Q&A

This Philly Woman Designed Cardi B’s Coat in Amazon Super Bowl Ad

Here’s how you can get your hands on her coveted designs.

Cardi B. (L) Iris Bonner. (R)

Amazon’s latest Alexa commercial is already ranking high as one of this year’s best Super Bowl ads, and it’s got a cool Philly connection. When Alexa suddenly loses her voice in the spot, big name celebrities step in for the virtual assistant. Everyone from Gordon Ramsey to Rebel Wilson tries their hand at being Alexa — but it was rap phenom Cardi B who stole the show. “How am I supposed to know? I’ve never been there!” was Cardi B’s response to the question, “How far is Mars?” And her unabashed response was matched by the bold trench coat she wore, courtesy of Iris Bonner, the 33-year-old Philadelphia artist behind the fashion label These Pink Lips. I caught up with Bonner on Monday to learn how her design ended up on Cardi B, and in a Super Bowl spot that was viewed by an estimated 111.3 million people nationwide.

On Sunday evening social media was abuzz about the trench coat that Cardi B wore in Amazon’s Super Bowl ad. You designed it. How’d you get it on Cardi B?
I’ve been working with Cardi B since when she first started in the music industry. The first time she wore a design of mine was for a Complex shoot. For the shoot she wore a white cape that said “Girl Fucking Power” all over it. Since then she’s always supported my brand and me.

For the Amazon commercial, her stylist hit me up right after New Year’s. They called me up and told me Cardi said she had to have pieces from These Pink Lips. They also told me they needed the designs the next day. I was about to close for the day but ended just stopping right then and there to paint the coat. I had to ship it out the next day — on a Sunday — and this was during that snowstorm.

Cardi B in Bonner’s design. (L) Cardi B and Bonner. (R) Photos courtesy of Iris Bonner.

Was that a lot of pressure for you, having so little time to create a new piece that would be featured on a big name celebrity for a big-time event?
It was, but I’m always ready. The style didn’t take too long. For that kind of design I typically use acrylic paint or fabric paint and I feel like I could do it with my eyes closed. I’ve ben drawing since I was in kindergarten. That night, I did the design she wore in the commercial and another piece that she didn’t end up wearing. It was a lot of pressure but sometimes I think I’m a robot.

How did your brand rise to the level where it caught Cardi B’s attention?
I have been drawing forever but I didn’t start taking it seriously until 2012. I did my first art show in Philly then. It had a red light district theme and the show was about women’s empowerment. I painted girls’ bodies and shoes. The event was sold out. At that point in time I wasn’t working with clothing, only with canvasses and shoes. In 2015, I started painting t-shirts. I got more attention when Amber Rose and Blac Chyna wore my designs to the VMAs. That’s when I really started going in and taking clothing seriously. That’s also when I went forward and launched the fashion line.

Blac Chyna and Amber Rose at the 2015 VMAs. Photo courtesy of Iris Bonner.

A lot of your designs seem to follow a clear theme. Can you say more about what your brand stands for?
First and foremost I consider myself an artist. I paint on anything — clothes or canvas, furniture or shoes — anything I can get my hands on. My brand is known for being about women’s empowerment. Girl power. Pussy power. Uplifiting women and making them confident. These Pink Lips wants women to know that they shouldn’t be afraid of their femininity. So someone like Cardi B, she’s the type of woman this brand represents. She’s like my spirit animal. She’s crazy out there. This is for the woman who can go ahead and just rock out. Just be yourself.

How much do your pieces retail for in stores?
I recently did a campaign with Bergdorf Goodman, and they had my designs in their 5th Avenue windows in New York City next to Gucci pieces. Cardi’s trench, which said “Working Woman” on it, is similar to the “She’s the Boss” collection that I had at Bergdorf. The black and white trench from that collection retailed for $1,200 there.

The Carbi B Super Bowl Coat. (L) Bonner outside of Bergdorf Goodman’s 5th Ave. window, where her design was displayed. (R) Photos courtesy of Iris Bonner.

Sounds like you’ve had a very busy and successful past few years. Had you always wanted to be a fashion designer?
Yes. As a kid I always drew people wearing provocative and revealing clothing. Thinking back on it, I’m not sure why I drew those things at such a young age. [Laughs] I wanted to be a fashion designer, but I’m impatient. I never went through with the sewing classes. I was a starving artist. I studied graphic design, but I hated painting in school. But when I graduated, I decided to just play around with canvass, and I fell in love with painting. I eventually started wearing my designs out and people would where I got them. I feel like I was born to be in the arts, born to do this. Right now, my team is really just my family and me. My mother and sister help me out, and I paint all of the pieces because I’d feel inauthentic if it were any other way. I don’t want people saying, “I didn’t order these” or “This isn’t her hand.” But I print my basic t-shirt designs through a company.

Do you feel like things kind of came full circle Sunday night, with your design being featured and the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl?
It’s an amazing feeling. I busted my behind. I wouldn’t have even imagined this. I’m from Philly (Mt. Airy born and raised and I still live there), I did this design and we won the Super Bowl. It’s an amazing feeling, and I’m super proud.