Local designer aspires to inspire community
Local social entrepreneur Ashley Lauren is the owner/designer of Diva Rags & Suavé Clothing and founder of the Diva/Suavé Project. Both entities are headquartered in Minneapolis.
Diva Rags was established in 1999. Lauren creates one-of-a-kind accessories, couture apparel, and signature “Avid Evaus” aromatherapy oils. A variety of fresh incense is also available.
Lauren grew up in South Minneapolis. She graduated from Interdistrict Downtown School (F.A.I.R. School), and Metropolitan State University where she received the Outstanding Student Award. Her academic achievements grasped the attention of local news outlets and helped propel growth in business.
While Lauren attended Metropolitan State University, she received numerous accolades: Reatha Clark King Award, City of Minneapolis Nellie Stone Johnson Award, Art for Change, Stephanie Ball Bailey Youth Leadership Award (City of Minneapolis), and Woman of Peace Award (Peacepower Foundation in Florida).
Lauren was also featured in the Women’s Press. She said, “I’m a lifelong learner and I love utilizing fashion as a way to uplift the masses.” The popular Diva Rags business came into fruition while Lauren was attending high school. At the time, she began selling customized headscarves to classmates. They requested custom designs to be placed upon the scarves, and eventually on shoes and apparel.
Lauren is known for adding positive affirmations and messages upon scarves and apparel in an effort to inspire individuals through fashion. Furthermore, upon graduating from high school, Lauren pursued a college education as she continued to operate Diva Rags.
She opened her first storefront in 2006 at the Midtown Global Market (MGM). Lauren said, “The process of opening a business requires discipline, focus, and passion—it’s important to never lose sight of your mission and the reason why you started.”
During 2006, the business expanded, and Lauren established her very own clothing line that showcased the Diva and Suavé logos. Shortly thereafter, she acquired licensed apparel of legendary artists ranging from Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Prince.
The Prince t-shirts are the most popular item. She also offers an exemplary customizing service for apparel and accessories. In 2006-2007, Lauren created the Diva/Suavé Project that serves as a local charity. She developed the program to pay homage to her late grandfather Danny Davis and his civil rights plight.
Lauren wanted to figure out a way to manifest positive change within her community because she values social responsibility. To elaborate, the Diva/Suavé charity is geared toward educating youth about entrepreneurship, life, and career readiness skills. “It’s important to honor by making change and keep the torch lit for those who’ve ignited the flame before us,” said Lauren.
When Lauren departed from the MGM location after one year, she decided to move into her first storefront location on 42nd Street & Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis. Lauren conducted business in that space for five years and eventually moved to 46th Street and Bloomington Ave.
Right now, Diva Rags can be purchased online and at various local stores throughout the Twin Cities. “The key to success is never giving up despite the hardships one may face—it’s important to cherish those who support you and put God first,” said Lauren.
Lauren further expressed, “I love designing and enhancing the quality of life for others through fashion.” She offers complimentary scarf tying demonstrations to customers who battle hair loss due to chemotherapy or alopecia areata.
Lauren has also donated her signature aromatherapy oils and scarves to numerous individuals. There are a variety of exquisite products to choose from. Lauren creates couture pashminas and a plethora of exquisite and high-quality scarves. Customers can order online or shop at local stores throughout the Twin Cities: Ethique Noveau, Floral Art By Tim, Know Name Records, Walker Methodist in South Minneapolis, and the MN History Center.
Operating and owning a business requires “passion, faith, and perseverance,” said Lauren. Hard work pays off, too. Lauren was acknowledged as CBS Local’s MN Fashionista. She was awarded the UPS Small Biz Salute and featured in various news outlets, ranging from KSTP News, CNN (Tuloko), Art Cunningham Show and awarded Zion Rootswear’s Grand Prize Winner for marketing and distributing Bob Marley Merchandise.
Overall, Lauren has a passion for fashion, helping cancer patients, making change in the community, and inspiring youth to live their dreams. She gave advice for the upcoming entrepreneurs: “Always be humble and never forget where you came from; humility is everything. Also, don’t pay attention to negativity, it only serves as a distraction. Stay focused despite trials, tribulations, and resistance. Dreams really do come true.”
—This story was sponsored by Diva Rags.