VCstyleU: Erica Thompson ft. 7:77SALU

Story by Jacynth Serrano Rodriguez
Photos by Solomon Bullet and Wanyeh
Digital Illustration by Ammor Dennis 
Some of you may have seen the viral tweet containing photos of some gorgeous VCU students sporting varied neutral body con style outfits. From the captivating designs to the jaw dropping models, it was almost too much beauty to handle. I decided to pin down the brains behind all the beauty and get her thoughts on her tweet that broke the internet, her booming brand 7:77SALU and her creative process.

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Bullet
VCU 2019’s Erica Thompson is a busy lady, so much so that we found it easiest to get to know each other via email, you can read our convo below.
Tell me who you are?
ET: Creative that’s creating.
Talent that’s trying in trials and a
masterpiece made from mistakes.
What year are you and what are you studying?
ET: 2019 and I’m studying Business Administration! And I just chose it to get through school honestly, not really a deep thought into it.
Can you tell me a little more about your brand, as it just launched? Or is it in the process of launching? How exhilarating has the experience been so far?
ET: My brand has been out since the summer.
I do releasing in increments, meaning I have my Spring/Summer releases, Fall/Winter and then back to Spring/Summer again. It’s been a stressful experience honestly. Makes me anxious lol! 
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Bullet
What drives you to create?
ET:I can’t say really, it’s just in my blood, in my purpose, my destiny. It was written in stone of what I’m supposed to be and do in this world, and I’m doing it or at least attempting it.
Are there any specific designers you really admire?
ET: I really admire the designer Briana Shaneè. Her @ name on Twitter is: @eenahsanairb & she is the owner of THE MATTE BRAND. From my knowledge, she started off as an online boutique owner and look at her now. Everyone knows her name. 
Tell me where and when readers can get their hands on your pieces?
ET: 777salubrand.bigcartel.com is where people can buy everything.
My site, icyoue.com is mostly going to be pictures of my models, updates/announcements on upcoming releases, interviews and DIYs!
I loved your shoot featuring some stunning VCU ladies, Is that suede or a suede like material that you chose? Can you tell me more about what goes into your selection process?
ET: Thank you love, and it’s ultra suede. Very durable, very stretchy. Made to fit any body shape. With the selection process, I go into a fabric store, see fabric, buy it on a whim, and then go home and make an outfit! 
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Wanyeh
What do you plan to do post-graduation?
ET: Honestly, the plan is to pursue my purpose. Have faith in this fashion stuff. Take it to L.A. Take it to New York, get my name out there. And if all else fails… the Marines.
Do you have an ideal client in mind?
ET: I target more towards 16-30 year olds. 
What can you share about your creative and design process?
ET: Honestly all there is to share is that it’s a lot of hard work. I can’t be lazy, I can’t be disorganized, and can’t fall short on anything. I have to stay on top of everything, always! There’s no slacking!
How would you categorize the style of 7:77SALU?
I can’t because it’s a category, trend, style, and brand all in its own 😉 
If you could get any celebrity in one of your fits, who would you choose and which piece would they wear?
 ET:Once I start doing men, I would LOVE to see Big Sean & Kid Cudi in my stuff. Women wise: Zendaya, Kendall Jenner.
Biggest supporter?
ET:My brother Dominique. Everytime I come up with an idea, or I’m having difficulties I text him immediately. He knows everyday he’s going to get a text from me, lol. Whenever I get discouraged, he’s there. He even said that I inspire him…. and for him being 26, and me being 19 + 1 (I never say “20” lol), it’s an honor. Also my friend Morgan that goes to GMU. She was the first person to interview me, the biggest supporter besides my brother, that has been there since day 1. Definitely when I’m famous, they’ll be sitting courtside with me at the basketball games, like other celebs! Haha
Where do you get your inspiration for concepts?
ET:I will literally be sitting at work, and all of sudden something will come in my head, and I always keep paper and pen with me so I can do a rough sketch of it, and work on it when I get home. Then I buy the fabric and with trial and error…. try to put in physical form, what was in my head.
Have you had to deal with any failures or naysayers as you’ve embarked on this journey, how do you deal?
ET: Be prepared to read a lot lol, but oh of course! Many many failures! I’ve had an ass of a contractor for my Spring/Summer 2016 line, who fell short of providing the work I paid him for, so that ended up being a fail PLUS a big waste of money. I work extremely hard for my money, so seeing all of my money go to waste like that… was discouraging. I wanted to give up. So with that, I’d encourage those who want to start a fashion line, be wise of who you choose as a contractor. With the Fall 2016 line, it’s crazy because people will verbally support you, give you all the “likes” and “retweets” but when it comes down to actually buying the designs… they don’t. That’s why all the likes, and retweets and compliments mean nothing to me, unless the outcome is income. And regardless of this being a passion, I’m trying to get paid off of my passions. Money is always the motive. So if in the outcome, there’s no income… I’m wasting the money I invested. It’s like throwing money in the trash! Yes I love setting up photoshoots and choosing the girls to model them, but money… any innovator, any designer, any talented person period will tell you that if the money isn’t coming in like you thought it would be…. it’s discouraging. It’s like “Well what am I even investing all of this money in this for?” I deal with the failures with a few tears, some prayers to God, couple of text messages to my brother, my friend Morgan, my photographers Solo & Wanyeh… and then I keep going. They give me motivation. I keep moving forward. I keep working harder/smarter. I gotta do this, because my mom needs me. Giving up wouldn’t do her justice to all the sacrifices she has made for me and my brothers. I gotta keep going. I gotta make it so that she’s taken care of, always.
Ideally, where would you like to see 7:77SALU go? 
ET: I want to see it being the best brand, separating itself from the rest. I’m talking: an App, a go-to Brand for the “looks”, everything. 
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Dennis
What advice do you have for students trying to form and launch a brand or business?
ET: My advice would be to pray about everything, every little step, every single dollar investment and be wise. And even if you’re not the “praying type”, just be wise of who you choose on your team. Be wise of the contractors you choose. Don’t make premature announcements. I’m an admirer of Walt Disney and my brother gave me a book about his success & his life, and in it, it says “It’s better to under promise, and over deliver than the other way around” so with that, don’t over promise on anything. Don’t over announce on anything. Make sure everything is in place and THEN announce what you’ve been working hard on. Just like when Beyonce released her album out of the blue, all of a sudden, without any acknowledgment, without any promotions of what she was doing, EVERYONE was surprised. Do that. Be sneaky and then be a surprise.

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