Black Voices in Childrenswear: Darionne LaQuel

Darionne LaQuel, founder of The Ciao Bella Collection, uses her platform to provide support and guidance to customers and protestors.

Darionne LaQuel, founder of The Ciao Bella Collection

How are you doing? It’s been emotionally exhausting to say the least. As a black-owned business, I’ve been grappling with how to respond. Since last week, protests against police brutality, following the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, take place nightly in New York. 

Why do you think today’s protests can bring more change than ever before? What’s different about this from other movements I’ve witnessed growing up is it’s happening nationally, and social media is bringing awareness to it. You get to see things in real time, before it’s infused with commentary and bias. I’m definitely not happy about the looting, but I’m happy racial justice has been pushed to the forefront.  

From a pandemic to protests, how have your customers responded to the turbulent landscape? I’ve been touched by the support from Ciao Bella customers. Every race, every culture has expressed how happy they are to see us stay in business during the pandemic. With New York residents dying from Covid-19 in large numbers, I’ve been using my social media platform to provide health tips and information for customers and protestors. It’s important to support those who have been marching by keeping health and safety our main priority. 

Have you participated in any protests? I have not, but I have been fortunate to donate and support a lot of the organizations for racial equality. Looking ahead, I see my role in the current movement as creating a safe space for conversation and wellness, along with mentoring young female entrepreneurs of color. 

Did any companies’ responses to BLM and/or Covid-19 particularly resonate with you? What stood out to me as a black-owned business was when Magic Johnson announced he was providing $100 million in capital to fund federal loans for minority and women business owners. The loans are aimed at supporting people of color and women who operate businesses in underserved communities. The goal is to help 100,000 businesses secure resources that will sustain them through the pandemic. Other great organizations that responded to the BLM movement include The Innocence Project, National Bail Fund Network, Black Visions Collective and Bail Project.

Why might you be optimistic going forward? I am optimistic the demonstrations will have a lasting impact for the cynical reason that there are economic ramifications. Businesses were forced to close, and the cleanup costs money. I’ve learned one of the only ways protests and rebellion affect the higher-ups in society is when it hits them in the pocket.  

What’s your biggest takeaway from all this? The U.S. has exposed deep racial divides and reignited a national conversation about race. For many blacks, racial equality remains an elusive goal. Above all else, I hope the protests spur Americans to create better understanding and empathy to ensure political, educational, social and economic equality rights. 



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