Latosha Stone is the founder and owner of the only Black woman-owned skateboarding company in the market today. Started in 2013, Latosha’s brand brings colorful, unique, and empowering designs to consumers, opening up a larger space for women of color in the skate and streetwear industry. Proper Gnar has been featured on Beyoncé Black Parade, a directory of black-owned businesses, and designs can be seen in the HBO series Betty.
We are happy to share Latosha’s responses as she speaks on her brand, her art, and her activism and what values it brings to the skate community. Be sure to check out Proper Gnar’s line of skateboards, hats, hoodies, art prints, and more at ProperGnar.com.
Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What is Proper Gnar as a brand? What do you/your team and your products stand for?
Proper Gnar is a skateboarding, art, and streetwear brand. It’s also my creative outlet and a way to help support girls and women that are often underrepresented or under-supported in the skate industry. We stand for fun, equality, and acceptance of all skateboarders regardless of skill level.
What is your background before starting this business? What made you start a skate brand?
I went to art school, I have an Associates in Fine Art and Bachelors in Graphic Design. Before Proper Gnar and halfway through running the company, I actually worked in production. In the last few years, I have done a mixture of Proper Gnar, freelance art commissions, and photography. It wasn’t until this year I was able to do Proper Gnar full time.
I started this because I wasn’t really seeing things that I liked from other skate brands. I felt like the styles were kind of basic, and there was definitely a lack of representation; I wanted to change that. I also was tired of working in production and knew I had to do something more fulfilling.
What influences and inspiration are brought to the creation of your designs? Any specific artists or art styles?
I’ve watched a lot of anime since I was a kid, so that has an influence. I’m also really into fantasy and mythical creatures. And then what’s going on in the world right now, things dealing with feminism, politics, etc. Also hip-hop and skate culture in general. I’m always watching new skate videos.
What sets Proper Gnar apart as a skate/streetwear brand?
How it’s focused mainly on women, who are often overlooked or looked at less when at last when it comes to the skate industry. Proper Gnar also shares and supports skaters of all levels and ages, not just people who are already really good and have been skating for years. I’ve also never seen artwork of a Black woman on a board until now, so that representation is important. And instead of just putting that logo on a board, all the designs are creative and original.
The brand also does skate clinics that give kids something to do and gets more people into skating.
What is mainstream skate culture’s history and relationship with women and women of color? Do you feel it is negative or positive? And how is this relationship changing (for better or worse)?
Throughout skating history there’s always been one token woman that’s highlighted, whether it’s in games or on teams, but then the rest is all men. They think just because there’s one, it’s okay. There’s only one or two professionally sponsored Black women skaters. (Check out this interview with ?Samarria Brevard,? the 1st Black Woman to medal in the X Games.) A lot of people are still surprised to see women, especially Black women skating. Women have a hard time at parks; there are definitely some cool dudes, but there’s been plenty of times when guys won’t let you use certain parts of the park. They’ll cut you off, heckle you, call you a poser because you’re new or just learning. If you’re good they say you skate like a man, or they stare to make sure you can “actually skate.”
Women skateboarders don’t get paid much at all, while there’s plenty of men that make millions. And skate culture online from men can be really bad, check the comments of any major skate company when they post a woman and you’ll see what I mean. I think it’s gotten better from when I was a kid, but it still has a long way to go.
Who is your target audience? … If so, why do you believe it is important for everyone, not just women, to support women and women of color owned businesses?
I focus on women but most of my stuff is unisex, so it can be for anyone.
I think it’s important to support Black-owned businesses because it helps the community and can help break the generational wealth curse and the gender pay gap. It also creates jobs and shows that we are out here trying to make a positive change in the world.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Any other promotional information?
I’d like to add that the company will be selling complete skateboards soon and expanding into more shops across America. We will also be launching a sponsorship contest to take on a few more team members. Follow @propergnar for more information.
Photos courtesy of Proper Gnar