When you walk into The New Blak’s Oxmoor Mall location, it seems like a chic little boutique. It specializes in minimalist fashion, best exemplified by its collection of little black dresses.
But if you keep walking, you’ll pass through the showroom and find a busy hive of working seamstresses building and sewing the same dresses you see out on the show floor.
That’s when you realize The New Blak isn’t your ordinary upscale mall boutique.
Insider stopped in for a visit and got the lowdown on the backstory and business model from owner Amanda Dare.
A little under 10 years ago, the Florence, Ky., native moved to Louisville for college and ended up staying.
For about two years, she owned and operated The Hanger, a Bardstown Road business that specialized in handmade, one-of-a-kind items.
She left that store and got married, but in 2015, she got back into business.
“I started with a Kickstarter when I just had sketches and one dress made,” says Dare. “I got funded and got my first $5,000 just to get materials and hangers and racks.”
That one dress, called The Emma, was a little black dress — or LBD as often acronymed in pop culture. The LBD is a staple of almost every femme wardrobe. It’s known for its elegance and grace, and how it looks just as good when dressed down.
To Dare, it’s about using less and making garments that defy the “fast fashion” industry. The perfect LBD can last for years.
In fact, the name of the business comes from a similar re-evaluation of fashion axioms and norms.
“‘Blank’ is the new black,’ is what they say to talk about what’s trendy,” says Dare. “(My) idea is that we don’t want the trend to change. We want sustainable, ethical, women-owned empowerment for women to be the new black. To be the trendy thing, to be the thing you want to covet.”
Dare may be interested in “slow” fashion, but her business has grown fast — from a tent at festivals, to a roving van, to a brick-and-mortar shop just over a year ago.
She now employs 15 local women, and she projects that by year’s end, she will have paid roughly $100,000 into the community through wages and purchases.
However, the move to the mall hasn’t been without a few bumps.
“I had to educate my (previous) customers on being comfortable coming to a more commercial space,” she says. “They’ve shopped me at festivals, so they’re used to shopping there.”
For the first year at Oxmoor, Dare still took her van “Betty” on the road to make sure those festival-goers knew about the brick-and-mortar.
At the same time, the average mall-goer wasn’t always on board with Dare’s ideas.
“’Women owned, women made’ is kind of our tagline for brand new people,” she says. “Then, once they start to love the designs, we talk about the bamboo being sustainable, or our studio being in the back room, or give them a tour.”
That’s right — tours. The back room, which is about three times the size of the showroom and stuffed to the gills, is pretty much always open for customers to walk through and see the work happening in real time.
Dare wants the back room to slowly become a community space and has already hosted meet-ups and clothes swaps and screened documentaries.
That’s a lot of mission, all wrapped up in a little black dress.
Dare showed Insider a couple of those LBDs, in case anyone still needs to pick something out for New Year’s Eve.
First up is The Kate, a faux wrap dress with a slightly longer sleeve.
“There’s a dip in the hem that comes up on the sides,” explains Dare. “So if you are wearing a tall boot, it shows it off. She’s great and has a lot of flare and flounce if you’re walking, but no Marilyn moments.”
Next up is The Audrey, an a-line dress with a slightly higher neck.
“Most people start the a-line at the natural waist,” says Dare. “I start it just under the arm, and that gives you a little bit more flow around your bra area. If you have anything a bit more … extra, like I do, it covers all that.”
She’s outspoken when it comes to her own “extra.”
“I design for my body type first,” she says. “I probably wear a 10 or a 12, but I struggle to shop, even around this mall, to find things that fit.”
The New Blak stocks its dresses up to a size double extra large, and Dare plans to offer triple extra large sometime in the next year.
Last up, Dare showcased The Penelope, named after a friend’s daughter.
“This is a high-neck batwing, not too tight on the hips, and has a long sleeve,” says Dare. “It gives you space, but it’s still loose and flattering across the chest.”
You can check out the little black dresses, as well as some less dressy options, during The New Blak’s regular hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
You can also purchase items online.