Black-owned streetwear label Milano Di Rouge is more than just a multimillion-dollar fashion empire with two-piece sets, tracksuits and jackets. It’s the idea of the founder Milan Rouge to create a place where luxury meets streetwear, and who better to organize such an atmosphere than a black woman. “I’ve always been in love with streetwear,” Rouge Harris recalls with ESSENCE about her relationship with style choice. “In 2012 when I was dating one of my ex-boyfriends, I literally wore all his clothes. He had a bunch of designer clothes and I literally wore them, added my heels to them and just made him sexy. It inspired me to create a unisex brand.
In addition to creating a hub for black women’s fashion enthusiasts, Rouge Harris has continued to use its high-quality brand as a platform for philanthropy. Milano Di Rouge’s philanthropic efforts include donations of more than $50,000 in the first 6 months of the Covid pandemic to mothers in need, an annual downtown ‘Back to School Backpack’ giveaway, and partnerships annuals with local Philadelphia charities. Additionally, for Small Business Saturday, Milano Di Rouge gave back $10,000 to small businesses and donated the brand’s 1,000 tracksuits and 25,000 pairs of slides to Haiti and other Third World countries through of the non-profit organization Soles4Soles.
Additionally, in conjunction with Black Lightning actress and Y-FEAR founder Nafessa Williams, Rouge Harris hosted a 20,000 Women in Need Challenge to donate $1,000 each to 20 women to help pay for their bills over the past holiday season. Ahead, we spoke to the streetwear designer about the streetwear scene in her hometown of Philadelphia, how to style your streetwear appropriately for the colder winter months and what advice she would have for herself- even younger before entering the fashion industry.
ESSENCE: How have you seen women infiltrate and dominate the streetwear style space?
Milan Red: I feel like we’ve always been there, but I don’t think we got the recognition we deserve. Women have always loved streetwear and many of us have had streetwear brands for about 10 years, but now with the current climate where everyone is starting to appreciate women’s work, we are more highlighted, you know ?
ESSENCE: You are also originally from Philadelphia. How would you describe the streetwear scene in Philadelphia?
SIR: Philly is all about streetwear. We love layers, we love sweatshirts, and we love to dress it up in heels and stockings. We’ve always been about the streetwear aesthetic and we just made it our own.
ESSENCE: What are the top winter streetwear style tips you would give to anyone trying to play around with their wardrobe this season?
SIR: I definitely think diapers. I feel like a trench coat is a must-have piece to have this winter. [At] Milano Di Rouge, we have our Christian trench. Just being able to layer that over a tracksuit and a vest underneath doing denim – denim jeans, denim jacket – and then layering it with the trench coat, I think that’s a really cool style . Even tracksuits, you can wear your tracksuit with heels. You can wear it with sneakers.
ESSENCE: What is your hope for the future of women in streetwear?
SIR: My hope would be that we become more recognized and aligned with the Heron Preston and the Mike Amiri. A lot of women [and] their brands they are more like luxury designers but we have some cool female streetwear designers who i think should be seen and showcased with male designers [and] male streetwearers of the world.
ESSENCE: If you could give your young self one piece of advice on getting into streetwear and venturing into the world of fashion, what would you say?
MR: I would just say, “Stick to what you know. Like, stick to your instincts and do what makes you happy because that’s what… I think customers like that. Create what you love and just wear… I get a lot of sales because I wear my clothes and I wear them faithfully because I create things that I really love and enjoy. I would just say the same to my younger self. Don’t focus on the competition or your competition – stick to your vision and stick to your goals. Don’t worry about what no one else is doing.