August is officially National Black Business Month and PAPER is showing love to some of our favorite Black-owned businesses throughout the entire month. Our dedicated series, Booked x Busy, is all about shining a light on the entrepreneurs and brands that embody Black excellence.

Founded in 2018, intimates and lingerie brand Love, Vera is redefining sex appeal and putting representation at the forefront of fashion. With its lace, leather and leopard pieces, the brand's sexy and affordable offerings are just as diverse as the many complexions and curves they cater to.

A celebration of Black women, culture and entrepreneurship, Love, Vera has built a loyal following for its dedication to self-love, inclusivity and body positivity. The brand's mission is to create opportunities for Black talent in fashion, as much of its revenue goes back into its business by employing Black designers, models, makeup artists, photographers and more for ad campaigns. What's more, the Black-owned brand is led by real-life couple and Millennial entrepreneurs, Vera Moore and Nate Johnson.

Since making it onto the fashion scene, Love, Vera has been applauded by many in Hollywood for its impressive array of shades, shapes and sizes. The brand has since received love from celebrities like Keri Hilson, Wale and even Beyoncé. Love, Vera continues to garner much success thanks to appearances in numerous music videos, including Fat Joe's's "YES" featuring Cardi B and Anuel AA.

PAPER sat down with Vera and Nate to find out how it feels to be sexy and stylish in fashion, why Love, Vera is for all types of lovers and what it's like to be a brand born out of Black love.

Why is it important to be a lingerie brand that embraces body positivity and size inclusivity?

Body positivity and size inclusivity are a big part of our vision, but it's more about removing limits. Our entire lives, we hear messages about how we're supposed to be, what we're capable of and what is acceptable for us, and those limits imposed by others are completely false. We want to be a brand that tells you that you can. You can be sexy, sophisticated, provocative or conservative and it's acceptable. You are free to pursue your own existence uninhibited.

What is the Love, Vera definition of sexy?

Sexy starts and ends with yourself. It is something that you own, is subjective and can never be taken away or compromised. It's how you feel inside, your appearance, how you represent yourself and your attitude about what makes you look and feel good.

Throughout history, Black women have often been fetishized. How is Love, Vera dismantling this?

The fetishization of Black women has been endemic to fashion and so many other arenas. These are false archetypes that have passed on through generations and must be dismantled piece by piece. To combat this, we work tirelessly to create positive portrayals of Black women in our Love, Vera campaigns and across our platform. We celebrate representation, confidence and inner beauty as much as we celebrate sexy, and it gives people an opportunity to consume our content beyond the outward appearance.

What's your design process like? Where does Love, Vera draw inspiration from for its designs?

Our creative process is ever evolving. We started out sourcing from different suppliers globally and are now designing pieces for our brand. We are big picture thinkers, so we typically start with themes around an occasion, season or other anchor point for a collection unless there is a specific statement piece that we have in mind. Colors are also big for us and we have some great ones on the way for 2021.

At Love, Vera, inspiration comes in many forms, including art, music, theater and culture. Our manufacturing and design partners are at the cutting edge of the industry and provide great insight into what is capable, as well. Seeing what is trending on social media and getting feedback from the Lovers (our Love, Vera fans/community) is critical in refining our concepts to deliver a product that people actually want. The hardest, yet most exciting part about the creative process for us now is being ambitious in bringing our designs and concepts to life.

What does it mean to be a Black-owned business, especially when the Black Lives Matter movement is getting so much attention?

The essence of being a Black-owned business is an act of love for us. Love for yourself. Love for your community. Love for those that paved the way. People get it wrong when they deduce our Black business proclamation to simply an economic matter.

Growing up in the '80s and '90s, media, fashion and politics frequently associated Black with poverty, drugs, crime and the opposite of any sought-after standard of beauty. Our identities — communities, appearance, and way of living — were under attack growing up. Many of us have had to dig deep within ourselves and those same communities to learn how to love ourselves in spite of what we were seeing and what we were told.

To be a Black-owned business means to put more of that love out there. It's to tell our followers, many of whom share similar backgrounds: You are capable of pursuing your dreams; you are beautiful as you are; you are talented, maybe even the best; your family, friends and peers are gifted; you deserve the best... and so much more.

The Black Lives Matter movement imbues an increased sense of responsibility into our business model. Our platform serves many people who have amplified their voices through the movement. Economic opportunity is an important equalizer and we are conscious of contributing in that manner. Although human rights and economic opportunities go hand-in-hand, there is a sense of urgency around human rights issues as our lives and futures are literally at stake.

How has the COVD-19 pandemic affected Love, Vera?

As a society, we can't dehumanize the COVID-19 pandemic as people's experiences are highly individualized with some faring better than others. As empathetic founders, we choose not to compartmentalize the devastation that is occurring globally. The tremendous loss of life, along with the social and economic toll inflicted, will be felt for generations by some, and it takes some resolve to show up each day in the face of that.

From a business standpoint, it has given us the opportunity to focus intently and work without distraction. It's really hard to grow a business in the best of times, so the additional hours that we put in under quarantine have contributed to our growth tremendously. Think 16 to 18-hour days during the week and 12-hour days on the weekend when we're not taking time for ourselves. Our products are frequently used in the home and can uplift people's spirits by putting on something nice, so there is some added benefit there.

What's it like to be in love and be in business together?

In business, we have to learn to be more caring and empathetic to our teams, customers and partners. You deal with people, not cogs in a machine, and they should be treated as such. As a leader, you have to make the best business decisions, but fostering an environment with caring, empathy and emotional intelligence creates greater outcomes for your business.

In love, the entirety of your experience will not be a honeymoon. Couples have to solve problems daily and some of them deserve logic and fairness. Solving problems efficiently as life happens creates more room to nurture your love for one another. So many inane disagreements can easily remedy — all couples have them. That allows you to focus on the core things that you love and appreciate about one another.

What advice would you give couples looking to get into business together?

Going into business together will reveal who you truly are in your relationship. It exposes strengths, weaknesses and challenges as you get to know each other in a new way. We think it's advantageous because life doesn't fit neatly into boxes and it forces you to take control of your work and personal life to create the experience you envision for yourself.

The number one piece of advice that we would give is to make sure you clearly define time for different activities. Work time, date night and family time should not all run together. Also, continue to pursue your own individual passions and goals.

What challenges do you feel the fashion industry needs to just sit down and address already?

We believe it's on us as a society to address the things that we don't find becoming about the fashion business or anything else for that matter. As a collective group of people, we wield the power to change things we find unbecoming. If you don't like a business' approach, don't shop there. If you don't like how you're being represented or the products, start your own. It's hard, but necessary for change and creates opportunity for new talented entrepreneurs to come up.

When someone wears Love, Vera, what are three emotions that they instantly feel?

Love. The journey starts with loving yourself. Confidence. For some it comes instantaneously and for others it takes practice. Either way you have the blueprint and we want you to bring it out when you're ready. Empowerment. There is no "right" way to wear Love, Vera. There is no beauty ideal to aspire to. The ideal is to wear it and own it as you see fit, and we are here for it.

Who from Hollywood would you love to see in Love, Vera?

People we would love to see in Love, Vera include Saweetie, Teyana Taylor, Lizzo, Ciara and Keke Palmer. We would even love to collaborate with Rihanna and her brand, Savage x Fenty, given the right opportunity. Rihanna is a leader and generational talent, and we admire that about her broader platform.

Where do you see Love, Vera in the next five years?

So much can happen in five years, so it's hard to say. We have a few objectives in the interim that we would like to achieve. We also can't say too much because our competitors are always on alert. Over the next five years Love, Vera is aiming to: grow our reach with various models and creative talent across the globe, increase the number of product lines and categories, open a flagship store and establish a Love, Vera office.

Fill in the blank: Our Black is...

BEAUTIFUL!

Thanks to you, the world's a little sexier. What's next for Love, Vera?

We are really excited about the products we have coming to market. We're constantly finding ways to enhance the Love, Vera experience, and this coming fall and winter we have our best lineup of products ever — the highest quality production, best colors and options that reflect the needs of our consumer. Stay on the lookout for our nudes! We didn't overlook any detail and have some surprises for you!

Keep Love, Vera Booked x Busy by following @ShopLoveVera and visiting www.lovevera.com.

Photos courtesy of Love, Vera

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