Working as a freelance stylist, LaToya McInnis was finding that it wasn’t the clothes she gravitated towards but rather the jewelry that completed the looks she was creating for her clients. Marrying her expertise in fashion and her passion for creating, it wasn’t long until McInnis, also experienced in jewelry merchandising, was designing her own custom accessories—a side hustle that eventually grew into a thriving business.
“I would use curtain ties to make tassel earrings or I would get buttons and put a hook on them to make earrings,” says McInnis. “Folks would ask me, ‘Where did you get these?’ I would tell them that I made it, and eventually people started to want to buy [my pieces]. That’s how I started CocoaCentric.”
Since launching in 2017, CocoaCentric comprises ethically hand-crafted earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings and other jewelry accessories. And, exactly like its name suggests (a flip on “Afrocentric”), the brand centers and celebrates Black culture. Each boldly designed piece is a new way of showcasing the brilliant range of the diaspora.
Sweet July spoke to McInnis about this gap CocoaCentric is filling in the beauty and fashion industry.
It’s so interesting that you gravitated towards fashion accessories during your time as a freelance stylist. Can you speak to the value of jewelry in shaping style?
I love jewelry and I love accessorizing. I think with ever changing fashion, a lot of the clothing is evolving. With accessories, you really bring this to life, you really create a look. You can have just a pair of black high-waisted trousers and a white t-shirt, for example, but a really gorgeous pair of earrings or a really nice ring or a necklace can really elevate that look to a whole other level. Personally, my wardrobe kind of stays consistent. But my jewelry really tells a story. You can use accessories to tell a story about who you are. Accessorizing and dressing, in general, is about storytelling. What’s my mood today? Is it minimalist? Is it maximalist? You can do that through accessories. I don’t think there’s any other thing that you can do that through but accessories. You can’t put on a ton of clothes, but you can put on a ton of chunky necklaces.
How does being based in the Bay Area help bring the vision of CocoaCentric to life? Any other inspirations?
I was born and raised until I was a teenager in Mississippi, we left Mississippi and came straight to San Francisco—I’ve been here since middle school. But a lot of my aesthetic comes from my Southern upbringing; I’m very much inspired by nature because I grew up in the very rural South. Then there was the beauty of women always dressing up, seeing my mom dress up all the time for church or when she went out. That’s partly where I got my aesthetic from. And then coming to San Francisco, I really fell heavily into vintage and thrifting. San Francisco really fine-tuned the way I see fashion.
When you think of the kind of person that embodies your brand, someone who should be wearing your pieces, who comes to mind?
The CocoaCentric person is a fierce woman who is sophisticated, who loves style, who is not afraid of being different, not afraid of doing something a little bit different. She is driven and socially aware. She is also really into art. There’s an element of appreciating the little things. That’s the CocoaCentric person.
These are people that are able to see beauty in everything around them. They live life with an upbeat personality and an upbeat perspective. But they also don’t take no stuff, you know?
What’s next for CocoaCentric?
I would love to do a home goods brand. I would love to create pieces that you can use in your home and also wear on yourself. For example, a throw that you can put on your bed or your sofa, but you can also wrap up in it.