|(Tosha Brize - the humbled mastermind behind Brize Collection)|
Tosha Brize is gifted. Tosha Brize believes in the concept and act of “persistence.” Tosha Brize ignored the lack of support she received and now adorns celebrities with her one-of-a-kind collection. Those were just some of the thoughts swirling around my head after the 33-year old entrepreneur and I chatted on the phone for more than an hour last week.
As a tweetaholic, I obsessively follow tons of awesome folks on Twitter. This includes Tami Roman, one of the original Reality TV stars in, literally, history. Way before her current role on “Basketball Wives,” and before she founded TR LOVE Cosmetics and her own line of Virgin Hair, Tami was one of seven “strangers picked to live in a house” on MTV’s “The Real World: Los Angeles” Season 2. So combine my love for social media, Reality TV, and fashion, and…BAM – I did what I had to do! I noticed a tweet between Tami and Tosha in regards to a special fashion item being sent to the Reality TV star. Curious (and ok, nosey), as to what was being sent to Tami, I checked out Tosha’s page and saw all kinds of sparking, fun goodies in her photos!
The Chanel symbol, Hello Kitty, roses, gold, pearls, zippers, chains...wow. The elements that Tosha uses to recreate simple pairs of high-top Chucks are incredible. She was turning fashion out, and it seemed as though Tami was receiving her own pair of customized shoes directly from Tosha. So I immediately tweeted Tosha, gave her my email address, and asked her to contact me because I would love to feature her on Good Girl Gone Shopping. And then after the successful coordination and connection between two busy women, we made it happen!
In our exclusive interview, which is in fact, her very first interview regarding Brize Collection, Tosha talks about her journey as an artist, her passion in creating personalized accessories and shoes (LaLa Anthony and Trina Rockstarr are also fans of her work), what keeps her inspired, and what she has in store for us in 2014. So it is with pleasure and an honor that I introduce you to Tosha Brize, the creator and beautiful spirit behind Brize Collection. Born and bred in Champaign, Illinois and now based in Orlando, Florida, Tosha’s brand is built on the formula of talent, passion, and determination.
So how did you get started? Tell me about the beginning…
Well, I started making accessories with my mother. We would get together on Sunday nights at her house and make earrings and necklaces, and we would customize. That was our bonding moment. We would watch our favorite reality shows and make accessories! And then, I had a friend who was on Facebook, and I sent her some pieces. Her name is Janet Jackson, and she is a big-time event planner in Atlanta. And she said, “You know what? Tosha your stuff is amazing! Start posting your stuff on the Internet.” And I was like, “Really?! You think it’s all that?” And Janet said, “Yeah, show people what you’re doing. You would be surprised at who’s looking at your pictures.” So I had started just posting the pictures of the jewelry and I got a lot of people’s feedback on the buzz – based on what they liked and what they didn’t like.
|(Janet Jackson - Tosha's friend who encouraged her to use Facebook for Brize Collection promo.)|
I have always customized shoes, blue jeans, khakis, and stuff ever since I was a little girl. When I was young, my older cousin and aunts would go to the clubs, and I would draw and paint on their blue jeans…and do graffiti art, like Bart Simpson. I one time took my mom’s MC Hammer album and painted the whole album on the back of a jacket. So I would draw, paint, and do the graffiti down the pant leg, like I said with Bart Simpson, and other cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny, and I would make them look urban – the hip hop look, you know?
So I had put that away, and then in time, I had gotten into doing customized jewelry. And I was like, “I’m gonna bring that back.” Then once I started doing the jewelry, such as the earrings and necklaces, I decided to go further with it. Then I started customizing the shoes with the matching jackets, and then the blue jeans to match the shoes. Especially for the kids – I do stuff for kids as well, not just for adults.
Then I had a good friend of mine, Ericka King said “I want some Chucks.” So I said, “What colors do you want on them?” And she said, “I want Chanel-inspired Chucks.” And I said, “Alright, I got you.” Erika said she wanted them to be pearl, gold, and bling. So these are another set of Chucks that I did, which are different from Tami’s. I always make sure that my pieces are exclusive. No shoes look the same. So I always do different patterns and different looks. So with the Chanel-inspired looks, what I do is: I turn a purse into a shoe. I get a lot of my inspirations and my visions from Instagram, and I will go through all the Chanel hashtags photos and check out the different styles of the purses. I get inspiration from the details, like the chains, and that’s how I would get ideas for the shoes. Because a lot of the Chanel shoes don’t look like the purses. So I think that’s what makes my shoes stand out so they catch certain people’s eyes, like Tami. The first Chanel-inspired shoes I posted online were the ones for my friend, and I said, “Tami, check these out.” Then Tami said, “Send me a pair. I wear size 9.” And then I was like “Oh wow.”
Sounds like it’s luxury on a shoe!
Yup. When I decided I wanted to create a jeweled shoe…something that would stop and make another person and make them say, “Where did you get those shoes from?” When I wear my own customized Chucks and I go to places to buy shoes after taking orders for clients, the salespeople are always like, “Well, where did you get those from?!” I explain that I make them, and I’m forever passing out my information to people. I have so many people stop me in the stores to ask me about both my shoes and accessories. A lot of people are liking what I do, which is different for me, because I’m not use to having strangers approach me or stare at me. Sometimes, I’m like, “Why is she looking at me like that?” And it’s usually because the woman wants to ask me about my shoes and accessories.
So how did you get involved with customizing accessories and shoes for celebrities?
When I first started, I had no support…really. No support from my family and friends, except for my mother who has always been a very good supporter of my dreams. She’s always had my back. The Brize Collection comes from my last name, and I always wanted to do something big and put a stamp on my name, because my last name is very unique. And I felt I had to create a voice for myself and get out there and reach out to people that I know. And certain people accepted what I did. Like I did stuff for Trina Rockstarr. I did stuff for Trina Braxton – I sent her some earrings. I did stuff for LaLa [Anthony]…sent her some “Picasso” earrings with a picture of her son, Kiyan. I did a lot of things throughout the years for a few celebrities, and people who big in entertainment, such as major event planners in Atlanta. You know, I felt like once I reached out to them, and do stuff for them, that people would notice. And that’s what happened…people noticed. Then somehow, you have to be persistent, make a voice for yourself, and believe in yourself…and then everybody would then follow suit. Because the people who didn’t believe in me, or when I was doing it back in the day, I would get “Oh that’s cute.” And that was that. It was like what I was doing was nothing.
But when I really started to make a lot of accessories, there were a lot of girls that I noticed started doing the same thing. Which I didn’t get offended – I didn’t feel like they were copying off of me. If I gave someone an idea and they want to try and make something happen from it, and do it, and they’re finding something else to do with their time…I was proud to see that. And I thought, maybe I’m settin’ a trend here!
So when it came to reaching out to the big names…How did you go about doing that?
Really, it was the Picasso earrings I did for LaLa that set me out there a little bit. Her stylist, Jillian, who also styled Whitney Houston and a lot of people, is a friend of mine on Facebook. And Jillian told me that she was going to reach out to LaLa’s PR rep at the time, Jazmyn Hurts, and have her contact me with the hopes that my pieces could possibly be featured on LaLa’s blog. So then, when Jasmine actually contacted me, she said that she would like to give LaLa some of my accessories and that she really liked the picture earrings [Picasso earrings]. So she sent me LaLa’s favorite picture of Kiyan to make that happen. And when they were done, we sent them to LaLa…and she loved them. After that, I was dropping off earrings and accessories to Trina Rockstarr, because LaLa and Trina are good friends. So when Trina would come into town, I would get a phone call and her camp would let me know she’s interested and that she was doing a show, and invited me out there. And I met with Trina in her trailer, and then sent her several accessories. I’ve actually met with her a few times.
It’s great that you never let the lack of support stop you from focusing on your craft…
|("Picasso" earrings for LaLa!)|
Yeah, gradually I brought back what I did as a kid with the clothes. I just kept going with it…I just kept building. I have so many ideas on what I want to do for my brand, and how I want to do it. It started by doing Chucks for some kids, and honestly, I just kept going with it. My mom would help me sometimes when I would get orders, ‘cause I work two jobs. So she helps if I get overwhelmed, and she makes things herself. We’re always emailing each other, and sending pictures to each other’s phone about what we’re working on. The shoes, lately, have been the biggest thing.
So with celebrities wearing your designs, you must be so proud of yourself. It’s amazing!
I tell people all the time it’s persistence. I’ve been doing this on and off for years, and it’s time I just ride it out and stick to it. I had bumps in the road. I have been in situations where I invested money, and had to do things to correct contracts and money was lost for photo shoots. I was trying to do everything on my own. Even with working, trying to pay bills, and going through life in general, including situations with family, I still kept going. I kept posting pictures and putting myself out there. I was telling people that these shoes are gonna be dope, and I already was gassing stuff up. When you have self-esteem about yourself and have pride in what you do, it does make a difference. Years ago, I would post stuff but not really amp it up. And I would get responses like, “Yeah, that’s cute.” Now I get “Girl, send me some stuff!” So being persistent and speaking to your dream is important. You cannot give up, because you will get a thousand no’s before you get that one yes. My preacher said that. It has been just a blessing to me to see people that can afford red-bottoms and have lines of their own, and still support what I’m doing. That, to me, is amazing. Trina Rockstar is very down-to-earth. She told me, “Girl, as long as it’s cute, I’ll wear it.” That’s just how she is. Tami could get her Louboutin sneakers, or whatever, but she was like, “Send me those!” I knew she really wanted them, that it wasn’t just talk. That meant a lot to me, because I come from no support.
So how does the whole process work if I wanted a customized pair of Chucks? Do I get the shoe first and then I send to you…?
When a client is out of town, I get their size and go ahead and get the shoes myself. That is included in the overall price. I receive payments trough PayPal, because as of right now, I don’t have a website. I’m currently working on that. (I had actually invested money into someone who was supposed to do that, but I was taken advantage of.) So currently, I am getting pictures together, especially those for little girls. I make hair ribbons, jackets, the Chucks…I want the website to adapt to everybody.
In general, what is the price range for your children’s line and your adult line?
For the Chanel-inspired Chucks, those are at $300. There are a lot of crystals and details that go into the creation of the shoe. For the kids, the prices start at $100. Normally, I try to keep it around that price for children, because their feet are smaller and the shoes don’t require as much material. I do my best to not be outrageous, because I understand how it feels to like something but can’t afford. When a lot of artists and celebrities come out with brands, they really don’t take into consideration that the majority of the people that support you and got you to where you are cannot afford your collection. So I’m always humble and try to do things within reasonable range. People say you gotta charge for your time, but for me, the feedback I get is worth more than anything, honestly. I love to see people wear my stuff proudly and take pictures in it, and then tweet it. Like Trina Braxton – She had tweeted a picture of my earrings and said something like she has a new, favorite pair of earrings now. That made me feel good, because in the end, that’s Trina Braxton. That’s Toni Braxton’s sister.
When you’re creating, what is guiding your inspiration?
I have a relationship with God, and I honestly feel that he places certain people in your life for a reason. I get excited when I’m coming up with ideas, and I’m excited when something’s halfway done and I know it’s just going to be so cute. I was so gassed up about Tami’s shoes, especially when I put the crystals on them. It’s so exciting to see things come to life; something that you have pictured in your head…And it may come out better than what it was envisioned to be. That’s also what keeps me going. And I like to have input from my customers; I don’t just make something custom and not have them involved in the process. For instance, if a person has a purse that they really like, I ask them to take a picture and send it to me. Then I will feed off of that, and make it come to life. I have everybody involved.
|(Guest star from "LaLa's Full Court Life"|
My goal is to create things that will not be easily given away or thrown away. Just like with Tami, I don’t think she’d give away her shoes or throw them away. Same thing with LaLa – the Picasso earrings feature a picture of her baby. Certain styles come and go, but I know those will never fade out because that’s her son and they’re handmade.
About how long does it take you to complete an item?
It’s different with each person, because it depends on what they like. Some things that people ask me for, I have to go and look at more than what product and do my research. Then I can find certain pieces to be able to do exactly what the client is asking for. Because I work two jobs, I am only able to get in about two hours in on a shoe. On my days off, I can knock a pair of shoes out in two days. I enjoy people calling me personally to place their orders, because I get a chance to talk to people that I don’t even know. I had a girl tell me that I’m a great inspiration. That really touches me, even though I’m still trying to get to where I want to be! But I understand, because I look to people that inspire me too, like Keyshia Ka’oire. I respect her and admire her. I even had the opportunity to meet her. I would watch her documentary like once a week and study how she built her brand. How she turned nothing into something. She’s said that she was even told that when she came out with a lipstick line that it wasn’t going to amount to anything. So, I felt like our stories are so connected. I have a lot of dreams and a lot that I want for my collection.
|(Glamming up the kids in Brize Collection!)|
It’s great that your story is turning into an inspirational story for others. Like you said, persistence is key…
Yeah, I’m so happy you reached out to me! This is my first interview. You know, I want to be in the position where I can help people. Where I can help them build their brand, whether it’s business or entertainment. I want to give back and help people. It’s so hard nowadays, and it’s easy to lose hope. That’s why I say you’ve just got to be persistent and not give up. You can’t. I’ve been pushing and pushing my jewelry, and customizing for so long…People started to see that I wasn’t going to shut up about this. I was my own cheerleader for a very long time. I’m so happy for the Internet, because without it, I wouldn’t’ have connected with celebrities like LaLa, Trina Rockstarr, Trina Braxton, or Tami Roman.
In conclusion, what are your plans for Brize Collection in 2014?
My plans are to continue to grow to become a vendor for boutiques in different states. I have dreams to add Brize Cosmetics later in the year.