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Fashion statement: Local designer brings message to Baton Rouge Fashion Week

People like to talk about fashion statements a lot. Sometimes the statement is just “look at me” or “damn I look good.” One local designer wants to make a different statement, however.

Samjah Iman Saulsberry is the owner and designer behind Chokolat Creme, a label in its fourth year having its first show for Baton Rouge Fashion Week. She runs the company with business partner April Alexander.

Saulsberry, who goes by her first and middle name for the label, has been living in Baton Rouge for 10 years. She attended Southern University before interning for modeling agencies in Washington D.C., T.H.E. Artist Agency among them.

Saulsberry considers her audience those who don’t need to fit in with society’s rules about fashion. Be it simple or complex, Chokolat Creme is for those who “do them.”

“We started off doing [more one-off] clothing, but it’s kind of complicated,” notes Saulsberry. For a smaller label just starting off, designing your own pieces can be quite intensive and sometimes unfeasible.

Chokolat Creme refocused on wardrobe basics a few years ago. Calling herself a “t-shirt junkie,” Saulsberry is more focused on making a statement with staples. Logo sweatshirts and faux leather hats are available.

Saulsberry says Chokolat Creme doesn’t use any one specific brand of tee shirt. She wants what looks best and is the most comfortable.
The main inspiration for the line is society and current events, specifically being aware of them and their effect on people. “Whatever we’re feeling,” Saulsberry says, “we want to put that on our shirts.”

Gender and race play into some of the pieces, and she does consider the company and designs to be a feminist statement.

“It’s about empowering women,” Saulsberry emphasizes. She does not try to be too “in your face” but does want to make a statement. The logo tees make the statement of who made it, but the Queendom Collection has a more feminist angle.

The Power Tee features the names of several historically outspoken and powerful black women, like Assata Shakur and Fannie Lou Hamer. A rendition of Rosa Park’s mugshot graces another shirt. Saulsberry calls her shirts “conversation starters.”

The line Chokolat Creme is bringing to Baton Rouge Fashion Week is called the Conscious Collection, and will be the label’s “premiere” to Baton Rouge, which Saulsberry is anxious for.
The Conscious Collection, Chokolat Creme’s second, is about being aware of your surroundings and awake for everything that’s happening. It is also about being aware of how the surroundings affect your feelings, and if events are right or wrong, so you might call it the “conscience” collection as well. Saulsberry emphasizes that it’s about putting your heart on your sleeve – figuratively of course.

Saulsberry also runs the label’s blog, The Fashion Liberation Movement. The website features inspiration for different outfits and shoots for Chokolat Creme’s pieces, as well as some messages about positivity. Saulsberry says the main message of the blog is to “Wear whatever the hell you wanna wear.”

Every piece on the label’s website, chokolatcreme.com, runs under $40. You can also follow The Fashion Liberation Movement blog at thefashionlm.com.

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