By Sandra Jordan Of the St. Louis American
Thursday, July 31, 2008 8:30 AM CDT
Talk about getting a leg-up on the competition!
A St. Louis couple came up with a “divine” business plan designed for ladies who meet any of the following categories:
- Find pantyhose terribly itchy or uncomfortable,
- Cannot find pantyhose in a color that compliments their own skin tone,
- Quickly get a run in their stockings before heading to their destination,
- Hate pantyhose with a passion, and only wear them when their life or livelihood depends on it, and/or
- Are career-minded or Sunday-go-to-meeting sisters whose idea of “dress for success” includes a pair of nylons.
Divine Dzion are pantyhose designed specifically to bring comfort and elegance to the legs of women of color. Any color.
Owners are the husband/wife duo of Al and Marcia Parks. Leg man Alvin is the affable pitchman for Divine Dzion while the equally lovely Marcia still works full time in the finance department at a St. Louis corporation.
The couple had been looking at entrepreneurial endeavors to develop together. Al Parks owned a tailoring shop in his younger days and had been working on the idea of a hip-hop clothing line – then P. Diddy puffed the fashion charts with Sean John for the stylishly hip-hop, and a list of other notables followed suit.
Undeterred, the couple continued brainstorming ideas for a product that would be a necessity, recession-proof, without a lot of barriers to enter the marketplace and that did not require a lot of start-up funds.
The idea for Divine Dzion poked through like an acrylic fingernail through a new pair of stockings.
“Marcia had a problem finding hose that matched her skin tone and finding hose that were comfortable,” Al Parks said.
“We wanted to make sure we had a product when you put it on your skin tone – it looked like you.”
“We’re going to develop a product as good as Hanes,” Marcia Parks said.
The Parks began speaking with other women about what they wanted in pantyhose, researching the competition and looking for a manufacturer.
Al Parks said they emailed letters to 130 hosiery producers, and got a response from one who was willing to take a chance on a start-up business.
“This guy took me under his wing,” Al Parks said. “We wanted to create a brand. Everybody else wanted to give us something off the shelf.”
‘God is a part of this’
That was the good news.
The bad news – the one manufacturer willing to give the Parks a chance was going out of business after 70 years.
You could say a little divine intervention spread a little saving grace.
“He found another manufacturer to run the line,” Parks said. “They passed the specs to the present manufacturer, and it was one of the ones that did not respond to me initially.”
After a year of product development, and much fine-tuning of the prototype by Marcia, who was the test model, the design for comfort and color was born to the only African Americans with their own uniquely-developed brand in the hosiery business.
The name of the product came easy.
“Divine Dzion – God is a part of this. This is a divine design invention,” Parks said.
Their hose line is designed exclusively for Divine Dzion, without the unnatural ashy gray or “old lady red” tint sometimes observed in stockings worn on black legs.
“The elasticity will allow women who are more ‘hippy’ to wear them and be more comfortable,” Al Parks said.
“The control top – we wanted something that wouldn’t suffocate you,” Marcia Parks said.
Amen to that.
The Parks said at least one wannabe rival tried to get their manufacturer to run a copycat line of their product under a different name, but the manufacturer refused.
Integrity still rules.
“God is in it. Everything went smoothly,” Marcia said.
“We listened. It just shows what happens when you listen,” Al Parks said.
Leadership Roundtable leads
Their pantyhose went into production in 2005 and Al left his job as a service manager for Southwestern Bell to devote his attention to Divine Dzion full time a year later.
They also credit tremendous help from the Center for the Acceleration of African-American Business, an affiliate of the St. Louis Black Leadership Roundtable for office space and expertise in developing a business and marketing plan.
Divine Dzion pantyhose are sold primarily online at www.divinedzion.com individually or through a purchase club membership plan. Locally, the hose are sold in St. Louis at Afro World.
With names like “Honey Brown,” “Caramel” and “Almost Midnight,” the shades sound as luscious and seductive as they feel on the skin as reported by daily wearers and professed haters of pantyhose.
Several women of varying sizes and skin tones on the St. Louis American staff put Divine Dzion pantyhose to the test with a near unanimous consensus.
“I really like them. The color was good. It was a great fit and I’m going to start buying those stockings,” said Loistine McGhee-Sutton, a longtime Hanes Silk Reflections fan.
“They were more sheer – that was nice,” said Angelita Jackson, who said the comfort and last equaled her regular brand.
“I love them! They look so natural, it doesn’t look like you have on stockings at all,” said Charmane Brown. “I want to get a pair of black ones now.”
Currently there are six sizes to choose from in control top day wear or ultra sheer. Divine Dzion is contemplating adding a tall line.
The Parks are also making the rounds at national and regional conventions and selling their product, most recently at the African Methodist Episcopal Church Quadrennial Conference in St. Louis and the Alpha Kappa Alpha 100th anniversary Centennial Boule in Washington D.C. They even created a commemorative AKA sport sock for the sorority.
As far as pantyhose are concerned, this reporter falls into four of the five categories listed above, but mostly “only wearing pantyhose if my life or livelihood depended on it,” which means I wear them during winter months, official occasions and if I can’t find a comfortable pair of knee-highs to wear instead. Admittedly, I am impressed. One day, work and an event afterward put me in a pair of Caramel hose for 14 hours. I actually forgot I had them on. No holes, no runs, and no tossing them in the nearest trash receptacle at first chance! I’m going for the Honey Brown next time – and a pair of the AKA socks.
A recent fashion show at Afro World in St. Louis allowed Al and Marcia Parks to see all nine shades of their pantyhose on the legs of nine models at the same time for the first time.
Like a proud artist who perfected his creation, Al beamed, “They looked transparent on the skin. They look wonderful.”
Divine Dzion pantyhose are sold primarily online at www.divinedzion.com individually or through a purchase club membership plan. Locally, the hose are sold in St. Louis at Afro World, 7276 Natural Bridge Rd.