Black girls and guys rock. I feel like we often have to be our own cheerleaders because let’s face it – in the world that we live in, who else can we truly rely on to root for us? I love being black, I am proud of who I am, and I am proud of who we’ve become. We are smart. We are creative. We are successful. And it’s about time the world sees us for what we truly are. It’s no secret we don’t hold enough representation in several areas, but let’s focus in on the fashion industry… as this is a fashion blog after all.
Of the 260 designers that showed at NYFW for F/W 16 only 3 were African American. The issue isn’t that there aren’t a lot of black fashion designers, it’s just that we aren’t as well known. I’m hoping to change that at least a little bit with this post.
Some of the designers listed below you may have heard of, but I am hoping there’s at least one new face you come across and are intrigued to learn more about. So, here we go! Here are the seven black fashion designers you need to keep on your radar!
- Lizzy and Darlene Okpo
Label: William Okpo
William Okpo (named after their Nigerian father) was created by sisters Lizzy and Darlene in 2010. Their aesthetic is inspired by the interplay of their parents immigrant personal style with American style. The sisters really began their design journey at the ages of 19 and 14 when they reconstructed t-shirts for their line “Mayhem.” They’ve definitely evolved since then, focusing on fine tailoring, and the unique placement of things like pockets and trims.
2. Duro Olowu
As a huge fan of mixing African prints, this brand is a favorite of mine. Olowu’s latest collection is very bold and in your face, not for the woman who doesn’t like to command a room. The Nigerian designer has been in the industry since 2005, but what you may not know is he started off as a lawyer. Known for his combination of modern silhouettes and ethnic prints, Olowu’s designs have earned him customers such as Michelle Obama–who even enlisted him to decorate The White House for the holidays in 2015.
3. Ouigi Theodore
Label: Brooklyn Circus
Brooklyn circus is a menswear brand based in NYC which finds its inspiration in American history. According to their website, “We want to change the way Americans dress, one iconic silhouette at a time through the 100-Year Plan. ” Another goal of his is to redefine what black urban style means, beyond the baggy jeans and sneakers. I love that! This is the kind of clothing I’d love to see my boyfriend dress in.
4. Dumebi Iyamah
Label: Andrea Iyamah
Nigerian fashion designer Dumebi Iyamah created her brand Andrea Iyamah at the age of 17, named after her father, Andy, who passed away when she was 7 years old. “I have always wanted to be a designer. But I thought it would be when I turn 30. I didn’t think I would start at 17.” While her brand is known for its vibrant swimwear and resort pieces, she also specializes in making custom dresses for special occasions. I know where I am shopping for my next suit this summer.
5. Dexter and Byron Peart
Label: Want Les Essentiels
Launched in 2006, Want Les Essentiels is a brand started by Canadian twins Dexter and Byron Peart. Their goal was to create high quality, perfectly crafted accessories for the modern traveler, and they have done just that. The bags, wallets and bracelets are made from top-grade Italian calf leather and Turkish organic cotton. In the brand’s earlier days they collaborated with J-Crew which really got them on the map, now they have a cult following of their own.
6. Virgil Abloh
Label: Off White
For the past 14 years Abloh has been Kanye West’s creative consultant, but it wasn’t until just 3 years ago that he started his label, Off White. In 2009 both he and West interned at the headquarters of Fendi, and it was then that Abloh began building his first label Pyrex Vision. It gained a huge cult following and was sold next to luxury labels such as Givenchy. In 2013, Abloh decided to nix Pyrex Vision, and begin Off White… a more “intellectual and credible” form of streetwear. The brand has had huge success, even becoming a finalist for the 2015 LVMH Prize.
7. Stella Jean
Stella Jean is known for her crisp tailoring (inspired by her Italian father) and colorful prints (thanks to her Haitian mother). She was born and works in Rome. Her eclecticism is what drew me in. It takes a special creative to be able to make “more is more” look constructed in a purposeful way. Jean has won many awards and has several accolades including being selected as “fashion designer of the year” by Fashion Bomb Daily, and having her designs worn by Rihanna and Beyoncé.