Do you know who designs your clothes? Your favorite shoes and bags could be a product of black fashion designers. There’s a whole list of professionals and their designer brands, but this article gives you some of the best.
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The journey to the big fashion stage hasn’t been easy for African Americans or any fashion designer from the black community. Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley is one of the early black fashion designers in history who set the pace for subsequent aspiring black fashion designers.
As a slave, her freedom was limited, but she bought her freedom and established her fashion designing trade. She went on to become a personal friend and dressmaker to Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.
Here’s a list of the top 5 20th-century current black fashion designers.
1. Sean Combs
Fashion label: Sean John
The stage names Puff Daddy, Puffy, and P. Diddy are all too familiar to music lovers worldwide. Do the songs “I’ll be Missing You” and “Bad Boy For Life” ring a bell? Probably yes, if you were born in the 70s and 80s.
As a musician and producer, Sean Combs expanded to start the Sean John male fashion label in 1998. He wasn’t simply another celebrity seeking to grow his brand with his clothing line, Sean John. He wanted to change the fashion industry with his style.
Comb’s brand sold across key markets in the United States. In 2016, he sold part of the shares to Global Brands Group Holding, which filed for bankruptcy.
Sean didn’t give up. In 2022, he repossessed Sean John by taking home the 7.551 US dollars million bid.
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Fashion label: Telfar
As a black-owned business, Telfar is a champion of gender-neutral clothing.
Telfar Clemens, a New York-based fashion designer, unveiled his range of unisex bags and products in 2005, including the iconic tote known as “The Bushwick Birkin.”
The Shopping Bag is a fantastic choice for shoppers who want to be fashionable while being functional and cost-conscious. He worked out a recipe for success with a lower price base with prominent personalities like Madonna and Oprah Winfrey as supporters.
It’s rectangular and available in small, medium, and large sizes. The bag has an additional top handle, shoulder straps, and a circular “T” emblem stamped on vegan leather.
3. Liya Kebede
Fashion label: Lemlem
What’s in a name? Liya Kabede named her fashion label “Lemlem,” an Amharic word meaning “blossom.”
Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the fashion model started the artisanal label Lemlem in 2007 to make exquisite women’s clothing in Africa. She aimed to conserve Ethiopia’s native weaving craft and drive economic development on the continent.
This is after visiting her home country and meeting native weavers without work. She hired them to work for her. For this supermodel, fashion paved the way to have an impact on the world.
Her brand features ready-to-wear eco-friendly clothes, from swimwear to caftan dresses.
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4. LaQuan Smith
Fashion label: Laquan Smith
Born in Queens, New York, LaQuan Smith developed an interest in fashion and design at a younger age. At 13 years, his grandmother gave him her old Singer sewing machine to use to further his interest.
LaQuan Smith has been getting a lot of media attention as a rising figure to watch. But he’s not a new entrant to the industry, having founded his label in 2013. His path to holding his show in the Empire State Building is packed with insights for young firms, focusing on recognizing when to diversify and grow into other product lines.
5. Aurora James
Fashion label: Brother Vellies
Aurora James’ Ghanaian father passed on when she was seven years old. She started her journey at the Fashion Television in Canada.
As an African American living in Canada, James launched Brother Vellies in 2013, a fashion brand based in New York that aimed to promote indigenous African fashion design practices. And to rally black-owned businesses, she founded a not-for-profit entity, the 15 Percent Pledge.
James is the vice chair of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)- an American nonprofit organization.
Her black experiences in Canada fueled her need for an African fashion label. Reports indicate that 49% of black women and 42% of black men have faced unfair treatment in 5 years. Her brand, Brother Vellies, is a sustainable accessory label that includes stunning boots and purses.
Black fashion designers have brought their fashion ideas to the big stage. And with calls for the end of racism and unfair treatment the world over through movements such as Black Lives Matter, aspiring black fashionistas are becoming a force to reckon with.
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