The newest brand on the Bay Area list of emerging designers and fashion brands, China Royal is ready to take on the world. The brainchild of Berkeley native Shikiri Hightower Gaskin, China Royal specializes in luxury apparel for men and women on-the-go. It combines form and function, keeping lifestyle at the forefront of its designs. And it all starts with how to dress around the daily grind. Meet the team that makes it happen!
Founder and Creator, Shikiri Hightower Gaskin has always had a desire for influencing style. In 2001 she opened up a high-fashion boutique, Shikiri, on the famed Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles. The boutique specialized in luxury and high-end apparel for fashion savvy women and entrepreneurs. In 2008 she decided to continue her education, and enrolled in UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism, where she received her Master’s in 2010, and a bevy of knowledge. Soon after, Shikiri had an idea. Always on the lookout for clothes that fit her lifestyle—student, wife, mom, journalist—the busy mother of four decided to create her own line of apparel, one that married her love of well-made stylish pieces, with her ready at a moment’s notice attitude. Referencing her Chinese roots, China Royal has become like her fifth child, which she feeds and nurtures daily.
Partner and head of China Royal Men, Bela Gaskin is an advocate for the everyman. From living in the city, summers spent on a countryside orchard, inner-city schools, and shifting from negotiating with businessmen to negotiating with toddlers on the playground, he’s well seasoned in being adaptable. For Bela a wardrobe that could carry him from one setting to the next was always a priority. China Royal Men combines function and durability with luxury and style, while remaining affordable for all those business dads. So men won’t have to sacrifice look for comfort. Because for Bela, there’s no negotiating how you present yourself to the world.
Chief Financial Officer Dr. Maia Hightower joined the China Royal team as a newcomer to the fashion industry. Board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics, she studied public health and disease prevention at the University of Rochester School of Medicine’s Department of Community and Preventive Health. She also received her MBA at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011. Through her studies she’s always stressed the importance of the arts, creative outlets, and women in business. So when sister Shikiri created this brand dedicated to celebrating their Asian and African American roots, she immediately wanted in. For Dr. Hightower, creating a luxurious brand experience for customers is a challenge she can’t resist.
Chief Operating Officer Keonnis Taylor-Flores is known for her departures from the beaten path. With management experience that ranges all the way from the Mid-West to the Mid-East, Keonnis brings her small town roots and big city attitude to the brand. She describes her personal style as a mixture of “funky-yet-subtle” and “classic-meets-avant garde” with a twist of vintage, as she became a lover of throwback styles at a young age. Her personal wardrobe is an assortment of colorful patterns, intricate designs, and funky accents. She graduated with a Liberal Arts degree from DePauw University, and received her MPA from Baruch College in New York. She is also a designated National Urban Fellow and currently spends her days enjoying yoga and her brand new daughter at her Oakland, California home.