This month’s Black Lives Matter protests have forced us all to look at and reexamine so many areas of society, from law enforcement and social programs to the fashion industry itself. The fashion industry has unfortunately garnered a notorious reputation for being elite and snobby, as well as having an extremely narrow idea of beauty, and that leads to a lot of creative voices being left out of the conversation of high fashion. One of the conversations that has arisen this past month is the need for better diversity within the fashion industry, from the models who wear the clothes to the fashion editors who dictate what is in, to the very designers crafting the latest fashions.
The industry won’t change overnight, but by learning about and championing designers from diverse backgrounds, we can work to make the fashion industry an inclusive and representative space that makes everyone feel chic and beautiful.
Here are 5 Black fashion designers to keep on your radar:
LaQuan Smith launched his namesake brand in 2013 when he was just 21, and he counts fashion icons like Beyonce, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga amongst his fanbase. With an attention to fabric (think rich velvet and iridescent silk) and 80s and 90s influences, it’s no wonder his work is adored by the world’s hottest pop stars.
P.S. if his ready-to-wear line is out of budget, Smith also just launched a capsule collection with Revolve, with everything under $400.
Look no further for the most stylish shoes and accessories around. Founded in 2013 by the ever-fashionable Aurora James, Brother Vellies’ products are created using traditional African design practices in hopes of keeping these artisanal traditions alive for years to come. The footwear designs echo the brand’s global inspirations and are beautiful statement pieces too. These cow hair boots are a current favorite of mine!
For the woman who wants to feel glamorous and elegant, CUSHNIE is just for you. Founded by Carly Cushnie in 2008, the brand features timeless designs like draped one-shoulder tops, silk wide-leg pants, and cocktail dresses in stunning jewel tones. In addition to ready-to-wear, CUSHIE also has a bridal collection featuring sculptural wedding gowns.
Christopher John Rogers is one of the biggest breakout designers in recent years, and he already has earned a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award as well as a slew of celebrity fans, including Michelle Obama, Lizzo, and Tessa Thompson. His designs are hard to mistake, as they typically feature neon silks and fun, exaggerated proportions. It’s easy to see why he has quickly become a favorite amongst celebrities and magazine editors alike.
Brooklyn-based Fe Noel is largely inspired by her Granadian heritage, and her breezy, tropical designs make her influences evident. From Caribbean blue shorts with sheer pant legs jutting out to balloon-sleeve ruched crop tops, her designs wonderfully blend the laid-back feel of a Caribbean afternoon with urban sophistication, making these clothes equally suited for a warm weather getaway as they would be a walk around SoHo.