HB’s 2019 Hustler’s List highlights Black women across the beauty, entertainment and marketing fields. These women are blazing paths in their respective lanes while embodying the definition of a true hustler.
In 2012, Milan Rouge was selling printed T-shirts out the trunk of her car in Philly. She had two pieces of merchandise — the shirt she was selling and the one on her back Fast-forward a couple of years and her line Milano Di Rouge is the fastest growing streetwear fashion brand, seen on celebrities like Cardi B, Diddy, Chris Brown, Meek Mill, Monica and Lala Anthony.
What started out as one or two items of clothing with her brand name embossed on the front, turned into a unisex line that influences other streetwear brands. But it wasn’t all easy for Milano, who credits her first fashion show, simultaneously timed with a major breakup in her life, as the catalyst to her hustler spirit. We caught up with the young creative to pick her brain on her hustle.
HB: What inspired Milano Di Rouge?
Milan: I was always that girl to wear her boyfriend’s clothes. I put on my boyfriend’s clothes and wore heels with it.
HB: What was your biggest breakthrough?
Milan: The big break was my fashion show, April 26, 2015 literally I don’t want to show, I was going to do a fashion. I had my fashion show and a break up literally like probably like four days later and at that time I was like hustling, but I was hustling whereas I wasn’t seeing no money. I was doing things wrong. I went to visit my dad, he’s in prison and I was explaining to him, I’m like, I making money, but I don’t see it like where is it going? And he was, he asked me the process of what I’m doing and he was like, the issue is you’re selling out when you sell it out of stuff, it’d take you two weeks to produce more stuff. So and then two weeks you ain’t got no money coming in so you all, you don’t want to spend the money. So literally I think God that I had that meeting with my dad cause right after that I broke up with my boyfriend and he was like paying my rent and all of this stuff, my car note and everything. So when we broke up, I told myself I’d rather struggle and then to deal with you. And I didn’t know how I was going to pay the rent. From my fashion show I had $2,500 left and I just hustled. I hustled, I just flipped it and I just worked my ass off and I never sold it out of a product again.
HB: Who was the first celebrity to wear your brand?
Milan: Meek Mill was the first celebrity in my clothes. I launched my brand November 2012, he wear a Hoodie in December. My best friend, she grew up with them. She went to the studio and he was like, ‘Tell that Milano chick to come down and they give us some gear.’
Milano faced controversy as her brand began to grow when it was exposed that she printing her logo on clothing from H&M. Because her items were made in a wholesale factory, she purchased each item from a retailer. She called it one of the worst days of her life.
HB: What happened with H&M?
Milan: When that whole H&M thing came out, it could have broke me. And the guy from Shark Tank, Damon Young, he created FUBU, sent me a video like, ‘Tell them we all did that. FUBU did it, Tommy Hilfiger did it. Everybody print on stuff. Sometimes they still do it.’ Like that’s just what happens, but he was like ‘For your own people to tear you down it that’s, just crazy.’ When you’re starting up, you don’t even know where manufacturers that literally everything, even my, especially when we were buying them from the store and print and Milano would do because that’s how people start off because we don’t have access to it.
HB: How did you bounce back from it?
Milan: I cried. I probably cried for like two minutes. I took a deep breath, I said, ‘God, whatever you’re trying to prepare me for, I’m ready to learn a lesson and I’m just ready to grow.’ I turned on wins or losses by Meek Mill and pulled out the mall parking lot. I went right to my warehouse and went right to work. I started packing all of my orders because literally that two things happened that day. People were coming at me, but people who were seeing who I was at the same time and they saw that I was a good person and they seen, they must have been going through my page and seeing how I was building my brand.
HB: Who inspires you?
Milan: My mom, because she was a single mom and dropped out of college and high school. high school. She had my sister, but went back went back to get her GED at 28 and became and eventually became a registered nurse. I felt like if she can do it with two kids as single parent, what’s stopping me?
HB: What’s next?
Milan: I launched a womanire last August. I would speak to children at different schools and people will book me for a different seminars and when I would videos on Instagram, some people would say, ‘she don’t even know how to talk proper.’ I don’t even care. God gave me a voice, he gave me a platform and I’m going to tell my story and my story, even though I’m not even the perfect speaker is changing lives and I’m gonna continue to do that. You don’t have to be perfect to inspire.
Shop Milano Di Rouge, here.