As I sit here in my new salmon-colored t-shirt, sporting the word “honey” across the front (a term of endearment used for fly girls) I realize this is exactly the feeling Stacy Edey was trying to achieve when she set out to start her own innovative t-shirt company: I feel beautiful; I feel comfortable; I feel like me. According to Edey, her clothing line, Urban Mosaics “promotes the indefinable beauty of natural textured hair signified by abstract works of wearable art, and instills a paradigm shift in the conscious mind.”
What does all of that mean? It means that Stacy figured out a way to encourage African-American women to be comfortable with who they are at their roots – literally.
“I would say that the majority of black women’s hair is not naturally straight. The process of relaxing hair involves a harsh chemical called lye, which changes the chemical compound in hair and straightens it,” says Edey. Stacy explained that the process of straightening dates back hundreds of years to when it was widely believed that it was more acceptable for black women to have straight hair rather than kinky hair because it made them look more like everyone else. But Edey references a favorite quote from Marcus Garvey that she believes says it all: “Take the kinks out of your mind instead of your hair.”
With a professional background in Human Resources and a graduate degree in Management, in 2011 Stacy felt it was time for a change. She went back to her roots by making the Big Chop- cutting off all chemically-straightened hair. “It was a very liberating experience; I had about “that much” hair,” Stacy says as she pinches her thumb and index finger together. “I had what’s called a TWA- a teeny weeny Afro.” In addition to feeling liberated, Stacy explained that it was a struggle not knowing how people would react to her new shorter haircut, and as it grew out, her natural, textured hair. “There were a lot of pressures compounded on me. I didn’t know how to care for my natural hair. I didn’t even remember what my real hair texture was like- I was probably about 8 years old when my hair was introduced to chemical relaxers. I had no idea what to expect.”
As Stacy’s journey continued, she found a t-shirt online that simply said, “Love your roots.” The artwork on the shirt depicted a tree trunk in the shape of a woman’s face and leaves and branches that symbolized her hair. Edey adds sentimentally, “I thought it was so profound, and I realized how it made me feel when I wore it out in public. When I wore that shirt I felt a sense of empowerment. This is my hair. This is who I am. I love my roots-my heritage.”
Edey began to have an affinity for t-shirts with statements such as “Same Girl, Different Hair.” Edey explained, “I liked the way the shirts changed my disposition,” and claimed she wants to be able to share her perspective of natural beauty with the world while offering shirts that portray a unique type of artistry as well. To this end, Edey has enlisted the help of Cleveland, Ohio sneaker artist Van Monroe to create most of the designs, has them printed on 100% organic cotton shirts, and sells them on her website: Urban-Mosaics.com. A portion of the proceeds is then donated to Stivers School for the Arts, as Edey encourages women of all ages to believe in themselves and believe that they can impact positive change in the world through their passions and views.
Through Urban Mosaics, Edey strives to be a catalyst for change; she endeavors to change the way people feel and think about their hair, their heritage and ultimately themselves. Edey believes that despite initially appealing primarily to African-American women, her shirts will transcend nationalities- that anyone will be able to wear them, regardless of ethnicity or heritage because believing in who you are- at your roots- is a universal concept.
Edey recalled an anonymous quote she once read, “Being natural is not a statement. It’s the closest to being who I am,” and added, “I found a way to create a business that surrounds my passions. I know it’s a cliche to believe in your dreams, but if you have passion and surround yourself with the right people, you can make your dreams come true.”