Yolande’s Yard: Harlem Creative Collective, Where Style Meets Sustainability And Community

November 30, 2023

By Yolande Brener and photographs by Rudy Collins

As the door of Harlem Creative Collective opened, a hidden pocket of dreams emerged on 147th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem, NY.

Owner, Ms. Cassandra Goins, greeted me, a petite figure dressed in black, accessorized with locally crafted black hoop earrings and a delicate gold chain bearing the word “Mighty.”

Harlem Creative Collective started as a stoop sale outside Ms. Goins’s brownstone in 2020, as she looked for creative ways to foster community during the early months of lockdown. Later that year, the first popup was a Christmas Bazaar for style-conscious locals. The permanent home of Harlem Creative Collective is a converted one-bedroom apartment, right behind the original stoop sale. It is in part a “response to other local creatives,” and enjoys a wide demographic of customers including Broadway actors, judges, and attorneys.

A framed photograph of Michael K. Williams looks over the menswear section, which still contains some of the late actor’s clothing. Williams purged his closet to clean up his carbon footprint and contribute to one of the early popups. He contributed the proceeds to his charity, BKBMG (Brooklyn Boy Makes Good).

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“It took a U-Haul truck to bring the amount of inventory from his house,” Ms. Goins remembered. “All his red carpet looks.” In his career, Williams was nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards, and won an NAACP Image Award for his iconic role as Omar in The Wire, which was praised by President Barack Obama.

Jewelry and accessories wink from the counter and in the center of the store. Here, Ms. Goins sells work by local artists including:

  • Makeba Lloyd; Butter By Keba: A Harlem-born premium line of body butter, adding a touch of luxury to your skincare routine.
  • Devine Bailey; Pop Pins NYC: A fashion pin line dedicated to celebrating black pop culture, offering an array of stylish pins to express your unique identity.
  • Amanda Webb; Harlem Hoops: Reimagining the 90’s Bamboo Earrings, infusing a nostalgic touch into your jewelry collection.
  • Rachel Pinsen; Joy Joy: Fine Jewelry that exudes elegance and craftsmanship, adding a touch of sophistication to your wardrobe.
  • Ana Sanjurjo: A 97-year-old artisan, crafting handmade costume jewelry without the need for glasses, proving that creativity knows no age.

“I tried to create a platform for the community. For artists and creatives. I don’t have a lot of space. But I’ve used it to give them a point of sale.” Ms. Goins prides herself on the high-quality fabrics, designer labels, and carefully curated items in the store. It’s the perfect place to come and buy an item that no one else will have, whether you’re going out for the night, or want to add a bit of style to your daily life.

“A lot of people got stuck in their sweat suits during COVID,” said Ms. Goins, “and people said, ‘Yeah, but I have nowhere to go.’ And I said you know what? I have nowhere to go either. But every day I get dressed and I come, and I stand out on my stoop and get ready for my day. And that’s what makes me feel good.”

Ms. Goins’s collection includes pieces by Lanvin, Chanel, Coach, and Gucci, as well as local designers like Ronny Kobo. The prices range from $20 to $3500. I spotted a royal blue velvet dress and a faux fur vest that I added to my wish list and noted that the dress was only $30.

Harlem Creative Collective invites shoppers to embark on a boutique journey, breathing life into their wardrobes or finding that one-of-a-kind gift. Here, style meets sustainability, and the community thrives, making it a haven for those who appreciate the art of fashion and the power of conscious choices.

Harlem Creative Collective, Garden Level, 736 St Nicholas Ave, New York, NY 10031, 917.482.8814, @harlemcreativecollective.

Related: Cleverfy Beauty Shower Steamers are available on their Amazon Store.

Yolande Brenner

Yolande Brener is a mom, an educator, a Harlemite who works at CBS, writes for Harlem World Magazine, and is the author of Holy Candy: Why I Joined A Cult And Married a Stranger Culture/. Read more Yolande’s Yard here.

Photo credit: 1-10) By Rudy Collins.

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