Four Howard students. Three years. Two Harlem natives. One mission. The Co-Z Clothing Brand started out as a vision to create a sense of comfort for those who always seemed to feel out of place but has grown into so much more over the past three years.
“Howard was a culture shock, and it taught me that all black people are not the same,” said Co-Z founder and Howard University senior Tanay Davis. “Coming from an urban New York neighborhood people would label me as aggressive.”
Davis expressed her deep desire to relate and connect to many of the other students on campus. However, she wanted to do this while embracing the beauty that was already within herself.
“When we got to Howard’s campus, we felt a sense of discomfort. We hadn’t really found our place, and we struggled with accepting ourselves,” Davis said.
But, she refused to fall prey to self doubt. Instead Davis, alongside co-founders Idalis Sosa, Riham Abbas, and Brittney Zapata joined forces to create the reality they desired to see. They all hail from urban communities in New York and Texas, which proved to serve as a diverse launching pad when it came to each of their interests.
Davis has put her knowledge as a marketing major to use while helping to organize campaigns for the brand. In her free time, she likes to serve in the community by hosting collection drives and working at food banks. In the past she also interned for Councilwoman Inez Barron to help pass important legislation for communities of color.
Sosa is a budding rapper and lyricist. Through her music, she aims to create an environment that is reflective of the Co-Z cause by utilizing motivational lyrics that encourage listeners to accept themselves.
Abbas chooses to lead by example when it comes to showing others how to speak through their style. Her Instagram is a staple account for those looking for tips on how to boost their fashion creativity. Many of her outfits include simple staple colors such as black, white and nude which leave a lot of room for creative pairing and a bright personality to shine.
Lastly, Zapata who has worked extensively in public relations uses her skills to combine all of the girls background into a cohesive brand focused on a collective message.
With a simple graffiti logo, the four girls were able to incorporate each of their strengths into co-creating 90s inspired fashion to be used as a tool to influence the future by uplifting silenced voices. The Co-Z brand has had numerous logos but recently settled on a bear. The four girls each sketched a mockup of the design, then sent it to Howard artist Joelius Dubois, who came up with the perfect digital drawing.
“[The Co-Z Bear] has been through a lot. He’s been through trials and tribulations, he’s been broken down, he’s been beat up,” said Sosa. “He’s got patches on him, he’s made of all these different parts and even though he’s been through so much still he stands; he’s sitting up right, looking you in the face.”
Most of the pieces feature “The Co-Z Bear.” It’s the girl’s hope that the logo can be a sign of motivation to each individual customer; encouraging them to find strength in their struggle.
“Our goal is to pay homage to the people who came before us, especially people from urban communities,” said Davis. “We understand how it feels to come from neighborhoods that don’t have resources.”
It is their goal to use their social media platform not only to promote Co-Z, but also share valuable information throughout social media. A few of their campaigns have covered the importance of breast cancer screenings, COVID-19 social distancing regulations and the global movement to end SARS, which focuses on police brutality in Nigeria.
In addition to posting, the girls have also hosted a few rallies themselves. One of the most memorable being a protest of the D.C. Public Schools decision to close Washington Metropolitan High, an alternative school with a large minority population in close proximity to Howard which sparked the girls interest in saving the space. They felt that it was important for the middle and high school students to see how accessible higher education could be.
Though it was reported that the school consistently under-performed academically, the objective of Washington Metropolitan High was to uplift students and give them a second chance, which is a message the Co-Z brand is always eager to promote.
“I love the Co-Z platform because it shows you can be cozy, confident and comfortable in your own skin and still succeed,” said Davis.
During the holiday season the group partnered with The Mason Education Initiative for their 2nd Annual Holiday Drive. The Mason Initiative is an organization that provides resources to students in Queens, New York; and was founded by fellow Howard student Kristalyn Billips. The pair of organizations were able to give out new toys, scarves, gloves, socks and hats. They also provided new hygiene products such as toothpaste and toothbrushes. Those interested can see the progress of donations here.
The brand has had five drops to date and hopes to continue using each piece of clothing to push themselves and their communities forward through uplifting events such as fashion shows and donation drives.