ALIEA M., MAY 4, 2016
Meet Halle Malcomb, creator of HalleBird, an initiative that empowers, gives back, and builds community through authentic apparel. Better known as Halle Bird by her friends, this social justice advocate is using her professional marketing experience, passions, and natural knack to create in order to shift social consciousness within her community.
A Cleveland native, Halle moved to Columbus 15 years ago as a freshman at The Ohio State University, and the rest is herstory.
Even as a child, Halle knew that God was important to her life and her journey. As a young girl, Halle attended St. Henry, a predominately African American Catholic school now known as Archbishop Lyke, and went on to blossom at Beaumont, an all-girl Catholic school that she recalls as “women-focused.”
Growing up, “Bird” became Halle’s trademark long before she was creating inspirational t-shirts. All her life, Halle had been her mother’s little yellow bird, but not many people knew/know that. Ironically, one day she was talking with her sorority sister, and she just so happened to refer to Halle as Halle Bird. After she shared with her soror that her mother called her “Bird,” the name spread like wildfire, and she has since been known as (and probably will forever) “HalleBird”.
One of her fondest childhood memories, and, perhaps the most important one, the drive behind her self-branding her company HallBird.com, involves an Easter egg drawing that she did in kindergarten. Halle, along with the rest of her classmates, had done a rendition of a bird hatching from an Easter egg, in which she colored and decorated a cut-out. Her parents had been nurturing Halle’s natural talent with coloring books and allowing her to paint, so she was aware of her gift.
After the class had finished their masterpieces, they’d been hung on the classroom wall for all to see, but Halle recalls looking long and hard for hers and coming up short. A quiet kid, and not one to make a fuss, young Halle shrugged off her missing bird. A few days later, Halle’s parents surprised her, got her all dressed up and took her up to Case Western Reserve. “OOOOOHHHHHHH! There it is!” This is five-year-old Bird’s response when she saw her piece of work exhibited at Case Western Reserve.
Halle began to really hone in on her talent. She loved to sketch and draw, using pencil, charcoal, acrylic, and oils as her mediums. Concerned that she wouldn’t be able to use those talents as a career focus, Halle migrated towards computers and graphic design during her undergraduate experience at OSU, majoring in visual communication design.
During her time at OSU, Halle says that one of her most significant experiences was becoming a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, Epsilon Chapter. The organization, women-focused, afforded her a huge network of black women, held to a high standard, and the organization centered around building each other up. Her sorority sisters pushed her to excel, setting the stage for Halle to step into many leadership roles around campus.
While still in college, an ambitious Halle started her own graphic design services, creating logos and branding for small and large black-owned business clients trying to get their company off the ground. One of those startups ended up being RAMA Consulting Group, with Halle and her business partner designing their very first logo. A week before graduating from OSU in 2006, Halle began working at Girl Scouts of Ohio Heartland as a graphic designer for six years, all while continuing her own design services.
Her marketing experience also includes working at Ohio State as a communications coordinator for their Student Life Multicultural Center for about a year and then climbed the ladder as their marketing specialist for two years, an experience that she credits to driving her interest in social justice. Unable to ignore that drive, Halle most recently began working at Ohio State Bar Association, where she does event planning and marketing. Her work there is deeply rooted in influencing positive change, most recently joining her organization to hold a symposium on race and the impact it has on the legal practice.
Breaking out of the shell:
While remaining resilient with her design services, Halle began searching for a way to continue to do what she loves, in order to build a product and a service for her community.
Her apparel features powerful messages that encourage individuals to be true, free, and purposeful.
In addition to Halle Bird providing stylish, intentional, and inspiring clothing, the feel-good effect is long lasting. Partial-donations are made to grassroots organizations here in Columbus and elsewhere.
Currently, HalleBird.com is giving to three different organizations:
Grace Haven: It provides rehabilitative, trauma-informed care to minors under the age of 18 that are survivors of sex trafficking.
King Arts Complex: It offers performing, cultural, and educational programs that provide high artistic merit and diverse experiences, and these programs increase and disseminate knowledge regarding the vast and significant contributions of African-Americans to the culture and history of America and the world.
Shirts that are sold at local events and shops are hand-screened at Abnormal Allies, a local design print shop, in Old Town East.
Halle plans to expand her brand to include t-shirts for children as well.
Birds of a feather:
Halle says she’s been fortunate to be surrounded by many creative friends that inspire her to pursue her passions. “My friends really inspire me. There are great—and people don’t think we’re here—but there’s a black, circle of creative who are supporting each other.”
One of the events that Halle helps her friends put on each fall to continue to promote and create a diverse space for creatives is the Creative Control Fest (CCF), a grassroots con-fest (Conference+Festival) aimed at the mutual exchange of resources with creatives of color in the industries of art, design, music, creative writing, activism, scholarship, and entrepreneurship. The con-fest features vendor tables, discussions, workshops, and live entertainment.
When asked what advice she had for young women in pursuit of their dreams, Halle says confidence and educating yourself go hand-in-hand:
“Be authentic. Have confidence. You have to build that. Put yourself out there, and just try. Express yourself and be yourself. Be passionate and be confident. Those are the keys.
I want people to be educated on what it takes to do whatever it is that they want to do. Whether that’s through higher education, workshops, conferences, and/or mentors. With the right education and confidence, you can’t be stopped.”
Over the past years, Halle has been a mentor herself, guiding collegiate women and men to become better versions of themselves in their professional goals and personal life by conquering their fears and just going for it. Halle also has traveled to different high schools in the area to talk with students who are interested in graphic design and what the realm and career opportunities look like. “In the creative industry, black students seem to have a lower sense of self-confidence,” she said. “I think that comes from not seeing enough individuals doing what they do.”
Halle Bird says she knows that God is the reason she has seen success in her endeavors. “I can’t do any of this without God,” she said. “God has been a part of my life since I was a child. God and his guidance.” Halle says it was that guidance that showed her that she had a gift. At the young age of seven years old, Halle remembers writing a letter to herself, proclaiming that no matter what she needed to use the talents that God had given her to create a purpose in her life and for others.
“God has me on my journey and I’m just trying to stick to it. He’s been AMAZING!”