you can now find Lundy’s products at Target.