Let’s face it. 2020 has not been a walk in the park. But, here in Memphis, we know the grind never stops. Despite this year’s circumstances, Memphians across the city have harnessed their creative energy, put their soul into everything from business endeavors to creative projects, and used some of their worst moments to inspire their best ideas. Sarai Payne, the designer of Unapologetic’s latest GARMENTS collection, has done just that. With the rough time that so many of us have gone through in mind, she created the “Keep Blooming” collection. Filled with pieces featuring bright colors and a simple, yet incredibly important, message to remind us to keep going, this collection is the perfect way to shake off the bad vibes and end 2020 on a positive note.
We sat down with Sarai to get the scoop on her designs, but also came away with some serious inspiration to take into the new year. Check out the conversation and get blooming!
We Are Memphis (WAM): So the first question I have for you is how did you begin your design career? Like, what made you want to go into designing in the first place?
Sarai Payne (SP): I’ve been, you know, into art since I was a kid, actually. When I was five years old, I said “I’m going to be an artist.” So, I didn’t realize that I actually stuck to what I said I was going to do as a five-year-old. I’m happy about that. At the age of ten, I got curious about web designing. I would look at websites and think “how do they do that? How’d they make this website?” So I started learning how to code and that led me to graphics. But at that time, I didn’t know that was graphic design and later I found out that there is a field for it. And also, I’ve always been into fashion. I love studying how someone came up with an idea for a brand color, fabric, style, and textures. I am also an artist. I do pieces for exhibitions, galleries, commissions, so I’d say I’m a multidisciplinary artist.
WAM: That’s awesome. You’re able to tap into so many parts of what makes you creative. Design and art all work together. I think you’re doing great!
SP: Thank you! Sometimes I’d say I’m hard on myself, but I’m learning day by day to say, like, stop it!
WAM: Give yourself that credit! You’re doing something that people are into and you should be proud of yourself. So, how would you describe the style of the collection?
SP: I would say the style; the whole team had very different plans for 2020. You know, traveling, show tours, exhibitions, all of that. The pandemic put everything at a halt. We all dealt with it in very different ways, emotionally, health-wise. You know, if I’m sad or in my feelings, I just create. That keeps me motivated, it keeps me going. “Keep blooming” is something that I always tell myself. No matter how hard it gets, don’t give up. Keep blooming. That was the style I wanted to play with. Bold colors, sayings we often say. That is something we truly live by. Unapologetic, it’s what we represent. We tried to incorporate that. We want to create something colorful. Like even though this was created in a dark time, we wanted to create something that would stand out.
WAM: It’s cool how you said that “even though it’s a dark time, the colors should stand out.” I know that the pandemic and everything going on with 2020 inspired you to create the collection, but was there a point in time where something happened, or you were going through something that made you say “we have to do this now?”
SP: Girl, 2020 has been a year. So, um, I struggled with health issues. I had family with health issues. I even had heartbreak. Financial issues. And I’ll be honest, some days I didn’t want to keep going. It was hard. I’d have conversations with the team and we’d say “you know, why don’t we make this into art?” There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and we just have to keep going.
WAM: 2020 has been so hard like you said. Encouraging people to keep going and, as you said in the video, “find something to wake up for,” that is something that will resonate with so many people. Hearing a message like “keep blooming” can mean so much right now.
SP: I hope other people get that message too! Like, yes, keep blooming, keep going, don’t give up. I know it’s easier said than done, but you have to try your hardest to not give up.
WAM: Exactly! So, what was your favorite part of the collection? What about it really spoke to you as the designer?
SP: I would say I love working with my team! We all have such different personalities so it’s cool that we can always come together and create cohesiveness with our designs and products. AWFM is the creative director. C Major is the logistics and data person. And I’m the designer. We always help each other out with concepts. I’m just happy that I’m on a team that we appreciate and respect each other as is. We equally all respect each other’s ideas and concepts. I will say I am blessed that I have Unapologetic. Just a family a team, we look out for each other. It’s a lifestyle, it’s not just a job.
WAM: I feel like that type of community is so authentically Memphis too.
SP: I’ve been other places too and it feels like you have to look out for yourself. But not here. I totally agree with what you’re saying.
WAM: In a time where people have been emotionally wrecked by what’s happened this year, how do you keep yourself inspired? What is your routine for keeping yourself full of inspiration?
SP: You know, I had to force myself – when I’m upset or sad, I’m a workaholic. That’s how I cope and I’m gonna admit that it’s not always healthy, but I’m gonna work through it. When 2020 shut so much stuff down, I realized I was going to have to stop. I try to work out and meditate. I make myself sleep. I watch YouTube videos too. I get anxiety if I’m sitting still for too long. So sitting down for 15 minutes watching videos gets my creativity going. I may see a color or piece in the background and go “wow.” That can inspire me to go create something.
WAM: 2020 has totally been a year for us to take a break and listen to what’s going on around us. That break you took allowed you to create something great with the collection. So, don’t be shy — take more breaks! In the promo video, you say that you want to encourage others to fight for something. What is something you fight for?
SP: I try to fight to stay afloat and stay positive when there’s no way to be positive insight. In my own way, I try to fight for equality for black people, people of color, people in various communities. I try to fight for my own peace of mind. Sometimes so many things can be going on that it’s overwhelming. It can be a spirit killer. So, I try to fight for what makes me happy.
WAM: We’ve talked about so many great things, but, if you had to pick one thing, what do you hope people get from the collection? What about one word to describe it?
SP: I would hope that it inspires people to have hope. That things can get better. Let me think…being vulnerable. Like in the video, we’re being our honest selves. It’s not rehearsed, we’re just saying what’s on our minds. We’re sharing parts of ourselves that not many people may know about. I don’t share everything on social media. I’m not ashamed of it, but I don’t always wanna say “hey I’m going through this!” I even second-guessed releasing the collection because I was like “this doesn’t sound happy!”
WAM: Don’t be scared! Even though that’s so easy to say and it’s scary to put your soul into something and wondering how people are going to receive it. It takes guts to make something emotionally charged, but I think you did something great.
WAM: Anything else you’d like to add?
SP: I just hope that people who see the collection know that we put our hearts and feelings into the collection. We hope that if you wear it, it inspires you. And that we enjoyed creating it!