Takiyah Roberts is hoping to make a difference for various causes, one stitch and seam at a time.
The North Point High School senior has lent her Undefined clothing line to several fundraising efforts, including mental illness, suicide, Black history, colon cancer and breast cancer awareness.
Last October she designed the limited edition shirt for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The black long-sleeve featured an interlocking N and P for the school’s initials on the right chest, but bypassed the school colors for pink, black and a reflective gray.
“I know my school logo is kind of the Maryland [state] flag colors so I was wondering, ‘OK, how can I put a play on this,’” she said. “And white is pretty basic so I thought, ‘Let’s try my favorite color [gray] and add a reflective aspect to shirt.’”
She added a pink ribbon on the lower left sleeve and her company’s UND logo on the lower right sleeve. On the back of the shirt was NP Nation (for North Point High) above a large pink ribbon to represent a jersey-style look.
People were also able to have loved ones’ names embroidered on the sleeve.
“Unfortunately, breast cancer has affected the lives of many,” she said, “and I wanted to create something that would help to recognize survivors and give family members and friends a way to honor their loved ones.”
She ended up selling more than 60 items — she also made short-sleeved shirts, crewnecks and hoodies — and raised $500.
“I loved the shirt design,” North Point Academic Eagles teacher Joe Burton said in a release. “I like that it was simple, yet had enough different elements to stand out.”
The Academic Eagles focus on creating a culture for North Point while boosting morale during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Takiyah is a great student,” Burton said in the release. “She is our designer. Anything we talk about making, she typically designs and has a copy to us by the end of the class. She is a very hard worker, and a driven student who is set on her goals.”
Clothing for a cause
One of those goals is fundraising, during which the Waldorf resident donates $10 from each item sold.
“I’ll look into [a cause] and if I feel it’s a valid cause I’ll come up with something for it,” she said. “I know a lot of people who struggle with mental health and just being a teenager it’s a hard thing and it doesn’t get talked about, so what I try and do with my clothing is spark conversation about things that are maybe hard to talk about openly.”
As a child, Roberts watched “Project Runway” and “Top Model” on television.
“I just fell in love with fashion and clothes and things like that and it just kept going from there,” she said. “When I was 8 I was like, ‘I want to make my own clothes.’”
She began printing garments as a sophomore, but learned a hard lesson early on.
“When I first started I sent it out to be printed,” she said of a Mother’s Day collection. “And when I got them back there were all these holes in the shirts and they were damaged. I could only use maybe one. After that I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to do these myself.’”
Despite originally operating the business from the family garage — she has since purchased a Cricut Explore Air 2 vinyl cutter and a heat press and has taken over other rooms in the house — Roberts sent out more than 500 orders the first year.
Though she primarily runs the business by herself, her mother will occasionally help out with big orders. And this past Christmas, Roberts thanked her with a Louis Vuitton bag, which Roberts said was “an employee benefit.”
Many of her products are unique. She put an anaglyph on a hoodie and even incorporated the lens of 3-D glasses into her clothing.
“I am extremely proud of Takiyah and all of her accomplishments,” said Roberts’ mother, Lateba Ponder. “She has always been a hard worker and very creative. I am happy she is able to share her talents with others in hopes of touching them in a special way. I love to see Takiyah's creations and I am very excited to see what the future holds for her.”
She also incorporates plenty of Black history into her clothing, including one item that reads “08:46”, which refers to the amount of time a policeman knelt on the neck of George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis last summer in the incident that sparked an international response to social inequities.
“Some things I just see happening in the world and being an African American female sometimes you just want your voice to be heard,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m making clothes for everything else, why don’t I make clothes about this?’”
Roberts tells young entrepreneurs to just do it.
“That’s always my advice for anyone who [wants to start their own business],” she said. “You try and find the perfect time and opportunity to do something and there never really is a perfect time or opportunity. Just believe in yourself. There’s nothing stopping you other than you.”
Roberts’ next collection “New Year New U and D” drops Jan. 15.
“I didn’t think it would be as a crazy as it was,” she said. For more information on Roberts’ Undefined clothing line, go to www.undefineddrip.com.