Today we’d like to introduce you to Dieudonné Brou. Them and their team share their story with us below:
Dieudonné Brou is a first-generation Ivorian American who grew up in Oakland, California. He spent most of his early life trying to find his identity. As a young black male navigating historically marginalized communities in Oakland, California, and the Bay Area, Dieudonné would soon find himself a victim of the school-to-prison pipeline. Dieudonné’s blended West African heritage & Black American experience helped shape his interest in style and fashion.
While incarcerated, Dieudonné would use this time to search for purpose and how he wanted to live the rest of his life. Inspired by his father and grandfather, who were master planters in his home country of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Dieudonné reentered society striving to be the best version of himself. Drawing on the connection between self efficacy and positive representation of self resonated deeply in Dieudonné’s transformation.
While at UCLA, where Dieudonné would graduate in 2017 as a double major in Sociology and Black Studies, he studied abroad in Ghana, West Africa in 2016. While in Ghana, Dieudonné would be reminded of how style, culture, and community were present in every aspect of life. Dieudonné would start developing many ideas for a company he would love to create that would connect all of those aspects, which birthed the idea to build a luxury shoe brand. Three years later, in 2019, KOFFI NOIR was born.
During his time at UCLA, he would be recognized for his shoes and sense of style. But, KOFFI NOIR would exist without the constant nagging (Jokingly) from his younger sister and co-founder. She would constantly remind him that he should start his own company and do something that he naturally liked. At the time, his sister was a personal stylist and would say, “If you had your shoe company, I could be referring clients to you.” As frustrated and annoyed Dieudonne would be, deep down he knew she was right.
On an early morning watching Sportscenter (ESPN), Dieudonne was intrigued by a pair of oxfords former NBA Star Stephen Jackson had worn that morning. Jackson had paired his shoes with a navy pinstripe peak lapelled doubled breasted suit. Dieudonné decided to send a DM (Direct Message) on Instagram to ask him where he bought his oxfords from? Stephen Jackson surprisingly responded and told him where he could find them. Immediately Dieudonne would go through the website and notice that the shoes had been similar to the many shoe pages that he follows. It was at that moment he realized that those shoe pages had actually been small shoe-making workshops in Spain and Italy. For the longest time the excuse to his friends and sister had been “I don’t know where to look.” but the whole time they had been right in plain sight. Upon that realization, Dieudonne would stay up until Midnight and started calling the different workshops to learn more about their artisans and the shoemaking process. Where the materials were sourced? and if they offered sustainable options that he could offer clients? From there, Dieudonne would sell all of his designer shoes from brands like YSL, Lou Boutin sneakers, Nike Air Jordans, etc., as a commitment to himself and what would become KOFFI NOIR.
As an up-and-coming shoe designer and Youth Justice advocate, Dieudonné wants to create more pathways into the fashion community with more representation from the Black Diaspora. He wants to explore the various ideas, creativity, and ingenuity of the global community. Offering a glimpse into the imagination of how the act of getting dressed every day shapes how people want to be seen in the world. Dieudonné’s success has come from his passion, charisma, and life experiences that have shaped how he envisions his existence. Through style, fashion, and love for shoes, KOFFI NOIR is Dieudonné’s offering to everyone.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The challenges honestly have been nothing new when it comes to entrepreneurship, especially in the fashion and footwear space. I am one of the first in my family to embark on this journey with no real background or deep knowledge of the industry. The thing that has kept me going in this space has been my passion and my stubbornness. (Laughs out loud) Also, I am self-funded and rely on excellent customer service and networking to get the word out about what we are doing at KOFFI NOIR. I care most about the customer experience and the joy our clients express when they dawn a pair of our shoes. Some of the struggles along the way have been feeling like I’m not supported, constantly, and of course, the process of building a brand from the ground up, which is very daunting. Nonetheless, I am not new to obstacles and challenges because I have overcome things in my personal life and I am an example of transformation and perseverance when a person finds their purpose and will to live. So I know if I am constantly in pursuit of knowledge and continue building our community, KOFFI NOIR will be successful.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
This is the part I get excited to talk about because I have two things I am very passionate about and heavily invested in.
At KOFFI NOIR, we are a made to order direct to consumer based Footwear brand. Which means we do not mass produce shoes which allows us to limit our carbon footprint and ethically source materials while providing quality footwear to our clients that aren’t outrageously marked up and overpriced.
We launched in 2019 first as a passion project to design really nice footwear that would standout from the crowd. We wanted our shoes to be of great quality and better than any other footwear brand on the market. We understood that there would be contention over the price our shoes, but as a small start up brand in an already saturated market, we knew our best chance to build a successful brand would mean creating footwear that people would connect to personally without sacrificing quality with fair costs. In 2019 KOFFI NOIR choose a model that would be direct-to-consumer.
On average in the U.S., approx. $1,580 a year is spent on shoes. Most people are unaware that many of the popular footwear companies we are familiar with, market low-quality footwear made of harsh materials, glue and mesh, contributing to large amounts of waste. With KOFFI NOIR, a pair of shoes can last a lifetime, which we believe is more sustainable. Also, because of the quality of our footwear, the return on investment pays its self back beyond the initial cost.
On average it takes 30-40 business days to produce our shoes and once complete we prepare the order to be delivered directly to you from the tannery. Most importantly we provide a customer experience that allows us to connect and build that relationship.
Currently our team works in collaboration with craftsmen who’s quality is matched and with over twenty years of experience, our shoes are produced like works of art. With each pair we care about the style and the durability. The quality of the materials and the craftsmanship on the back is costly and labor intensive and we sacrifice much of our profit to price our footwear below market price. In the end however, we are able to provide you quality footwear at an honest price, which we define as Honest Luxury.
However, building a footwear brand doesn’t stop there for me. I also believe in being active in my community and currently I am a coordinator of Juvenile Justice Programs and Initiatives at a youth justice non-profit called Urban Peace Movement in Oakland, California.
At Urban Peace Movement, I co-facilitate the Free Our Kids Coalition which is focused on reimagining youth justice in Alameda County and finding alternatives to incarceration. As well as advocating for the abolition of the use of chemical Spray, restraints, and room confinement as punishment and abuse of children in juvenile halls.
The Black Men’s Determination Circle is where I work closely with young black men in the inner city to help them find purpose, self-efficacy and reconnect with their cultural heritage that raises their self-esteem and understanding of how they choose to exist in the world.
Social Justice work has been my calling and style has been the armor for how I show up in the work. With KOFFI NOIR, this is my attempt to blend both my passions. I want KOFFI NOIR to represent the culture in a way that allows people to show up as their full selves and their humanity to be respected.
Do you have any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
One of my favorite childhood memories was when my father brought home the MC Hammer doll for me. The amount of joy I had on my face pulling on the cord and hearing Hammer rap one of his hit songs at the time that will forever be engrained in my memory. MC Hammer had been in the neighborhood in West Oakland and had a truckload of toys he was giving away to families. My immigrant father happened to be around when Hammer was giving out his doll. I didn’t know who Mc Hammer was because I was so young but my father knew he wanted to get me a gift. From that day forward, I would ask my dad to buy me clothes like the parachute pants MC Hammer would wear. I even would go to the barbershop and request the High-top fade with the ducktail in the back.
- Custom Orders start at $500
- Sneakers start at $265
- Loafers and Oxfords range between $280 – $400
- Boots start at $350
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.koffinoir.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/koffinoir/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/koffinoirbrand
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/koffi_noir
Jonathan Williamson @jon_a_than_will_i_am_son