When she was a student at William Smith College, Phylicia Dove ’09 traveled to South Africa — and she has kept one foot in the country ever since. Dove is the owner of Black Monarchy, a global artisan and fashion boutique in Buffalo’s Five Points neighborhood. The shop features items custom-made of fabrics sourced internationally.
“We specialize in 100 percent authentic fabrics and jewelry from all over the world,” says Dove. “Our main products are the custom pieces that we make from those fabrics. Each piece is handmade either by myself, by one of our local artisans, or by someone from the local immigrant community. Each piece has a story.”
Her words hint at Dove’s other passion: assisting Buffalo’s refugees and others in need. As one of HWS’ first social justice and advocacy majors, she says her focus during college was on “race, gender and intersectionality. I always felt I was going to change the world; I really believe it.”
Dove has provided space in Black Monarchy for members of Buffalo’s immigrant and refugee population to display items on consignment, and has encouraged them to consider the store their own. “When we opened we had [immigrants] from the community telling us about their families, their stories and how they had shops back in their own countries. It was a very organic relationship as they all came and blended together,” she says.
A self-taught seamstress, Dove teaches her immigrant artisans about entrepreneurship and business, and they help her expand her sewing skills, she says. “The people that I have hired and that I work with have taught me immensely. It’s a give-and-take, harmonious relationship.”
Dove is also the founder of the Black Monarchy Foundation, which runs an outreach program for the homeless called Alabaster Box. This program features open house events that “redress, restore, renew and replenish” those in need, with free haircuts and manicures, clothing, a hot meal and access to community resources.
Dove’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by Buffalo leadership. She has won several grants for her work, including $25,000 from Buffalo’s The Pitch competition and another $25,000 from Ignite Buffalo. She also received the 2019 Remarkable West Sider Award from West Side Community Services. With the money, she has expanded the store and added sections for men’s clothing and natural skin care products—along with expanded space to display items made by local artisans.
Dove sees her work and business becoming the largest global artisan and fashion company in the world. As she continues to pave the way in introducing this global movement of inclusion, she hopes to inspire others to do the same.
“I don’t have all the answers to how and what we’ll be doing, but I’m grounded in philanthropy,” she says. “We’ll see the need, and we’ll work to meet it.”