Tracy Hiner of Black Crow Studios ties each of her striking collections to a charity or cause—and shares eight L.A. initiatives she believes are deserving of your support, too.
By Kelly Phillips Badal
If you’ve ever thought your voice isn’t loud enough or your platform isn’t large enough to make a difference in the world, Tracy Hiner begs to differ. An artist known for the avant-guard custom wallcoverings she produces through her company, Black Crow Studios, Hiner is also an outspoken activist passionate about dozens of causes—among them, racial inequities, women’s rights, animal welfare and criminal justice reform. Yet she struggled with exactly how to support these initiatives in a substantive way. At one time, her desire to make a larger impact grew to such a breaking point that she even considered changing careers. “I kept thinking, ‘there’s so many major things going on in the world, and wallpaper isn’t even important; I need a bigger purpose,’” she recalls.
Hiner ultimately decided to embrace what she already had and loved: A small-but-mighty wallpaper brand already known for its products’ bold point-of-view, an edgy aesthetic Hiner likens to “the punk rock kids who now want to decorate their homes.” So she tied the sales of her products directly to causes she believes in. And she didn’t start small. Hiner launched Black Crow Studio’s ‘Rebel With a Cause’ program in 2017, donating up to a whopping 50% of her personal income from each sale to specific causes dear to her heart. It’s a stunning mission in itself, but one she also hopes serves as an example to stir the greater design community into action, too. “I still see so many brands dedicate, maybe, 1% or 5% of their proceeds from a certain sale to charity—but, really, what will that do? Why not donate 50%? And if you really believe in something, why not keep that donation going?” she asks. “In this luxury market, with what people spend on products, if 10% of all of the dollars spent were given to good causes it could change the whole world.”
Hiner may have been ahead of her time when she initially launched Black Crow Studio’s Rebel with a Cause program, but now, moving into its fourth year, her company’s approach is exactly what other brands are quickly emulating. The social reckonings of the past year in particular, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the exposure of sexist, gendered and racist inequalities, drove many brands to declare themselves. And though Hiner grouses over some of the more “performative” declarations, she believes the overall direction is good. “People now expect this, they want companies to stand up for what they believe in and say it—not just be this black hole behemoth of an organization,” she says. “You want to know that your dollars are being spent in a good way.” She believes that embracing that philosophy, being true about who you are and what you believe both as an individual and a brand, is the future.
Black Crow Studio’s newest line, a soon-to-launch collection called “Vionnet” after French fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet (nicknamed the “Queen of the Bias Cut”), directly supports the BLM movement and JusticeLA Now. The collection is the realization of experiments with draped fabric that Hiner has been working on for more than a year. “I’ve been draping neoprene and chiffon and denim fabrics on stretcher bars, and I’m turning them into what I would call sculptural canvases, then lighting and photographing them to reproduce into our murals,” says Hiner. She drew from her background in fashion design, which includes a stint at a couture school in Paris where she had draping classes, as inspiration for the new murals. It’s one of Black Crow Studios’s most graphic efforts, and one that, in surprising contrast to Hiner’s vivid past works, makes its statement in a moody pared-back palette of just blacks, whites and grays. “It’s reminiscent of black and white architectural photography,” she says. “There’s certain collections that we make when I have this feeling, deep down, of ‘this is good, this is something.’ And it's even better than what I imagined.”
This collection is a perfect example of what makes Black Crow Studios’ work so different in the wallpaper world: Hiner’s creations ultimately have more in common with large-scale art pieces than step-and-repeat patterns. “It goes deeper than wallpaper and it provokes a physical reaction—you connect with it, maybe seeing it makes your heart skip a beat,” she says. Having that sort of reaction is something she strives for in other areas of design too. “I lose my mind looking at Snyder Diamond’s faucets on Instagram; sometimes I want to cry because they’re so beautiful,” Hiner says with a laugh. And the fact that in forging these art-driven deep connections with her clients, she’s doing her part to support larger social issues, well, that’s what keeps her fulfilled.
Here are the Los Angeles charities and causes that Tracy Hiner and Black Crow Studios have vetted, directly support and recommend. Whether you, your platform or your company is large or small, consider getting involved this year—and embracing the power of standing up and giving back.
Engages young people in the creative process in order to shape a society of creative, confident and collaborative individuals. They provide students with the tools and skills they need to succeed academically and personally.
Provides convenient and affordable access to a comprehensive range of quality reproductive health care and sexual health information through patient services, education and advocacy.
Works to end women's homelessness in greater Los Angeles through housing, wellness, employment, and advocacy.
A foster-based, all breed, 501c3 dog rescue in Long Beach, CA.
AniIntersectional organization that works to reduce the footprint of incarceration by stopping jail expansion and reclaiming, reimagining and reinvesting dollars away from incarceration and into community-based systems of care.
Provides holistic legal and humanitarian support to indigent refugees, deportees, and other migrants in the US and Tijuana through a multidisciplinary, client-centered, harm reduction-based practice.
Advocates, educates, investigates, and litigates to advance the rights, dignity, equal opportunities, and choices for all people with disabilities.
Provides culturally sensitive counseling for transgender individuals and communities through a commitment to the highest quality of care.
Follow Tracy Hiner and Black Crow Studios on Instagram at blackcrowstudios