Nothing screams holiday season like matching family pajamas.
Warm, bell covered long-sleeves adorning everyone’s favorite jolly figure are part of what sets the holidays off. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of representation for BIPOC communities when it comes to figures and characters on our favorite festive fashions. The founders of PJs for the Culture decided to do something about this.
“Every year that I made the family wear pajamas, I kept looking for African-American pajamas and couldn’t find anything,” said Vanessa B. Streeter, CFO of PJs for the Culture.
Streeter, along with her son and the company’s CEO Dallas Streeter, officially launched PJs for the Culture in October 2022. Dallas echoed his mother’s statements by citing the struggles they had trying to find African-American figures on Christmas pajamas. He also felt there was a need to make wearing matching holiday pajamas less of a groan-inducing obligation and more of an embraced and cool family tradition.
“Our whole family will wear matching pajamas whether we want to or not,” said Dallas. “So we were kind of thinking of ideas on how to make this more of a cool thing and more of a thing people would wanna do rather than being forced into. We realized that the market for African-American figures on Christmas pajamas wasn’t really saturated enough, so we decided to put our hands in that and think of ideas on how we could put ourselves into some Christmas spirit.”
After doing a deep dive on Google, researching any trace of Black-owned holiday-themed loungewear, they could not find a Black-owned company in the world that produced holiday-themed pajamas.
“[We did] Research through Google Analytics and also through the attorney, looking at similar types of companies for the trademark,” said Vanessa. “Based on our research and legal research too, there isn’t an African-American pajama line in the world.”
With this realization, they began looking for designers, photographers and manufacturers, not having to look too far outside their community. For their photoshoot, they selected local Black Photographer and former Venettes Alum Tayshaun Campbell. Venettes Cultural Workshop is a local training center and dance organization directed by Vanessa and founded by her mother Mary (Suarez) Baird. The graphic designer behind the characters on these Christmas creations is local African-American Artist Amiyah Ford.
“It is important for us to be able to support our own,” said Vanessa. “The person who created our banner is an African-American Venette supporter, so we’re just being very intentional. That’s what we do. We support everyone else’s businesses and I think that’s what we have to learn. As a people, we have to ensure that we’re supporting each other and that you hold us accountable when we need to be held accountable, but make sure that you’re supporting those who support you and as Dallas said the dollar will continue to stay in the community.”
According to Forward Cities, in Black communities, like Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, the Black dollar used to circulate 36 to 100 times and stay within the community for almost a year. A century later, the number has dramatically decreased as now a dollar circulates once or for only six hours in the Black community. According to the NAACP, a dollar circulates for 30 days in Asian communities, approximately 20 days in Jewish communities and 17 days in white communities. PJs for the Culture’s goal is to not only increase circulation of money within the Black community, but again, make sure that people in the community can see themselves.
“[We have] a nice beautiful Black melanated Santa on the front,” said Dallas pointing to their highest selling product, their ‘Santa Baby’ pajamas. “I think we talk about it in our culture all the time, Black Santa Claus, we have songs about it, but we don’t really see it on apparel too much. So I really wanted to get that across on this piece.”
With that being said, they also want to ensure inclusivity for people with different cultures and practices.
“PJs for the Culture really is for the culture,” said Vanessa. “We have a Hispanic pajama set that says ‘Feliz Navidad.’ One of the collections we have is ‘Happy Kwanza’ and you know there is a limited amount of anything related to Kwanza. We want to appeal to all different age groups as well as people’s traditions. It’s really about the culture and for BIPOC people.”
This mother-son duo has always tag-teamed, helping each other with different projects, so when this idea popped into their heads, it made sense to follow through with it together.
“My mom is helping me through entrepreneurship because that’s what she does,” said Dallas. “She’s a serial entrepreneur, so that’s kind of where the inspiration comes from.”
Vanessa, along with running this business, being the executive director of Venettes Cultural Workshop and being Suffolk County’s Deputy County Executive, also founded VBS Hair Collection.
“I think every business I have he has to work in anyway,” said Vanessa. “If it’s dance class, I’ll say ‘Hey I need you to move tables,’ ‘Can you set this up?” or if it’s the hair business, I’ll ask ‘Can you do the packaging for me?’ So I’m asking him to do things but it’s really nice when he’s like ‘No I think you should do X, Y and Z,’ and I’m willing to take on the reverse role.”
Originally, Dallas went to Howard University and graduated with a sports marketing degree and community and development minor, but like with many other people, the pandemic caused a lack of work and a change in plans. He went into entrepreneurship with the guidance and support of his mother, learning the nitty gritty of the business from SEO strategies to figuring out what sublimation is.
“It looks easy to just create a website and put it up for people to have but there’s a lot more that goes into that,” said Dallas. “You have to put in different search engine tools and things that will have your website pop up more frequently because there are a whole bunch of websites out there.”
“[We also had to look] at the different types of ways to apply the images to the shirts to ensure ease and comfortability,” said Vanessa. “Then we went over sizing, you know ‘What is your medium size gonna look like?’, ‘What is the length of the sleeve?’, ‘What is the waist?'”
Working through these issues together and coming up with creative ways to bring the festive vibe to families and friends alike is what makes the business fun for both of them.
” [It’s] An opportunity where we can collaborate on a consistent basis, talking about the business and different marketing ideas is an opportunity to spend time with family, in particular Dallas,” said Vanessa.
“That is part of the reward,” agreed Dallas. “And also, when we had our photoshoot it was a nice vibe. Everybody seemed very happy and festive and I feel like that was kind of our goal in making the pajamas, to make people feel good in what they’re wearing.”
In the future, they hope to release a new set of pajamas for each holiday, which may include a Valentine’s Day release. They are also looking to provide more clothing options for children.
“We’ve been floating around the idea of affirmation-based pajamas for our younger audience, so the K-7th age group,” said Dallas. “We want some affirmations on their pajamas like, ‘You are a Kings,’ ‘You are a Queens,’ things of that nature for a parent to say to their child every night before they go to sleep.”
For more information on PJs for the Culture, you can check out their website here.