Zariyah Harris Wants to Encourage Black Women to Wear Their Bonnets

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Hats, caps, veils, scarfs, and bandanas. With the various head coverings that are often seen, there are two in particular that have garnished up a bad reputation when it comes to be being seen out in public. I hadn’t thought too much about it until a few months ago when I started back wearing a bonnet myself.

I stopped covering my hair with a bonnet for two years and my hair completely stopped growing. It was breaking off faster than it could grow. As I began to understand the benefits of wearing a bonnet, I also began to wonder why there is such a taboo about women wearing bonnets out in public; it’s often seen as unprofessional, ghetto, or unbecoming. As an item that covers our hair not for fashion, but for protection, I can’t help but wonder about this narrative that says wearing a protective cover on my hair in public is frowned upon. I took this opportunity to sit down with Zariyah Harris, founder and owner of Bourgeois Essentials, which sells luxury high quality bonnets and durags at an affordable price.

Dove: Zariyah tell me more about Bourgeois Essentials and how you got started.

Zariyah: I started Bourgeois Essentials while I was working a full time job as a long term temp administrative assistant. I knew I wanted to start a business that provided a unique product that couldn’t be found in the beauty supply store. Something different from the regular bonnets that are found in the beauty supply store, plus, I felt like the quality of the bonnets weren’t up to par. I wanted to create something that I would be proud to wear any and everywhere, not only because of how it looks, but because of how great the quality of the product is.

Dove: When we spoke previously, you mentioned moms being criticized for wearing bonnets to their children’s school. Why do you think bonnets and durags get such a negative response when worn out in public?

Zariyah: The reason why I think bonnets and Durags have such a negative response when worn in public is because society has set standards of beauty and professionalism that doesn’t support our culture. Therefore, our head coverings are seen as classless. I want to change that and re-invent bonnets and durag as a symbol. They are our crowns.

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Dove: Wow, that is so powerful. What are some of the benefits of wearing a bonnet or a durag?

Zariyah: Some of the main benefits of wearing a bonnet or a durag that people express are convenience, comfort, and protection. There are times where you may not be able to get your hair done at the moment but you can quickly throw a bonnet on and run out the door. As well as for my Kings, they may not have a fresh haircut but they can put a durag on that matches their outfit and now it’s a look. Also, the bonnets and durags are satin therefore they allow your hair to retain moisture and refrain from breakage, especially when laying down. If you lay down on a cotton pillowcase without wearing a bonnet or durag, then your hair is more prone to breaking because of the friction between your hair and the fabric. This is why it’s essential that if you aren’t wearing a satin bonnet or durag, then the alternative is to have a satin pillowcase to protect your hair.

Dove: Do you think that it will ever be acceptable to wear bonnets in public, or even in the workplace?

Zariyah: I think one day it will be acceptable to wear bonnets anywhere and everywhere. The goal for me is to make sure that I aid in making it a social norm and erase the stigma that’s associated with them.

Dove: How has this entrepreneur journey been for you? What lessons have you learned?

Zariyah: This entrepreneur journey has been extremely empowering. If I only make one sale a week, I’d still be happy knowing that I’m working for myself. It wasn’t always like that though. I’ve definitely had tough moments wondering why sales weren’t high. Now with more experience, I’ve become more confident in the brand that I’m building, so I always look at the positive side of things.

It’s an amazing feeling to know that I’m building something from the ground up. I always knew I would own my own business but I definitely didn’t see it being this soon. I’m achieving new goals everyday and constantly showing myself how resilient, courageous, and creative I am.

Some lessons that I’ve learned are to keep promoting your brand no matter how many likes you may get and don’t be afraid to invest in your dreams. Sometimes you will feel like you’re doing everything you can and it’s not paying off but you won’t ever know if it will truly pay off if you quit. When I first started, I only had two colors for my bonnets and durags. I didn’t have variety because I was hesitant to invest in myself, I didn’t know if I could sale them. I had to let go of that fear and once I started investing in my brand and in my business, I started getting consistent sales and was able to upgrade my packaging.

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