Three years ago, while preparing for a tropical getaway, Kinyatta E. Gray decided to go full on glam for the trip. Among the many details was one item in particular — a beach towel. But not just any beach towel.

“I wanted a glamorous beach towel with an illustration of a stylish, fashionable, and sophisticated woman of color in a swimsuit on it,” she explained to Travel Noire.

Gray scoured the internet but couldn’t find anything comparable. According to her, it’s not often you see illustrations of people on beach towels, and illustrations of Black women on beach towels were even rarer. This presented her with an opportunity to add to the portfolio of her growing business FlightsInStilettos, LLC which promotes glamorous and fashionable travel — a philosophy based on Gray’s own travel style.

Her signature t-shirts and travel accessories featuring “Travel, Glamour, Slay” have been spotted worldwide. This year, her line debuted at New York Fashion Week and has been worn by multiple celebs and influencers including MTV Wild ‘ N ‘ Out and TRL’s Davida D, Youtuber Ifueko Igbinovia, and Real Housewives cast members Delores Catania, Sonja Morgan, and Karen Huger.

Bolstered by that success, the Washington, DC-area native decided to expand on her existing brand.

“I embarked on a mission to create exclusive beach towels with illustrations of Black women — in bold-colored swimsuits at the beach — in light of discovering the lack of diversity in beach towel products in the travel space,” said Gray. “The FlightsInStilettos Glam Girl Beach Towels were born! Each beach towel design has a story behind it. For example, the Author Bae Beach Towel illustration was inspired by my authorship journey.

Travel Noire spoke to the entrepreneur and author about her brand’s biggest wins, some of the challenges of entrepreneurship, and her glam plans for 2022.

Beach Towel
Kinyatta E. Gray

Travel Noire: How would you describe your brand?

Kinyatta E. Gray: FlightsInStilettos is a different, fun, and inclusive travel-inspired brand that promotes traveling comfortably and fashionably. FlightsInStilettos is in a unique niche in the travel space. When people think of traveling, they think of everything else except their beach towels, and we believe gone are the days of old, worn, and tattered beach towels; your beach towel makes a fashion statement, just like your swimsuit and your beach hat. 

TN: Take us back to when you first had the idea for the towels.

KG: The Glam Girl Beach Towels were inspired by my desire to create luxury microfiber beach towels with beautiful illustrations of black women in bold-colored swimsuits at the beach. Unfortunately, I could not find beach towels fitting this description on the market three years ago and discovered an overall lack of illustrations of black women on beach towels, period. I found beach towels plenteous with illustrations that included unicorns, animals, and abstract designs, but there were no beach towel designs with black women. So, I set out to change that one beach towel at a time. 

TN: How were they received by the public?

KG: The public has been very receptive to the idea of glam girl beach towels. Our customers often tag us on their social media posts several times per year because they never travel without their beach towels. Our customers are pleasantly surprised when they receive their beach towels because our towels are very soft, large, and have vibrant colors. And so they are immensely pleased with the quality and immediately purchase other towels from us. Because our beach towels are so unique, some of our customers have reported that when they travel abroad, they’re asked where they purchased their exquisite beach towel. One of our favorite reviews came from a customer in the UK who said, “Both the quality and creativity that has been placed into the towels are amazing. To be honest, I have never seen a beach towel like it before.”

TN: What has been the biggest highlight of your entrepreneurship journey? The thing you are proudest of.

KG: There have been so many incredible things that I have experienced since launching the Glam Girl Beach Towels. In addition to this Travel Noire interview, having a blog written by Claire Sulmers of Fashion Bomb Daily, specifically about the FlightsInStilettos Glam Girl Beach Towels, was monumental because it further advanced the idea that a beach towel can indeed be fashionable. Fashion Bomb Daily is one of the top destinations for multicultural fashion in the world.

TN: What has been the biggest challenge?

KG: One of the biggest challenges when designing beach towels with illustrations of women of color is capturing the many combinations of our skin tones, hair textures, and body types in our designs. We want to create the most inclusive beach towels possible, but that will take time. For example, recently a customer said she has very long locs and would love to see a beach towel with that kind of illustration. Another time, we heard from a bald woman, and she suggested we design beach towels for bald women. 

We love to receive this kind of feedback and interest in our beach towels, and we’re going to continue designing inclusive Glam Girl Beach Towels. 

TN: What can we expect from the brand in the future? 

KG: Looking ahead to 2022, we are super excited about releasing our 4th collection of glam girl beach towels. However, this collection is specifically for teens and tweens. Currently, we offer beach towels for adult women and even girls ten years old and under, so now we’re anxious about our stylish and age-appropriate beach towel illustrations for teen girls.

Be sure to look out for “Duchess” Microfiber Beach Towel and “Heiress” Microfiber Beach Towel.  We have also launched an incredible collection of inclusive and luxurious fashion/travel-inspired blank journals, with names like Write & Slay  “Paris” and Write & Slay “Seychelles.” We look forward to expanding that collection with additional titles such as Write & Slay ” Safari” and Write & Slay “Morocco.” We look forward to the continuance of adding travel-inspired black art of beautiful women of color on glamorous beach towels and journals.

This interview has been edited for brevity.