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Ayesha Curry Talks Sweet July Skin, ‘Irish Wish’ and Political Ambitions at McMullen Diotima Event

The crowd was a sexy swirl of crochet and fringe Friday night in downtown Oakland, Calif., when Ayesha Curry and Sherri McMullen welcomed Diotima designer Rachel Scott to town.

Curry, wife of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, as well as an author, entrepreneur and actress who is in the new Lindsay Lohan film “Irish Wish,” joined longtime friend and trailblazing fashion retailer McMullen, known for uncovering emerging brands, to celebrate Scott, the CFDA’s Emerging Designer of the Year, with a Jamaican-themed dinner, steel drum music and dance party with performance by Martin Luther McCoy.

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“So many beautiful faces wearing so many Diotima looks, I feel like it’s a Diotima fashion show,” McMullen told the crowd of 50 or so guests, including beauty founder Danessa Myricks, artist Taylor Smalls and female tech executives from Meta, Pinecone and other firms.

“I feel so proud every time someone says your name,” Curry said of the designer, who like her is of Jamaican descent.

Scott launched Diotima in 2021, quickly gaining attention for her sculptural crochet pieces, constructed from overlapping panels covering the body almost like sea creatures. She has since expanded her signature hand embellishment to tailoring, shirting and other everyday wardrobing pieces. All the hand work is overseen by her mother in Jamaica, while Scott’s design atelier is in New York City.

McMullen picked up the line three years ago. “Something Ayesha and I both really strongly believe in is investing in designers and creatives who look like us,” she said.

Diotima World hosted by McMullen and Sweet. July Skin
Diotima World hosted by McMullen and Sweet. July Skin

Curry launched her lifestyle brand Sweet July in 2020, opening a coffee bar and brick-and-mortar store near McMullen in uptown Oakland in 2021, where she stocks her own basics apparel line and skin care, alongside goods by Black female-led brands including ByChari jewelry, Johanna Howard Home and 54 Thrones.

“Sherri, thank you for introducing me to Rachel. You are always at the helm of what is going to be great. It’s always been that way, and I’ve known you over a decade. I remember stumbling into your store in its first location, and seeing designers I had never heard of before that were so fresh, and artistic and creative and always had meaning behind what they were doing,” said Curry, who wore Diotima to the CFDA Awards in November. “I felt so special and to watch you make history and win that night…the room was elated. This is just the beginning of something that is going to be so magical and I can’t wait to watch it.”

Then it was Scott’s turn to take the mic.

“I want to touch on, as someone in fashion, just how special Sherri is. It’s a big world and she’s a very big player and there is no one like you. The way Sherri supports independent, emerging brands is unlike any other; she doesn’t take it on consignment, she buys it. When she invests, she invests and if it wasn’t for her investment in me, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Jada Paul and Courtney Mays
Jada Paul and Courtney Mays

A native of Oklahoma, McMullen was a buyer at Neiman Marcus before moving to the Bay Area to work as a textile buyer at Pottery Barn Kids. She fell in love with the community in Oakland, which was then full of thriving small businesses, and opened her namesake boutique in 2007, the first luxury retail store in Oakland after I. Magnin closed in the mid-’90s. She was the first retailer to buy Christopher John Rogers‘ collection, which she stocks alongside Khaite, The Row, Dries Van Noten, Tibi and more.

“Celebrating designers, female designers, designers of color is really important to me, and being able to bring them to our hometown of Oakland is such a great experience for our community and for the designers to see who are wearing their pieces,” said McMullen, who hosted a trunk show and personal appearance for Scott at her store last Thursday. “She truly celebrates the female spirit in her pieces. You feel that when you’re wearing them — and the essence of the Caribbean. To know these pieces are being handwoven by women in Jamaica feels so special to me.”

Sherri McMullen, Danessa Myricks, Sierra Dennis and Rachel Scott.
Sherri McMullen, Danessa Myricks, Sierra Dennis and Rachel Scott.

Partnering with Ayesha on the event felt natural. “I sold Ayesha a Diotima set for a Sweet July photo shoot so it’s full circle,” McMullen said, adding of the Currys’ importance to Oakland, home of their Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, “They are incredible human beings and so humble, they really do care about Oakland and wanting to make sure businesses continue to thrive, especially Black-owned businesses.”

Before the dinner of Jamaican salt fish and cabbage, jerk chicken, curry vegetables, red beans and rice by local chef Nigel Jones of Oakland restaurant Calabash — and Domaine Curry wines, natch — Ayesha sat down to chat about her business, which is in expansion mode with a just-launched Retinol Sleep Serum and more Sweet July stores on the way.

Sweet July Skin, launched in July, was three-and-a-half years in the making. “It happened after growing up hearing my mom and grandma speak on things indigenous to the land that would help them and that they used when they lived there and me realizing as I got older nothing was working well for me,” said Curry, wearing a Diotima coat and dress and Simkhai shoes. “I spent my nights researching why ingredients work that I’d heard about all my life, and found some science-based evidence, and we formulated something I think is beautiful. I’m grateful we have something that represents Jamaica.”

Martin Luther McCoy
Martin Luther McCoy

The brand sells on her website, on Amazon and at Thirteen Lune, but she’d also like to get it into big-box stores. “My goal is getting more people on board, realizing this is not a white label, fly-by-night situation, it’s something we worked hard on. I think over time people will understand the efficacy,” she said.

“We just launched retinol, it’s the first product we formulated, the last product to launch and the only product I can’t use right now because of the baby,” said Curry, who is pregnant with her fourth child, due in June. “But I tested it for years. It’s a very potent, competitive, non-irritating, effective product. I have very acne-prone, cystic skin and have been able to keep it all at bay. It’s taught me keeping it simple is the best way to go.”

She’s also a fan of the Vitamin C Serum Soursop, made with the prickly green fruit that grows in Jamaica. “I love the smell, how it glides on the skin, how it doesn’t mess up makeup and is very buildable. It’s not sticky or tacky and it’s soursop, which I’ve never seen on the market in a serum.”

Sherri McMullen with Diotima designs.
Sherri McMullen with Diotima designs.

After returning to the screen with the St. Patrick’s Day-programmed film “Irish Wish,” Curry is also looking to do more acting. “People have been shockingly kind so I’m happy,” she said of reading the reviews, adding, “We have Sweet July productions and some projects greenlit, some I’m in and some I’m behind the scenes. It’s fun to have all these different avenues to story-tell.”

And what about an even bigger role, on the political stage, following her husband’s hints during a recent press tour for his new children’s book that he might be interested in running for office? Will she be the future First Lady of Oakland?

“I’d rather work on true policy change and fixing things under the radar than to do that,” she demurred. “That’s scary.”

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